Posts tagged ‘Big Chop’

December 6, 2009

Transitioning Memories

*This post might come off a bit jilted, but it’s pretty much my best attempt at piecing together a strange puzzle dating back to my transition days. Forewarning…it’s a doozy.

ELLE January 2000

It’s funny the things that run through your mind on a lazy Sunday.  Especially when the weather takes another unusually cold turn and your covers and slippers are the most appealing thing next to a cup of hot tea.  Sunday for me is typically Hair day, wash day.  Begin the Process of styling the hair for the work/play week. Because I had ample time on my hands yesterday I thankfully started early & finished early, making today grocery/wash dishes/unpack from vacation type…day.

Somehow though my brain made a detour after checking a few emails, catching up on old blog posts in the natural sphere, and landing on this truly amazing site for natural hair gals. I’m still perusing, finding  just a TON  of cool inspirational information, but sporadically took a break after reading Ebony’s transition story. We hear and see countless stories of transition on a day to day basis.  If you frequent enough sights via or, you’re up to speed on just how important expelling these types of stories are, particularly for those just embarking on the natural hair journey.  Earlier this year I made an attempt at voicing my own transitional period, but honestly fell flat, barely touching the surface.

I don’t really have a ton of…great memories during my transition period. I can’t even recall good times after my BC to be quite honest. My mind is suspiciously fuzzy when it comes to taking a trip down memory lane, and I’m a bit miffed as to why.  I want to remember…I want to gold mine those memories and show them off proudly when given the chance…yet, I wouldn’t, or don’t know how it truly all went down.  Whatever, because it’s Sunday I’m headed down the road whether I like it or not…who knows what I’ll find.

First blip to come to mind is a documentary I tripped on waaaaay back in the day during my freshman year of college.  It was Black History Month…(AHH! so glad I remembered that!), and PBS was doing their best to remind those who cared by airing a handful of shows mentioning the African Diaspora.  Mid-month they aired a documentary by T. Nicole Atkinson titled, Lockin’ Up.  The film is short, 29 min long, yet the message was perfect timing.  *Let me press rewind though for a quick sec to mention what bought me to ‘perfect timing.’

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March 12, 2009

Apropos: You Wanna Be On Top!

scissorsLast night my roommate and I sat down to enjoy yet another fun installment of America’s NEXT TOP MODEL!! (the trick is to say it the way Ms. Tyra says it in order to get the full effect.) I forget which cycle we’re tuning into…10…11..? It seems as if it’s gone on for eons, but last night…if you’re a fan like I am, was one of the high points of the season.  It was the makeover episode where Ms. Banks tries her hand at transforming rag & bone young girls into model envy FIERCE women!  It is highly entertaining, particularly for me because I’m always drawn to the aesthetics of transformation, especially through hair, and what these episodes have revealed over the years is just how important the idea of hair is to women of all ages. 

I thought it apropos simply because of the countless women out there who are actually ready and willing to take the dive into natural territory by doing their BIG CHOP.  Some are even growing tired of waiting it out, enduring hair breakage, moisture problems, style limitations, drawing curious eyes and questions from friends, family and society.  Now, until you actually do the ‘do’ you’re essentially stuck in this roundabout world full of questions, concerns and your own mini-mayhem party you create by the whole ‘what if’ factor.

It sounds so final doesn’t it…BIG CHOP…, and yet watching these young women break down and cry over the mere site of shears gave me a cool moment to pause and really think about it. I completely emphasized with a handful of these girls who were getting their hair snipped…but the bigger picture..the grandioseness of it all is anything but final.

I strongly feel that the only reason I was able to enjoy the start of my natural journey, beginning with the BIG CHOP, was because I had a clear perspective on what my hair meant to me and only me, and in some ways the BIG CHOP does force you to start from scratch…helps you to examine the fabric of your identity.  It may sound a bit selfish…well, at least the ‘only me’ part, but to start from the beginning you do need zero distractions, clear your head for your own personal questions and possible worries… and that means putting yourself first. 

It’s not ‘just hair,’…meaning it is a heck of a lot more than some of us will ever like to admit…aside from your love for shoes, handbags, makeup…it is our most prized and interchangeable accessory.  Last night I watched these young women cry, and languish over the idea of having little to no hair, but secretly…I was excited! My reasoning is strictly relative to my own experience, but I was excited and hopeful that they’d be willing to embrace their new look…overcome the ‘crying stage’ and bounce over that hurdle instead of starring straight at it. Their initial transformation was no doubt physical, but clearly….CLEARLY…the more important transformation goes a lot deeper.


et fin!



 Countdown to Spring: 8 Days!

January 15, 2009

First BC

Back when I was transitioning, one of my main concerns during the process was the ‘who’ and ‘how’ factor.  Who was I going to trust to cut my hair and how was it going to turn out.  I’d already had a salon in mind, but regardless kept backtracking over my thoughts and concerns, trying to figure out the what ifs: what if there were other options,  should I go for them or stick to what I know?  I had zero friends who could offer up recommendations because all wore their hair straight, and frankly didn’t take my wanting to BC too seriously. 

