Posts tagged ‘natural hair journey’

January 26, 2010

Shop Talk: Adore Your Natural Hair

Sometimes, this obsessive blog thing tends to pay off when you stumble upon something as poetic and downright beautiful as this piece written by Tami, of ‘What Tami Said’ today.

Right now, the back left side of my hair is strangely puffy, fuller than the rest of my head. The curls there are stretched out and winding this way and that. You may surprised to hear me say that I am NOT having a bad hair day. I am; however, in the throes of hand-in-nap disease.

From my own experience, and the stories of other women, I’ve learned that a curious thing often happens when a black woman “goes natural.” First, she is curious, but a little fearful of what lies under all those years perming or weaving or wigging. The decision to stop relaxing can be far from…relaxing. How could it be when society reinforces the idea that if curly hair is a problem, kinky hair is an abomination? It is not beautiful or professional or presentable. Fashion models don’t rock TWAs. The girl nextdoor never has dreads. CEOs don’t sport twists or BAAs. That’s what we’re told, anyway. For years, she has headed to the salon at the first sign of a wave at her roots. Girl, I need a touch up! This shit is NAPPY! Now, she is expected to believe that the same thing she has sought to hide for decades is a good thing.

So, she watches her new growth and hopes that her nappy is not too nappy. There is even a hair-typing scale to obsess over. Please, please let me be more 3A than 4C. Perhaps she spends no small amount of time looking for lotions and potions that will create curls where there are only kinks and zigzags or to give the illusion of wet, shiny tendrils. This behavior–the symptom of a mind still fettered to misguided notions about race and beauty–hopefully does not last for long.

Freedom eventually does come. She learns to stop wishing her hair was other than it is. She learns that naps–whether loose and curly or tight and kinky–can be beautiful. She experiments and discovers that her thick 4a hair makes gorgeous, plump twists; or that her 4c tresses spring into a kick-ass afro; or that her 3a curls look elegant in an up-do. She learns to “do you” as they say. And it clicks that a beauty scale that preferences appearance based on how closely it conforms to that of the majority culture is as useless as it is biased.

And then she falls in love. I did.

Folks who think only straight and silky hair is worth a loving touch are missing something delightful. Running your hand over textured hair (With the owner’s permission!) is addictive. I start at the back. First, my fingers usually find the smooth, neat curls at the nape of my neck. I pull them and they spring back into place. I wrap the strands around my fingers absentmindedly. My hands then crawl further up my head to the crown, where the texture is tighter and a little more coarse. I examine the differences in texture, touching the bumps and waves–smooth here, crinkly there. Before long I am separating my curls, pulling them apart where they have clumped together. And when that is done, when my loose hair is no longer a series of curls but a mass of brown cotton candy, I start wrapping the strands together into twists. Then I pull the twists out again. The result–usually a section of my hair is fluffier and puffier and less uniform than the rest, due to my stretching and stroking. It is relaxing and sensuous. Last night, while catching up on a season one disc of the Fox show Fringe, I discovered I had plaited my whole head.

I can’t help it. Such is “young love.” I adore the feel of my hair. I yearn to touch it. It is hard not to fondle it. And that is so much better than hating it.

*more beauty found here

April 8, 2009

Shop Talk


C.J. Walker Company., 1929


Each Sunday for the past couple months I’ve set aside a block of time devoted solely to get my hair did. The actual time varies each week depending on the errands I have to run in the morning or the afternoon, but nonetheless it’s come to mean ‘me time.’ On any givin Sunday I seriously prep my place for “The Process,” map out my strategy as far as cleansing, conditioning and styling go, put on some music to ease the inevitable frustrations and settle in for the long haul.  It’d be a stretch to say I look forward to this part of the week, in all honesty I don’t.   But ironically  I do get full satisfaction seeing the fruits of my labor.  Plain and simple…I enjoy doing my own hair!

My mother has even come to poke fun at me.  When I do call the fam on Sundays, I’m usually on the last leg of the process, either air drying my hair or twisting my last twist…I think the urge comes from wanting to share my triumph with someone, yet my triumph just usually ends up with my mother breathing sighs of disbelief at the amount of time I spend doting on each strand.  It’s really come to be our thing in a way…I call..she berates a bit…and I quickly remind her how much I used to spend in salons every other week to get the hair coiffed. Our conversations usually end with her words of encouragement, and a reminder not to stay up too late drying my hair.

On a few occasions I do run into obstacles…my hair is far from dry and a friend calls wanting to have dinner/movies/last minute drinks before the start of the work week. A scramble usually ensues…me trying to find an appropriate hat to cover up, yet not mess up all the work I’d done…my mother’s voice in my head warning me of my fate of catching pneumonia if I go out with my hair damp.

Eh…these are little things.  Funny things that I look back on and smile…the lengths I’ve gone through to keep the do in check as a natural are somewhat the same lengths I used to go through when I wore my hair relaxed. I’m by no means scared of the rain… ha! These days what I’m more fearful of is forgetting to seal my ends and misplacing my satin scarf/pillowcase.

Things that I don’t miss… the fearful look on stylists face as I walked through their door with a head full of natural hair.  I’d often walk up to a stylist and timidly ask, “how much to wash and two-strand twist?” Their eyes…my god their eyes would seriously hover over my matted, dry hair, quietly assess the situation…perhaps knowing that my head of hair would take up the remainder of their afternoon…. and quote me a RIDICULOUS amount.  Essentially, I’d always end up paying for their own frustrations in dealing with my own hair! 

Since becoming natural over seven years ago, never have I paid less than $50 to wash, condition and twist my hair.  To deep condition, well… I’d have to cough up an extra 25 bucks, and usually it was just plain ‘ol conditioner while under the dryer for 20 min.  Forget going to an actual salon that caters to women with natural hair.  After getting over the initial high of finally finding a salon to cater to my fro-ness, I’d cringe at the prices! Here in BK, an average style can run you $80 and up. Granted though, I do think these salons are good starting points during the beginning stages of transitioning and going natural, I visited a handful after the first few weeks of my first BC…ended up broke in the long run, but it was an experience much needed at the time when the natural hair community that we see today was still a burgeoning novelty.  

If you do go to these salons, please go prepared. Do your homework, know what products are being put in your hair, know if you’re getting your money’s worth. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but also expect some answers! Understanding natural hair doesn’t begin with a visit to the salon, it starts with you…facing the mirror and determining for the first time your own realistic expectations of what you can and cannot do with your hair.  The good news is probably…a lot! Natural hair offers such crazy versatility…but only if you equip yourself with that knowledge.  You may not know how to flat twist, corn-row, two-strand twist, bantu-knot, micro-braid…etc., but it’s important to know when and if your hair needs a trim, can your hair/wallet withstand a deep condition, is your hair healthy enough to withstand a color treatment…or even the basics, what is your hair texture?  

I say all that to say…’the process,’ for me is never ending, and in a odd way I’m glad. It’s been dubbed the ‘natural journey,’ for some time because it’s all one colossal learning curve that has enough dips and turns to make you sometimes doubt your own commitment.  But, I do hope to be on this journey for the long haul…PJism and all, I’m beyond thrilled each week to wake up on Sunday mornings knowing I control this…I got this.


et fin!

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 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;-)