Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Natural Journey - Four Years and Counting

I've been natural for about 4 years now. To say it's been a journey would be an understatement. When I first went natural, it wasn't with any particular purpose in mind. It was a knee jerk decision to be perfectly honest though I was considering it in the back of mind. I was struggling to cope with losing my mother and had finally made the decision to enter counseling. The first few sessions made a world of difference. I began to feel a sense of release though I had a very long way to go. One day i was on my way to meet a client when something came over me. I called and rescheduled my appointment, drove straight to the closest barber shop to my house, sat down in the chair and said "Cut it all off". Everyone was looking at me like I had just stepped off of a space ship. My hair was shoulder length so I guess they couldn't believe I actually wanted to cut all of my hair off but I had never been so committed about anything in my whole life. I sat there as he snipped away with the scissors and then next the clippers. My shoulder length relaxed hair was now about an inch of natural hair. I turned around to the mirror and said "Oh my God, what have I done?" The barber said "Girl, are you crazy? That looks so fly on you. That's a wrap!" The rest of the shop cosigned his statements. I was immensely appreciative of the compliments but I left the shop feeling unsure of myself. I went home and constantly stared at myself in the mirror trying to fully take in what I had done. After a while, it started to grow on me so I decided I was going to go out and show off my new do. I hopped in the shower. It was so nice to let the hot water run all over my head, something I would have never considered when my hair was relaxed unless I was prepared to go through a 2 hour styling process. I figured, what the hell, might as well go ahead and wash and condition my new do while I'm at. When I stepped out of the shower, I started to apply my leave in conditioner and rediscovered the natural pattern of my hair and fell in love instantly. African American hair is so beautiful in the way it coils and does it's own thing. It's much more interesting than straight hair. I put a little styling gel on it, examined my hair from every angle. I looked at myself straight on in the mirror and said "Damn girl, you do look fly!" I got dressed, put on my make up and big hoop earrings and was out the door. I got compliments at every turn. I vowed on that day that I would never apply any more of the creamy crack (relaxers) to my hair. When I went back to my next counseling appointment, she looked at me and said, "you look like the weight of the world has been lifted off of you". I felt better than I had felt in two years. I no longer felt like the shell of myself I had become after my Mom died. I felt alive again. I kept my hair short for about 6 months then I decided to start growing it out. At first it was cool but then I reached a very awkward stage. I referred to it as the "Esther Rolle" stage, not short enough to be funky like the big chop but not long enough for the full hairstyles I desired. This was difficult for me. I felt self conscious and ugly at times. Looking back now I realize it was because I hadn't fully discovered everything my hair was capable of. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my hair or how to do it but I was certain I didn't want to relax it again. I decided to get kinky twists extensions to help me get through this period. I really enjoyed the twists but I was ready to set my hair free. After about 8 months of the kinky twists I did just that. My sister, who also has natural hair, introduced me to her stylist. I began to get twists, comb coils, rollersets and strawsets on my own hair though most of the time, I did twists. My hair flourished and was growing like a weed and was beginning to shape my face perfectly. Being the fickle person I am, I began to grow bored of the twists and wanted to do something more interesting, something less safe. I was on a mission to prove a point - that natural hair is beautiful, versatile and fits in our narrow minded society, particularly corporate america. I hadn't worn my hair out completely since it was in the short cut so I summoned up the nerve to wear an afro puff to work. I wasn't sure what to expect. People seem to assume that women with natural hair are militant so I didn't know if my co workers and managers would think I was about to incite a riot. It was well received for the most part but I could sense that some people were uncomfortable with it. Sadly, I was sensing this from other African Americans. It's amazing how self loathing is so ingrained in us. As a people, we honestly believe our hair is ugly, unacceptable and unprofessional. If I'm being honest with myself, it bothered me that I didn't have the support of all my brothers and sisters. Oddly enough, I get more compliments from white people than I do black people not that I seek or care about their approval. However some part of me wanted the approval of my own people. I had to shake it off because i was not going to allow myself to embrace the self loathing that plagued my race. I had to act as though I was unfazed although at times, I was. I had to "fake it until I made it". After a while, I did. I now walk out of the house everyday feeling confident and powerful. I have fully embraced what was given to me by God and I absolutely love it. One of the girls who works for me told me my hair has "character". She remarked that her own hair was boring because it's just long and straight and she wishes her hair could do what mine does. I rock the twists, twist outs, wash n go's, puffs, fros. It's funny sometimes because people never know what to expect. It reminds me of when I used to wear wigs and how I wore a different one from day to day sometimes. My friends used to call me Regine from Living Single. LOL. Some days, people think I've cut my hair. It's so much fun. I'm always asking myself why hadn't I done this sooner. Today one of the girls at my job asked me how I got my hair "that way". I was wearing a wash n go and it turned out great. It turns out her hair is natural but she flat irons it. I told her my process. She then says, "yeah but looking at how curly your hair is, you have a "good grade" of hair". I hate that terminology. Our self hatred runs so deep. I decided tot ake this moment to educate her. I told her their is no such thing as "good hair or bad hair", it's just hair. I also told her not to believe the hype about our hair. We're taught that our hair is ugly and unmanageable until we apply seering heat or a dangerous chemical to it and that we had to move away from that way of thinking. I told her it's all about understanding your hair, learning how to care for it, learning what your hair likes and knowing what your hair will and will not do. I told her not to focus on someone else's hair type, style or texture because she could set herself up for disappointment. I certainly went down that road. I was more focused on the hair of other naturals than my own. I shared with her some of my pitfalls and my successes. I also told her the first step is full acceptance and embracing of her hair and everything else will fall into place eventually. She seemed to really take what I said to heart and she seemed very encouraged. It felt good to have positively impacted someone's outlook. I learned from this experience that as much as I would like to, I can't change the whole world in one day. Though I do not expect every black woman in America to go natural, I fully expect for natural hair to be fully accepted. I long for the day when it's no longer considered a fad or some "hot topic". Natural hair should be as much the norm as straight hair. All this time I though society was denying us the right to wear the hair we were born with but we have been denying ourselves this. I am encouraged to see more and more natural hairstyles on TV. Though it's mostly commercials, it's a start. Media has a huge impact on the opinions and views of others. The media has sold the idea of straight hair being beautiful for years so it can definitely sell the idea natural hair being beautiful. Until then, I will provide encouragement to other natural women when the opportunity arises. Well, thanks for reading....Smooches!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My First Blog

This is the first time I've ever done anything like this and I must admit, I am very excited. I haven't written in a while. I've been distracted with work and life so I haven't had much time to do it which I regret deeply. It's time for me to get back to my first love and I think this is the perfect outlet to get it going again. I'm sitting here in my living room surfing the net and watching The Temptations. I love this movie! They just don't make music like that anymore. This has been a long week. I had to terminate someone on Monday and it was very draining. That is the part of my job that I hate. I do not enjoy firing people, even when they deserve it. She really left me with no choice though. Today is sort of my Friday, I'm working from home tomorrow and I am glad about it. I won't have to get up as early and I won't have to deal with traffic. I have so much stuff to do and it will be nice to have the solitude without my employees interrupting me throughout the day. I get so much more accomplished sitting on my couch in a t-shirt and shorts than I do at work fully dressed. I have a pretty low key weekend planned. I'm going to my bookclub meeting on Saturday. I have not finished the book yet so I will be doing that tomorrow night. LOL. I'm a pretty fast reader so I'm not really worried. Other than that, I will be getting some much needed rest. I was ripping and running all of last weekend and I am spent. I will do my hair and watch some movies, that's about it. Till next time....Hopefully I will have something more interesting to talk about. Smooches!!!