So, over the weekend, I took my cat Hazel to the vet for her annual checkup. Here’s a recent picture of her:
For the most part, everything checked out fine, although her teeth need to be cleaned and one of them is in danger of needing to be extracted, so I have to take her back later in the year. When she had her ear surgery last year, the vet tech at the specialty vet’s office told me that Hazel was likely much older than what I’d been told by the rescue group I got her from. At the time I got her nearly two years ago, I was told that she was a year old. So last year, she was supposedly two years old. The vet tech told me that her teeth didn’t look like that of a two year old cat and that she was really around five years old. The ear tumor she had is far more common in a pet around that age than in one as young as two. I was shocked. Boo Boo was actually closer to middle age (in cat years anyway)? The vet tech explained that it’s common practice for rescue groups to make pets younger than they really are because they know that the public prefers puppies and kittens and that the older the pet, the less likely they are to get adopted and the more likely they’ll be euthanized in a shelter. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place because if they start telling the truth, they’ll only end up exacerbating the problem of unwanted pets being killed needlessly. So I can’t really blame them for doing what they felt they had to do in order to keep Hazel out of the shelter. Hazel’s regular vet confirmed that she’s not exactly a spring chicken. She’s actually around six years old now. It doesn’t make me love her any less, but since she’s three years older than what I’d been led to believe, I have to adjust some of my expectations. The biggest one being that she may not be around as long as I’d want her to be, but hopefully I won’t have to cross that bridge for many years.
To make this analogy about hair, a lot of naturals have expectations about what their hair will look like after they cut off their processed ends. A number of them think their hair will look like this:
only to end up with hair like this:
and they wind up disappointed. A number of naturals have these kinds of expectations in the first place because many black women get perms as young children and have next to no memory of what their natural texture looks like. Personally, those that hope that they end up with Tracee Ellis Ross‘s curl pattern or Rachel True‘s hair texture are still clinging to that “good hair, bad hair” mentality where looser curls are viewed as more beautiful and the tight, pen spring coils or cotton cloud texture that they actually have is viewed as ugly. So they end up having to go through major changes in order to accept the kind of hair that they actually do have. Some even go back to relaxers because the hair they were actually born with wasn’t what they were expecting. Remember, going natural is more than just a physical transformation. It requires a mental transformation as well and your standard of beauty will need to change in order to be successful. The easiest thing in any situation in life is to have as few expectations as possible so that you’re not ever disappointed, but that’s easier said than done. Since I didn’t get a relaxer until high school and had some memory of what my natural texture was like, I didn’t have the same expectations that other naturals have of winding up with loose curls. I knew I wouldn’t have Tracee Ellis Ross like hair. If I had any expectations, I would’ve thought that I’d have denser hair than I actually do. I’d known for many years that I had fine hair. I couldn’t use the extra strength or super relaxers reserved for those with thick hair because from an unfortunate previous experience, they were too strong for my hair and they immediately took it out. I had to use the mild or kiddie ones and even those did some damage. I think I may have always had fine hair, but I recall having a lot more of it as a child. Years of damage from relaxers, braid extensions and weaves must have taken their toll. Whether my hair density will increase is uncertain.
The main takeaway from this is that each head of hair is unique. The hair of relaxed women tends to look alike, but that’s not the case with natural hair. Your coils and kinks won’t look exactly like anyone else’s, even if you’re wearing the same style. And going natural is about looking like YOU, not like someone else. Concentrate on your hair and your unique natural hair journey, not on wishing your hair looked like someone else’s. That only leads to frustration and disappointment.