Well I did it. I chopped it off. I’ve long been wrestling with the issue of whether to rid myself of my chemically treated hair and grow it natural.
I’m going to back up just a smidge to drop some knowledge for those who don’t know much about black hair and why going natural is a thing. I liked how this piece in The New York Times explains it in the context of updated Army regulations.
OK, so for a few years, I’d stopped getting a relaxer that straightened my hair and opted for a texturizer which loosened my natural curls. I loved my texturizer. I could wash-and-go letting my curls air dry, or I could invoke the power of the heat and straighten my locks. I had a fantastic hairstylist in Chicago (Cister to Cister Salon) and under her care, I was the happiest I’ve been with my hair.
Fast-forward to my move to Portland. Not known for being a mecca for black people, I began looking for a black hair salon the moment I found I was moving to the Northwest. I knew the hair thing would be a challenge, especially with all of the rain. I got some ideas from Yelp, and when I got here, I noticed that many of the black women I saw were wearing naturals. Should I do it? How would I look with closely cropped hair? Would it make my face look fat?
I wasn’t ready to do it. Shortly after the school year began I saw a black woman with wavy long hair walking her kid to class. I literally chased her down, dragging my 2-year-old behind me and bewildering my 6-year-old. “Excuse me!? EXCUSE ME!!” I shouted breathlessly. Then she turned around and I could tell it was a wig. Damn.
Turns out she was natural too, but she recommended a black hair salon that is in my area. Months later, my hair was looking like who-did-it-and-what-for, so I needed to go in. I got the texturizer, but the woman left the chemical on too long and it really was like a virgin relaxer. Basically my fun, springy coils were just wavy blahs.
I vowed to never return and searched for more hair salons. I also began to look into natural hair options. I found a woman named Amber at Conscious Coils, who specializes in chemical-free hair. She is a pioneer of sorts here in Oregon. She led the push on easing regulations on natural hair care, opening the door for her and business owners like her to practice their trade.
But what struck me is that she offered consultations. That’s what I needed, someone to talk this over with who was an expert.
I could read all of the blogs, watch YouTube videos, talk with my naturalista friends, but everyone had their own take. After my consultation with Amber, I had a good outlook on what was ahead on this natural hair journey and was sold.
I wasn’t going to be as cool as one of my besties about going natural. She had just had enough of her hair and had her husband take his clippers to her hair. She said she was crying during the process, but as soon as it was done felt just a freedom and weight lifted off her shoulders. It sounded intoxicating.
But I’m not as ballsy as she. I decided I would cut off a few inches and then use protective styling via weaves and braids. From my weave-wearing days in Chicago, I still had a couple bags of hair, so Amber gave me the contact for the go-to place for weaves in Portland, Studio Six 9 Hair Design.
My stylist Jerry was a nut, but in a good way. She rocked a thick, tousled mohawk that was red, purple and had shaved her sides. Usually that would have given me pause since our hair style choices are obviously so different, but I figured, I’m getting a weave and having her cut off an inch or two and that’ll be it.
As I’m sitting in the chair, she starts to cut. I got curious.
“How much of my natural hair is there?” I asked.
“Oh you’ve got a good three, four inches.” Jerry said, snipping away an inch here and there.
Should I cut it off? This wasn’t part of my plan to do it right now, but I’m really tired of feeling blah and I needed a change.
“What if we just cut it all off?” I suddenly could relate to Britney Spears in her head-shaving moment.
“All the relaxed hair? Are you sure?”
I am so effing done, I thought, let’s just do it. “Yes.”
Jerry began to invoke her inner Edward Scissorhands and a few minutes later I had a nice puffy little fro. I was so stoked, I sent my girlfriends a group message to announce my new ‘do. They were so excited, I got ballsy and put pics up on Facebook.
I thought about taking a pic of the piles of hair on the floor, but thought, nahhh, that’s gross. So I looked at it and was reminded of what it meant. All of the swimming-pool concerns when I was a kid, the awkwardness of a gheri-curled tween, the panic-inducing rain as a career woman. All of that, was no more. It was headed to the garbage where it belonged.
Then… I looked at the pile of weave on Jerry’s desk and questions swirled in my mind. Should I just forget the weave and rock my new hair? I don’t even have any products and I’m leaving for BlogHer in the morning, do I have time to get it all together? Do I want to be getting acquainted with my new ‘do while away?
I decided to stick with the plan. (My Type-A personality doesn’t often allow for deviations in plans, but it’s something I’m working on.)
So I’m rockin’ my weave and it’s a big change. When my 6-year-old first saw me, he dropped his jaw and Kindle simultaneously, which is a miracle within itself. “Whooooaaaaaaa!” My Portland bestie got out of the shower and met me soaking wet in only her towel just to get a glimpse and my neighbor didn’t even recognize me.
But it was when I later read the numerous comments on my Facebook page about my metamorphosis into a naturalista did I have a twinge of regret about not rocking the ‘fro from the beginning. But I won’t have the weave forever and once it’s out I can begin getting to know the real me, the natural me.