Is it really hard? Honestly…I’m playing investigator Chai for one day, and I need to know…is it really THAT hard to care for natural hair? Is the ‘pouf’ factor intimidating enough to steer most onto easy street…a.k.a., relaxer road? I’ve never labeled myself as a natural pusha, or what’s been oddly called the “natural Nazis,” syndrome, but I am one of the only two women in my family who’s sporting her natural hair…the other is my proud Mum;-). A conversation with a friend this afternoon got the wheels turning after she expressed to me that she’d be getting her hair done later in the week, it’d been several months since she’d last relaxed and felt it was time to touch up. We’d both been down this road before, more so since I started blogging about my hair, yet the road is far from straight…it’s mostly circular. I’d try to drop tiny hints about the WONDERS of being natural, and the misconceptions that are often thrown about when it comes to caring for a thicker texture, yet the fruits of my tiny labor typically bear zero. It’s nothing I bemoan about, truthfully I’ve lived by the motto “DO YOU” for most of my adult life, and find it serves many purposes. So while I’m not a ‘pusher’ per se, I do not mind saying that I am a natural hair enthusiast…or informant. In fact, I do have several friends who are relaxed… actually it’d be more fair to say I have just one friend who is natural and she’s only recently BC’d a month or two ago. Over the years if one or two had questions about my hair, I was all up in there with an answer, explaining my routine and asking if this might be an avenue they’d like to explore.
Over the years, the only friend I’ve managed to convince was my own mother, who after 20+ years decided to abandon the relaxer because her hair was thinning excessively. Bottom line, with the slight push from her doctor she finally decided to transition. My Mum has had her own struggles adjusting to being natural, yet to label her transition hard, or difficult…I’m still not sure. Her frustrations clearly showed from time to time, most often when she’d complain about the actual thinness of her hair as compared to the thick mane she used to sport back in the 70’s during the fro revolution. Her hair texture was different now, though still curly, it lacked fullness, a bit of luster and length.
Newly natural, my mother did experiment with a myriad of hair products, a lot that I’d personally recommended to her, others she’d pick up as pocketed suggestions from ladies & stylists at her hair salon. Most gave her the ‘look’ she sought, but what she ultimately desired was to appear ‘acceptable’ with a sleek look that usually bordered on a post-texturized do. She wanted to be natural without having to look natural. It might sound odd to say, but I’ve come to believe that in the early stages of my Mum’s BC, she was stuck in a state of transition. There was no immediate ‘knowing’ of how to care for her hair, especially granted the 20+ years of being relaxed. Products that she’d often use on her relaxed her, she could no longer apply to her new texture. This was only part of her problem. Guidance is a virtue in the natural hair community, yet the advice my Mum sought was from tired stylists who dared not take a comb to section or part. The only answer was to texturize and pay the tip.
It’s been several years now, and my Mum is still natural, and as far as I can tell has no plans on relaxing. Over time, the thinness of her hair has waned, the familiar thickness of her hair has slowly come back. And while her length is no longer as she remembered it many years ago, her current short fro suits her personal style…it’s easier for her to get on with the day while washing and go’ing to and fro in the Florida heat.
Was it hard..though? Similar to most other transitions in life, there were adjustments to be made and random advice to be thrown about…some discarded others tucked away for safe keeping. Yet while transitioning has it’s hurdles…whatever you want to call ‘now,’ where a lot of naturals currently are…post natural…whathaveyou…I’d reference it to anything but hard. The ‘ease’ that my friend is looking forward to later this week after getting her relaxer, is the same ease I wake up to every morning while taking down my silk scarf. The once a week ‘Process’ I undergo is tedious at best…but let me pat myself on the back for a minute and say…I’ve had this ‘Process’ down pat for some time. I jive to my own music in my own place, instead of waiting upwards of 1 hour – 3 hours for an ‘expert’ to dish on what she/he thinks looks good.
I was no fool though, the ‘ease’ did not come naturally, what I scramble through each Sunday has taken time, effort, patience but most importantly the knowledge of how to care for something that’s inherently delicate. These days I do not solicit other relaxed women to join the natural team, but if you ask…or have mixed perceptions that turn my own experiences on their head, I can’t help but mumble something to a certain affect of… ‘here’s how it really is…’
I could be old school in my thinking, the first time I went natural was in 2001 long before brands such as Kinky Curly, Miss Jessie’s or Curl Junkie were as familiar as they are today. But what I do have is my own experience, the years, sweat & $$ I’ve put into caring for this mop. I’m rambling now because…well it does go that deep, it’s something I can’t help. It is just hair… sometimes though it’s not, it really can’t be.