Declaration of Self, Love, and Care — Seen Through My Hair

I wasn’t planning on doing the big chop until I actually sat in the salon chair.

I was sixteen years old when I decided to trade in my silky mid-back length hair for a Cassie inspired haircut— a half-shaved head.

I remember bickering back and forth with my hairdresser, similar to the scene in Waiting to Exhale. I promised that if she didn’t cut it, that I would myself, and I would walk around town claiming it was her work. I guess the mere thought of me looking a hot mess was enough to motivate her. She murmured a few curses under her breath before she reached for her sheers. I closed my eyes and I heard the first snip. I opened them and saw my mom in complete disarray. I looked down and watched as the strands of my hair, fell in my lap and onto the floor. It wasn’t until I heard the clippers, that I started to whelm up with tears.

My mom, bless her heart, relentlessly preached about the importance of my appearance. She would always say, “First impressions are important.” I didn’t feel right if I left the house without every strand of hair in place.

I spent hours on end in the salon, to ensure the straightness and done-ness of my hair, whether the tools are flat irons, hot combs, or relaxers. I was never given the chance to see or experience my hair in it’s most natural state because every eight weeks I was back in the salon doing touch-ups. I never knew what my actual curl pattern would’ve looked like without the relaxers; I lived my entire life with thin, dull, and wavy hair. I was tired of the constant upkeep and maintenance. Why was I subscribing to these beauty standards that I wasn’t impressed with?

It was rough during my teenage years, but thankfully I had my friends by my side. My girl group consisted of black girls, but none of them were natural. I distinctly remember how my friends and I would discuss whatever wives’ tale would guarantee length retention. We laughed, but the truth is, I loved my split ends and didn’t want to let them go because the length of my hair meant something to me. I would risk the overall health of my hair, just to keep its length. Oh, how times have changed.

I loved my length, but I was not a fan of straight hair. I hated wearing my hair down, so it stayed in some kind of up-do. My friends would insist that I should show my hair off because I had “good hair.” Those “good hair” comments never made me feel better or more secure with the hair on my head. Quite frankly, I was more intrigued by all the gravity defying characteristics of curly hair: tenacity, elasticity, strength. I wanted to experience the full potential of my natural hair, even if it meant starting over.

I should’ve mentioned it earlier, but I’m light skin and…(drumroll please)…biracial. I know, I know. I hate mentioning it honestly; I actually love all the memes about biracial kids voluntarily telling people how mixed they are. I’m not here to hijack any space, within the natural hair community. I can tell my experiences, and simultaneously recognize the privileges that looser curl patterns, and mixed women, are granted within the natural hair community. I am simply explaining a portion of identity politics because it provides the context for my natural hair journey. It wasn’t until I became natural, that I could understand the politics of black hair.

After the big chop, I remember going to school the next day, and receiving the dirtiest looks from people. I won’t lie, it did hurt. A few people asked why I didn’t transition slowly, by cutting my hair inch-by-inch. There’s nothing wrong with transitioning, but that’s not what I wanted. I explained my decision to about ten people before I started saying, “Because I felt like it.” There were a few black boys that complimented my fade. That made me feel good and almost validated my decision! Jokingly, I asked if they could teach me how to get waves. One of my classmates, Lucas, showed me the direction to brush my hair for desired results.

I knew I wasn’t going to cut my hair again, but for the time being, I wanted to experiment. I was completely lost on how to style my new cut. Thankfully, the internet saved me some, but not all the trouble. I found my way into the natural hair community through YouTube videos. I swore by Alyssa Forever, NaturalNeiicey, SunkissAlba, My Natural Sistas, and Naptural85. I felt like I needed a beginner’s guide to curly hair. It was like learning a new language: diffusing, detangle, co-wash, wash and go. Also, who knew there were so many natural hair acronyms?

Now, I am committed to trying all kinds of protective styles on Youtube or Pinterest. Just like my Internet alias, sin, hair has become an outlet for me to channel my creative energy. I am shamelessly plugging my Instagram, so you can follow, wait I mean see, what styles I’ve tried last year.

There were days, and there still are days, when my hair won’t cooperate with me. It is truly, a process of trial and error. Trust me, I am never guaranteed a perfect twist out. I find myself frustrated with detangling, tweaking my hair regimen, or looking for the right products. I cannot deal with my hair some days, and there are other days and styles that make me feel like I’m majestic. Because I look cute in purple box braids, red faux locs, blonde twists, or 40-inch bone straight wigs. Most of all, my natural hair is a little puff, that I love. I’m learning to love myself through any state, because my hair is as malleable and capable, as I am.

Were you criticized or praised when you finally decided to go forth with getting the big chop?

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