Happy, natural and enjoying all that my kinks and curls have to offer. If we went by a hair typing scale, I’d say my hair is a 4d, and annoyingly non-porous. I have done a big chop many times throughout my 20s, and I believe this final chop was the one that stuck. I had the moral support of my son and future husband – which was far more than what I had before. At the time of my first big chop back in 2008 it was more of a liberating thing than doing so for my health. I was about to ship off to Navy boot camp, and I would rather the cut be done my way than theirs. So I went to the beautician around the block that wasn’t far from my house, told her what I wanted and boom! Two inches up top, tapered sides, no style – just the cut. My neck length permed tresses were pretty much history. They collected with the other locks and some dust that trailed about the floor. (Mind you, this isn’t a stylist I would have gone to for anything other than that…)
Boot camp was not easy on my freshly chopped tresses. My mane met cold showers daily. Once I ran out of shampoo, it was Lever 2000 body wash and Luster’s Pink Oil as my nightly regimen. Surprisingly enough after the months there passed, I had gained an impressive 3-4 inches. Mostly from the constant exercise and “amazing” diet. Yet as soon as we got to the week of graduation my mother and grandmother arrived for the ceremony with – you guessed it – my needed dose of the creamy crack. Almost all of the other Black girls that were there had also had their hair white washed, laid up and slicked back for our presentation as true sailors. I’d be damned if I was not going to be one of them. At the time I had not recognized my curls for the glory of what they really were. A wild flower among domestic roses; dressed up in paper and surrounded by baby breath to make it seem less than what it was. No two natural heads are ever alike. Thank God for that.
Late spring of 2010 I started researching natural hair. Not because of the fads that had already begun ravaging most of good old Norfolk, Virginia. I was tired of thinning edges and relaxers that were fought after a week of application. My white wash go-to at the time was the Olive Oil relaxer. I always refused to pay for the Mizani that I had wanted, even though I had heard that it was less damaging. On occasion I would visit a salon for needed trims and TLC. My stylist and I were on that awesome “I see you ever two weeks with 80-100 dollars in my hand and you fix this mess” type of relationship. When I told her I wanted to go natural she recoiled and did this finger snapping, neck rolling action while saying,
“Um, no ma’am! I ain’t done all this work on yo’ head just to have you look like a slave!”
I won’t lie, I was appalled by the outburst and the backlash.
Yet less than a week later I found myself in a different beautician’s chair on the other side of town doing my second big chop. The asymmetrical Rhianna cut was in. I proudly rocked the ‘do all the way home. That’s were I found my second shock of the year. My first husband was appalled. He was already against me trying to go natural. He had seen it as “a rebellion against everything we as a couple stood for” and it was “too tribal.” Never knew that my want to go to a healthier option was a sign of rebellion. After hearing him bash me further, I waited for him to cool down another month and went to get it chopped EVEN SHORTER! Almost back to the same style I had when I first enlisted. That raised all hell and multiple threats of “you better perm that or else you’ll be finding yourself a new husband.”
Did I mention he was white? 🙂 Yes, the more close-minded ones still exist. I caved by fall and yet again returned to the relaxer.
More trials and errors occurred after that fall. I began to revert in the winter just to relax it again spring 2011. Once I received the news of my son later that spring I made a decision to go natural once more. So I stopped using as many relaxers throughout the year. By January 2012 my hair had two textures and was almost at my shoulders – but I was not happy. I was trying to do a long transition and honestly the two textures infuriated me. One would be too straight during braid outs and twist outs, making me look frazzled. The other would not do well with flat-ironing. On those days I was definitely Tina Turner. I cried over it at night (hey, I was still a bit of a hormonal wreck), and finally consulted my (at the time) boyfriend. To this day I remember the text.
“Well you want it natural and you want to cut it. Why not just put on some India.Arie and get to chopping?”
It was the first beautiful thing I had heard in my hair journey.
Like any person new to the scene, I panicked not long after and slapped another relaxer in it (AGAIN!) in April. I still could not fully grasp the concept of really caring for it and seeing the beauty in myself. I believe there was still much self-hate that I was fighting with at the time. Let’s be real – I was actually fighting the years of conditioning that we have all faced at one point or another. The European standard that “straight is pretty.” As my knight in shining armor of course, my boyfriend was saving me again –
“You need to do what’s best for your health. You have your son to worry about in later years. I don’t want it affecting you that way and I DEFINITELY don’t want you knowing the pains of being bald from these chemicals.”
He ensured that I knew and understood that he loved my afro. No matter how short it was! He supported my decision because it made ME happy and overall healthier. I started drinking more water, and eventually establishing better eating habits despite stress and other factors. My hair flourished as I grew it out a few months and did my FINAL big chop in July! I have loved myself for it ever since. Learning and studying my hair now is like understanding a part of myself that I did not fully explore or appreciate when I was younger. I still experiment with color, and I am always careful to deep condition and be gentle with my tresses.