I wore my natural hair to work for the first time and it felt awesome! Some people might be surprised that it took four years for me to wear my natural hair to work but getting the courage to do so was a journey in itself.
I started my natural journey in 2011, and it has been a very long four years since then. Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s been that long. My hair journey is complicated. To give you the short version of the story, I big chopped when I was about to graduate from Penn State, wore wigs for 2-years and then during the summer of 2013 I got so sick of wearing a wig every day, I decided to wear my natural hair on the weekends (baby steps).
I remember when I first went natural. My eyes completely opened to this new world of hair. I spent most of my life being ashamed of my hair and for the first time, I learned there was a community of women who had the same feelings, concerns, and hopes for this revolutionary hair movement. I no longer felt alone. It was a beautiful moment in my life that I will cherish forever because it taught me how to love myself. I finally looked in the mirror and saw a beautiful woman staring back at me.
After three years of being natural, my hair completely fell out. I mean, fell out. It was gone. I worked so hard to grow my hair. I watched videos, moisturized, washed once a week, finger detangled, oiled every day and night, and even used a silk bonnet before bed. I thought my hair was strong enough to withstand heat, so when a hairdresser blowdried and flat ironed my hair I had no idea, it would break off only a few weeks later. I could blame it on the heat damage that weakened my follicles but the real issue was I was listening to all these natural hair “experts” internalizing what worked for their hair and thinking it would also work for my own.
Four years after my big chop and I am detached from the natural hair movement. All of the information and misinformation began to get overwhelming. One article tells you biotin and castor oil is great for hair growth, while another article tells you it’s not. One Youtuber says mineral oil is the worst thing known to man (and hair), while another Youtuber tells you there are some good ones out there. So many experts, yet no one is really an expert. It almost felt like the blind leading the blind.
The natural hair movement is one of the best and most powerful movements out there. I thank God it came into existence because I would’ve never known my hair. I would still be wearing weaves, thinking my hair is not capable of growing. I can’t thank the movement enough for my consciousness but I’ve learned that MY HAIR is teaching me all that I’ve ever needed to know. I wash it 1-2 times a month and do a protein treatment when I do. I moisturize it with water every day and an oil of choice (now its coconut oil). I take my hair, nails, and skin vitamins every single day. I doubled my intake of water, which is huge because I was one of those people who thought water was “nasty.” I honestly just let my hair do the talking and I am so amazed by its progress! It’s not where it used to be but gradually getting there. When you first go natural, the excitement is there, and it should be, I never want to take that from anyone. But with time you will learn, like me, that your hair is the best teacher!
Me: Ma, your curls are just popping; let me take a picture of you!
Grandma: I know they are. Okay, let me put on some lipstick.
My grandmother has no shame. She loves any opportunity to be acknowledged for her beauty which I absolutely love about her. Getting older sometimes can be discouraging because you think your looks are fleeting and no one finds you attractive anymore but she gets compliments every day. People stop her on the street to tell her how amazing her hair looks or how well she did her makeup. She’s beautiful. Her curls are so defined. They just twirl out of her head when she wears it in a wash and go. I had to capture this moment. It made me happy to know that she was happy.
I know the importance of hair to black women and men. I’ve learned this even more while reading Hair Story: Untangling The Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps.
Since our days in Africa, hair to blacks is a form of expression and a source of pride. When we came over here on slave ships, one of the many ways we were dehumanized was by being denied the right and resources to groom ourselves, specifically our hair. As slaves in America, we had to find resources to maintain our tresses. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to carry on with the eccentric styles and braids that we wore in Africa. Some of our ancestors settled with plaits or a head tie. As times changed so did our hair. After slavery we wanted to fit in so figuring out ways to keep our hair straight was important to us. Once we realized a revolution was on a rise in the 60s and 70s we took pride in our kinks and started wearing it natural, no longer wanting to assimilate. We allowed our hair to send a message to the masses and it did. Black men and women take pride in their hair and this book is one of my must-reads. It allows you to go on a hair journey that doesn’t end with the last page of this book because our hair is constantly evolving.
I helped my friend Nikki big chop and it was epic. The key to the whole process was the mood. She invited me over one Saturday, with the simple text “I am ready.”
I sped over to her apartment in fear that she would back out once again. I am natural myself which is why she depended on my support. Once I arrived, she washed her hair and let it dry some. The mood was totally off. This was becoming more awkward then it was supposed to be. Big chopping is supposed to be fun! Where’s the tunes?
So we turned on the likes of Erykah Badu, India Arie, and D’Angelo, all Neo-soul artists whose music made us proud to be natural-conscious sistas.
I allowed Nikki to take the first snip…snip, snip, snip…this girl was getting too scissor happy and missing the mark of demarcation (the point between the permed hair and the natural hair, where it is suggested you should cut). I abruptly grabbed the scissors from her so I could finish the back. Once it was done she looked in the mirror with such confidence on her face. I will never forget that moment of freedom she had. Her hair was gone; she felt great and looked amazing.
Her first words were “I haven’t seen my natural hair in over 15 years,” then she began taking selfies. Nikki was totally feeling herself and I couldn’t blame her. Becoming natural is one of the most liberating feelings ever. She actually motivated me to trim my hair once I got home. We went out to a local bar to celebrate after.