I leafed through magazine after magazine, (back in the day I was a HUGE Honey Magazine fan, may it R.I.P,) and cut out pictures, and copied down numbers of salons I’d call to inquire about price etc.  I really did turn into a investigative rabbit, bouncing from one idea to the next, sorting through my finds, until I eventually settled on a place that just felt right!  And the reason it felt right was not only due to the fact that I’d visited and done my hair there before…but I genuinely felt comfortable entrusting this person with something so important to me.  Now, I certainly didn’t want a religious ceremony with candles and incense  burning in the background…but what I did hope to look forward to was a relaxing experience, and frankly someone who could have answers to the many questions I’d filed away for some weeks. In the end I ended up making the right choice and choosing a great salon here in NY, Jelani’s Naturals.   jelani2

I remember seeing pics like these in magazine after magazine and LOVING the possibility of achieving this look.  Today, I sort of envy the choices those who are about to embark on this journey have.  The resources are endless!  Both Essence Magazine &  have long realized the need and put together pretty cool & comprehensive salon directories  throughout the country.  Not to mention the growing amounts of haircare forums out there that are filled with spirited, experienced and knowledgeable people! My only regret is that I couldn’t visually document the experience.  But many on You tube have and it’s such a fun thing to watch!

January 13, 2009

Memory Lane

I knew this wasn’t going to be easy.  Walking down memory lane, talking  about my hair journey.  Even today, more than seven eight years after going natural and cutting off all my straight hair, I feel strongly that this journey has only just begun, and what I’ve learned so far, from those who’ve admonished me to those who’ve encouraged me…these experiences are only just the tip of the iceberg. But every journey does have a beginning and mine was back in college, which is sort of atypical of most natural hair journeys…lol! You sign up for classes on the first day, but also sign up for the inevitable, driving into oncoming traffic in the form of new friends, new interests, new outlooks on life.   For me, sophomore year was when I’d hit a wall.  Miserable in the school  I thought would be my doorway into ‘the real world,’  I retreated into a world I’d slowly created for myself, full of Magazines, books, and my new found passion…the Harlem Renaissance!  All these elements have names, but in essence they were one, just one silly way for me to escape. 

One morning, before heading on the train to class,  I picked up an issue of Elle Magazine, skipped all the petty ads about Chanel, Gucci and brands I could never afford, to a columnist I had grown to love.  At the time Tia Williams was a beauty editor for Elle Magazine, writing  from her perspective as an African American woman, mentioning on the fly how she’d tried this new product for her hair or discovered the greatest find in lipglosses.  She was my ABSOLUTE idol at the time! Every month I’d double check the masthead to make sure she was still there and had not deserted me.  This was back in…I’d have to say 2000 or 2001, where to be a black girl in Elle was a MEGA deal, especially if you’re not just posing, but you’re contributing in a way that reaches a whole new audience.  I was beyond thrilled every month to read what she had to say, and one day I decided to book an appointment at a salon on her recommend list. Once I’d gotten to the salon, and like a good little client  I’d bought a picture of how I’d wanted my hair to turn out, I handed it over and watched a perplexed look wash over her face.   Now, here’s where the words common and sense should’ve met for me…I’d picked a salon that specialized in NATURAL HAIR.  I did NOT have natural hair. My hair was relaxed, straight, high on creme crack! Yeah… and my hair stylist told me as much, but rather than lose out on money, encouraged me to try a flat twist, which regardless in the end turned out fabulous!      

But that picture (which I still have today:-)) of this beautiful woman with textured hair was stuck in my head for weeks after my flat twists had gone limp and straight.  It’d never occured to me until that point in the salon that other possiblities did exist out there for my hair besides the relaxer AND most importantly, that I had the power to change it! The power to change while in college is something extraordinary because it all seems so very possible, undaunting, and yet exciting as all hell! And that’s what I did without thinking twice.  I knew I wanted this look, that woman’s hair, and this fierceness that could only be described as contagious, so I set out to get it.  In a matter of…I’d have to say 4-6 months, I went back to the salon, greeted my stylist with an ‘I told you so look,’ and enjoyed one of the most freeing experiences to date.  

Afterwards I went home, hid my hair from family for a good two months before gathering the courage to unravel my teenie weenie fro.  The response was what I’d expected.  My parents ignored me, just down right did NOT speak to me about what I’d done.  According to them I’d probably ‘grown depressed’ or simply ‘wanted attention,’  and the best way for them to deal with it, or me, was to ignore the situation completely.

It was unfortunate, but because my new hair carried with it a new attitude of confidence, it frankly did not bother me, and over time ( a good solid year!) they accepted who it was I was growing into. Some friends deserted me, other family members thought me plain ‘ol crazy, lazy and stupid,  but again…there was no better relief than making a choice that involved this kind of freedom and discovery.  Over night I’d begun learning more about myself, my face (you can’t hide when you first BC) my family, friends…even strangers on the street who’d stop to pay compliment.

Over the years the styles and products have come and gone, but the experience is one I’d relive again and again if I could.  Through the years I’ve donned double strand twists, flat twists, braids, coils, buzz cuts, pixie cuts, dreadlocks (this was senior year!) afro puffs, flat ironed,  cornrows, and so much more! Even over this past year I’ve learned so much from new friends, new roommates, new bloggers out there who’ve been down a similar path and who are also continuing to learn…it is ALL such an incredibly humbling, eye opening, fantabulous journey that I’d encourage every brave woman to embark on this journey… share your concerns, fears and hopes with those who are willing to listen, and to do it with arms wide open, because to travel  any other way would…well it just wouldn’t be as fun;-)