BC memories

So shortly after I posted my last entry, a friend commented offline that she’d always wanted curly hair because she thought it was sexier. Which I found ironic. A lot of people covet things they don’t have and think the grass is greener, but all the same, I found the comment funny. Many people with curly/kinky hair wish they’d been born with straight hair and the media perpetuates that wish by holding straight hair as the ideal standard of beauty and regarding curly/kinky hair as ugly and unmanageable. The end result is that countless girls and women slap caustic chemicals in their hair or fry it with flat irons, damaging their hair and possibly jeopardizing their health in the process in order to be considered acceptable. After being natural for nearly the last two years after having spent over 20 years in that matrix, it’s all madness to me now. My response to my friend is that our hair is what it is and rather than try to do things to your hair that it wasn’t meant to do, it’s best to just embrace what we have.

As I stated here, I didn’t really put a lot of thought into becoming natural, unlike a number of other natural women who research blogs, hair boards and YouTube for months, even years before they make the leap. I simply kept my hair in braid extensions and weaves for about 18 months because by that point, I hated getting relaxers and simply wanted to avoid them as much as possible. In the back of my mind, I figured I’d have to get one at some point because that was all I knew. I never thought that natural hair was an option for me. I just happened to browse the web one night about a week before it was time to take down the latest kinky twist extensions I had and somehow stumbled on a site on how to care for natural hair. I don’t even remember what the site was called now, but I was immediately captivated. That site lead me to search for about a dozen others and I was so engrossed in the information I saw that I don’t think I went to bed before 1AM. It dawned on me that I never had to get another relaxer ever again and that mere thought was extremely freeing. No more sitting in the salon for 5 hours every 6-8 weeks. No more burns and scabs. No more bald spots. It sounded like heaven. My research into natural hair was a week tops.Nearly a week later, after I’d taken the braids out, I was sitting in a natural hair salon down the street from my house where the stylist took one look at my hair and stated that my relaxed ends were extremely damaged and would need to be cut off. She tried to soften the blow by saying that I didn’t have to cut all the ends off immediately, but I knew that if  I wanted my hair to have a fresh start, all of the processed hair would have to go right then and there. So I told her to cut all the relaxed hair off. It was a rather impulsive act for me as I’m usually not spontaneous like that. I tend to plan things to the last letter and overthink things to the point of paralysis. A number of naturals say that they feel free during their BC (big chop) and hear birds singing and imagine themselves skipping through a field of milk and honey. I did not feel that way. In fact, for about three months afterward, I was more like, “WTF did I do?”

My hair looked and felt like Brillo. It didn’t take long to discover that the products I’d used for my relaxed hair wouldn’t work on natural hair as they contained ingredients such as mineral oil and petroleum that contributed to the dryness. Most products geared toward permed hair contain those ingredients since they’re cheap but they act as Saran Wrap by blocking needed moisture from getting to your strands. Secondly, I was the kind of person who often didn’t do her own hair when relaxed, often going to the salon every of couple of weeks for a wash, wrap or roller set. Some of my white friends thought I was crazy for going to a salon to get my hair washed, but it’s common among black women. If I washed my permed hair myself, it would poof up, so having it done at the salon usually make it look sleeker since they often use blow dryers at the highest setting and brushes to get it bone straight. You can imagine how fried my hair would get. Immediately after I went natural, I discovered that going to the natural hair salon would be cost prohibitive. It’s not unusual for those places to charge nearly $200 for simply putting two strand twists in your hair. You can do that yourself for free. Also, a number of those places don’t even do natural styles, they just flat iron your hair and slap the “natural” label on the shingle to make unsuspecting people think they’re doing something healthier for their hair. So I had to learn to do my own hair. Since I was styling challenged, it proved to be harrowing. You Tube was and still is my savior. A number of the early styles I did looked disastrous. The only thing that I could do to improve was practice. I’m still not a styling expert by any means. I can’t cornrow to save my life, nor can I do a lot of updos. No matter how many pins I put in my hair, updos usually come undone on me. But I’ve improved over two years ago.  Also, for about the first three months, I often thought people were whispering about my hair behind my back because I felt it was jacked up. I didn’t get a load of compliments. I still don’t actually. I didn’t get a lot of negative comments either, but I’m not sure if it’s because people didn’t give a damn or whether it was because some people did care, but were too polite to say anything ignorant.  I got more compliments when I wore weaves and extensions, which showed me just how shallow people can get. They preferred the fake me over the real me. It may have been partly due to the fact that I wasn’t confident wearing the hair as it grew from my head, that I didn’t feel “polished.” If it were not for the hair boards such as Naturally Curly and Curly Nikki, I would’ve gone back to the relaxer within a couple of weeks. I am so grateful to the women who encouraged and supported me and still do, even though I haven’t met most of them. Through them, I learned that I had every right to wear my God given hair everywhere.  I also came to realize that the reason I went natural was for myself, not to get validation from other people. I was the one who wanted healthy hair and who wanted to stop being a slave to salons. What other people thought, said or did shouldn’t matter. It took several months before I figured out the product combination that controlled my dry hair and it took about that long before my hair started looking halfway decent. But it was kind of rough going for awhile.

Before you consider going natural, you need to ask yourself if you’re doing it for yourself or because your BFF, your cousin or your co-worker are natural. It isn’t always stated, but going natural isn’t just a process where you transition your hair. You need to transition your mind too. Your standard of beauty will have to change. The journey that your BFF, cousin or co-worker are on won’t be the exactly the same as yours. Everyone’s texture, curl pattern and porosity are different. Clinging to that “good hair, bad hair” mindset won’t serve you well as a natural. If you still harbor those beliefs, think twice before chopping off your hair. For some inspiration and to learn more about how to care for your hair properly, peruse You Tube, the sites I mentioned before and/or some other sites. The Internet has a wealth of information. Keep in mind that the products that work for others may not work for you. It’s important to get to know your hair intimately and make note of the ingredients that repel your hair and which ones work well. For instance, shea butter on my hair is the isht. Heavy oils, like castor and olive, tend not to absorb in my hair well if I’m too heavy handed. My hair loves jojoba, but it’s a fairly light oil. Some people think you need all natural organic products for your hair, but that’s not true. I get a lot of my staples on the ground. You don’t need to go broke to care for your hair. A drugstore product can work as well as some $30 all natural one. Also note that there really aren’t any “rules” to caring for your hair, even though a lot of naturals act like there are. Do whatever works for your hair, regardless if it’s acceptable practice or not. Some naturals still use old school products like Blue Magic and Pink Oil. I don’t because my hair can’t stand that stuff, but that’s me. Other naturals swear by protective styling, where your hair to point that the ends aren’t exposed since it’s the oldest and weakest part of your hair. They also supposedly help in length retention. Protective styles are mainly twists, braids and buns. I’ve given up on them. Braids and twists without extensions do not look good on me. They are extremely scalpy on my head, because I have very fine, thin hair. I look like an extra from the Color Purple in them. No more. And I have to avoid buns because my edges are extremely fragile. I’m experimenting with wash and goes this summer to see how I retain length since it’s a fairly low manipulation style. Do what works for your hair and you won’t go wrong. Nobody knows your hair better than you.

That’s about all the advice I have for now since it’s almost past my bedtime. Toodles.

 

 

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