I’ve always had a paradoxical state of mind when it comes to my beautiful hair. I have never perceived our natural hair to be negative in any aspect I have always seen the true and unique beauty in our natural hair, our skin, our features etc. Due to “early childhood conditioning” I thought my mane would just be too tough, too rough, too big and too hard to deal with. Why mine in particular? For various reasons of course but I’ll try my best to get to the point. Our hair was never shunned in my home, it was never insulted or put down. Our hair is seen as strong and versatile. My mother proudly displayed African/Caribbean art with women in a variety of styles and shades. My father’s album collection also displayed black beauty with a variety of style-Millie Jackson, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Whitney Huston, Bob Marley and The Wailers and Prince to name a few. Therefore I had an appreciation for it-I understood that it was us, naturally, and I recognized our beauty very early on.
But why was mine the ONE that would defy those images of beauty, and prove to be the worst? Why could I not extend that sense of awe to myself or believe it would be possible? Cuz from day ONE all I could remember is being told I have too much hair. As a child I didn’t know what was too much, but the looks on my mother’s, grandmother’s and aunties faces when they had to tackle my mane gave me the impression that too much is bad. Doing my hair was a time-consuming chore. For me, this chore required sitting on the ground between my mommy’s sharp knees holding me still, trying to keep my neck as stiff as possible when she was taming the center of my scalp and then imprinting my chin into my chest when she got to braiding the ends of my hair. For some reason they bragged about it after wards. They spoke of the effort they put in and the techniques they used as if they had successfully accomplished the Rubik’s cube. I knew I had something special, but I felt as though I couldn’t like it too much.
My mother permed (chemically treated) my hair by the age of 7. It was more of a tex-lax (texturizer-“relaxer”) every 3-4 months but my hair was permanently altered none-the-less. The styles my mother created were very age appropriate-they always included barrettes, colourful elastics, beautiful sparkling silk ribbons and mostly in braids. Perm made my hair easy to deal with according to my mother. The perm wasn’t for length or appearance b/c the styles I was rocking could have been done on natural hair with the same results but now that my hair was chemically treated it was “easy”.
Unsurprisingly I held on to the belief that perm made my hair easy to deal with cuz I had too much hair!
As a young teen, perming my hair allowed me to almost achieve the “look” that was popular, “normal” and worn by my friends but my mother was styling my hair to be age appropriate for a Caribbean young lady & the way a natural young lady would be styled. I might have won the battle in getting her to remove the barrettes and sparkles but the braids were ever-present.
As I got older in my teens (high school days), and more independent with my own styling, I chose to follow what mainstream “told” me to. I felt the only way to showcase my length, appear more mature, be attractive and accepted by the cute boys was to perm my hair. I felt that the styling my mom gave me was no longer age appropriate. Mind you, at this time in my life I did not visit back home, I did not visit any black country-so I was ignorant to the fact that the styling my mom DID give me was just what I needed. As usual I knew best….right? WRONG!
During my teens my hair changed drastically but overtime. Although my mother did not let me do every and anything to my hair I still had too much freedom and sought advise from elsewhere. I found hair stylists and friends who did hair.
I think my obsession with length was detrimental to my hair’s health. It is easy to have long hair, hair constantly grows, but the challenge that I was completely overlooking was my lack of concern with healthy hair.
My dependence on stylists also became a problem once “life”started happening (University, early 20’s). I was more responsible financially for myself and my splurges. I began to perm my hair irregularly. I would do it when I could. I started doing it at home cuz I just could not afford it at any salon in this city anymore.
I veered off any path and ended up in breakage city! Everyone who cared told me the same thing-cut it. But wait a minute-my mind would scream-we are talking about maybe 4-5 inches at once! Rihanna came out with this amazing hair style taken from the movie Ultra Violet and it was on! I got my hair chopped, all the breakage gone, ready to grow my hair long again-or so I thought. What I realized was that this hairstyle would do nothing to change my views on my own hair care.
The package did not matter unless the content changed.
As the cut grew out, all I did was perm at home to make sure the back stayed as flat as possible. I flat ironed almost every day to maintain the style. Then I got cheap with myself and bought the cheapest perm I could find….I mean- all I wanted was a touch-up…right?.
That was the first and last time I experienced losing my hair.
As I pulled out thick chunks of long strands of hair (my hair broke in the front section of the style where my long hair remained) I cried in the shower. I was scared, nervous, mad at the world. I came out of the shower afraid to tell my mother what happened. How could I tell the only woman who did my hair right-that I am losing my hair at the age of 26?
As my mother searched my scalp for the source of this tragedy-she said you have bald spots. I was mortified. How could I let this happen to me? How could I be more involved with the look of things rather than the reality of it. I feel that I have always been a realist-most of the time. I have always known the downfall to vanity. Now I had to deal with the consequence of my obsession with the look.
All I could do was cut my hair even shorter to hide the bald spots. I hated hearing how long my hair used to be. I hated when black women told me that it would never grow back.
After a few months of frustration with what to do, I permed my hair 1 last time for a job interview and I told myself no matter what it takes I will have healthy hair.
I gave myself pep talks. I told myself that if the health is there-than the hair will be. I am very mindful of the fact that my hair grows fast, I’ve always known that. My challenge now was patience. I took approx 26 years to get this way-I could give myself 5 more just to see what would happen next. Although most people around me-including my husband-didn’t believe, I knew I could get back to hearing that I have too much hair. A friend/stylist told me about a product line that included all these essential oils in the ingredients. I researched this line and wondered why in the hell would I pay 40$ for shampoo and conditioner each? My realist side helped me tremendously since I knew I wasn’t going to break the bank to make my hair do something it has done in the past with no help….grow!
Taking a look at the ingredient list-I wrote down what was in the expensive package and I just bought some of the ingredients myself. I also did my research as to what essential oil was good for me. This google search helped me find bglhonline.com, curlynikki.com and napturality.com
From that moment on my journey began.
I have come to a conclusion with myself and my hair, it will grow. I can be sure of that-my hair will grow-so why focus on something that needs no attention. But what I did learn was that it will not be healthy if I am not healthy.
As a grown a$$ woman, who has been there, done that with her hair-I think I can say with confidence that accepting my hair in its natural state has been the best thing I have ever done for my hair (maybe 1 of the best things I have done for my self also). I am grateful that I had a bad perm, I am grateful that I had to chop it off, I am grateful to my friend/stylist for telling me about that ridiculously expensive hair brand and I am grateful to those websites for educating me on what and why my mom used to do what she did.
What I was really surprised to learn early on in my journey was how smart and beautiful my mother is. If I could go back to the days of twisting and turning in between her sharp knees, trying to remain seated comfortably as she took her time, greased my scalp, braided each section and tied my hair at night with her beautiful silk scarves I would close my eyes, stay calm and just have faith that my mommy is the greatest influence on my beautiful hair. My mom is the greatest “thing” to happen to my hair.
My second lesson is that I am my greatest opponent. If I choose to focus on something attainable and valuable to me then I will get
there-No Doubt. If I choose to focus on something that is unrealistic and placed before me by someone other than me and of no value to me then it will not be achievable.
forever to be continued….