Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Brief History Of My Natural Hair

This essay was originally published in the Mahogany Soul Nappy Journey newsletter (June 2010). Subscribe and become a fan!

I didn’t have many Afro sisters back when I went natural yet I never considered being natural wouldn’t be accepted. I have been my own hairdresser for a long time, alternating between a relaxer and extensions (sometimes a year at time). When I would take out my braids or twists, I loved how full my roots felt; my natural hair and fingers massaged each other. Till one time I wondered what I would look like if I cut off my “perm”… What would I look like with just my “new growth”? I answered that question with my mother’s sewing shears 10 years ago. My BC was spontaneous; didn’t fill me with angst but excitement. (Note: I think it’s interesting that the transition is known as BC; makes me think of ancient Africa and the religious/spiritual overtones).

There are times (brace yourself), when I don’t twist or braid my hair at night. The next morning when I wake to a matted helmet of wool, I wake my Afro with a little tugging from my fingers, and she lets me know what kind of mood she’s in. I don’t use shampoo. I wash with Suave or VO5 conditioner. I love the $1.29 mayonnaise deep conditioners and the $0.99 coconut milk washes and Afro soaks them up. Product junkie, I am not. I don’t wash my hair every week, or every other week, or every three weeks, I workout regularly and shrinkage doesn’t scare me. The time I spend with my hair is therapeutic. When I do comb my hair, the sound of running the “big teeth” comb through my coils is soothing. That’s my hair sighing; Afro loves to be stroked by the teeth of the comb as much I love it. The ball of dead hair I comb out doesn’t freak us out; it’s a sign of renewal. She proves it to me when her tight corkscrews shine when I’m done.

The relationship between me and my hair has been the longest and healthiest relationship I’ve had in my adult life. My hair has been it’s healthiest since I went natural again. In the past 10 years, when I was physically and mentally healthy, my hair thrived. When the opposite was true, there was a huge difference in the quality of my hair. What I’ve learned from this relationship is to not fight my hair. If I do, she fights back like the strong, Black warrior she is. We’re both pretty stubborn. There’s strength in doing what comes natural to you, when it may not be natural to everyone else. I let my hair do what it’s going to do. For me, natural hair represents a carefree state of being.

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