Natural hair...It is this amazingly beautiful thing, I say thing because, well, you know, it’s hair. It is definitely a noun, but it’s not a place and not quite a person, although, natural hair on it’s own, possesses characteristics and personality that seems to be different from it’s owner. It is alive, and beautiful, and majestic, and so full of feeling, but yet it is free of emotion. Natural hair is this unique, almost magical way that God crafted the hair of sisters and brothers to grow right from our scalp.
It is majestic, breathtaking, awesome, and still painstakingly beautiful. If you don’t know already from the way I speak about natural hair, I am in love with it. I have had this long time, love/hate but really all love affair with natural hair for years. I haven’t always had natural hair. When I was younger, my mother relaxed my hair, in hopes of being able to manage it better. I'd always worn it straight and I was happy about it. But something happened one day in history class. I was in high school. I was just as young, dumb, and naive as everyone else I knew. There was a guy and for the purpose of this story we are gonna call him Robert. He was telling me how pretty my hair was. He asked to touch it. Now, most of you reading this, just shuddered and laughed to yourself. Some of you actually grabbed your heart and thought, “What the hell?” Yes, I know. Asking a black woman, to touch her hair is a no, no. Apparently Robert didn’t know this, or he didn’t care. Or maybe it was the fact that we were so young, and neither of us really knew better. But he asked. And I actually said yes. Later, we will talk about why I said yes. But for the purpose of keeping this story moving along quickly, just know, I said yes.
Well, to my shock, Robert didn’t reach up to run his fingers through the ends of my silky, broken off 3 inches of hair. Robert reached right in for the roots! Yep, he reached to touch my, it’s be 6-7 weeks since I relaxed, so please pretend to ignore the kinks cause I’m going to relax it next week roots! Not only did Robert sink his big, brown, heavy fingers right into the roots of my hair, but he began to move his fingers around, as if he was massaging my scalp. I can still remember this moment moving in slow motion as it happened. I had not allowed anyone other than my mom, and Ms. Cora (my mom’s faithful hairstylist) to touch the roots of my hair. As Robert massaged my scalp, I looked over and saw a look of pleasure on his face. He wasn’t touching my hair for my pleasure, he was enjoying the feel of my kinks against his hand.
Robert smiled at me and said, “I love your hair. It feels so good. It’s pretty, just like you.” Those words, that expression, that feeling, never left my mind. That day, I went home and I felt the roots of my hair. For the first time ever, I allowed myself to feel what the kinks at the root of my hair felt like. Robert was right. It did feel good. Now, if I hadn’t been in high school, with a limited knowledge of self, and even more limited acceptance of myself, this probably would have been the real start to my natural journey. Some of you may still say that this was the real start to my natural journey. It was definitely the first time in my life having a man, a black man at that, compliment me on the beauty of my kinks. It could have been enough to catapult me into walking away from the creamy crack. But it didn’t. I continued to wear creamy crack for several more years. Always in the back of my mind, I thought about the kinks at the root of my hair strands though. It wasn’t until years later that I actually began to transition my mind and hair to a place of loving and exploring my natural hair.
The truth is that I really believe I stumbled into wearing my hair natural because I wanted to be different. Of course, I loved the curls that popped up at the root of my hair. I was slowly putting more weeks between relaxer touch ups until it seemed almost pointless. By this time, I was probably around 19 or 20 years old. I was watching my Auntie Paulette walk around with the most beautiful natural hair. Y’all don’t know Auntie yet, but you’ll get to know her. Auntie for me is black girl magic in the flesh. She seemed to always do what she wanted, when she wanted, however she wanted to do it. For me she is the walking, talking personification of “Love Yourself, just the way God created you.”
Auntie was walking around with these beautiful curls on her head. I watched as some people stared in awe of her curls while others screwed their face up as if they smelled something stinky when they saw her hair. Either way, she still stood proud, happy, and secure in the beauty of her crown of curls. I wanted that feeling. I watched all of this as I was going through a very difficult emotional time in my life. I was a new mother, in a relationship that I had no business being in, with a strong desire to walk away, but not enough strength to, yet.
You know, someone once said that hair is the first thing women change when they’re going through something. For me, this has always been true. When I needed emotional strength to be better for my son and myself, I cut my hair. I can remember thinking about it for months. I decided to officially avoid the relaxer like the plague.
I talked to my very best friend Tamica until she was blue in the face. Tamica was a hair stylist, and I don’t think she wanted to hear anything about me embracing my natural curls. But Tamica is a true friend, so she listened to my endless conversations about cutting my hair. I talked and talked until I finally found the strength to cut. I begged Tamica to cut my relaxed hair off. Reluctantly, she did. I’m laughing now, because I think Tamica obliged me, because she knew there was no way around it. She didn’t know what to do with my natural hair, and shit, neither did I. We were both winging it. But, because she loved me, and she knew I would jack it up trying to cut it myself, she cut it, shampooed and conditioned it and we dumped a ton of Paul Mitchell products on it. That day, I walked away from Tamica’s chair feeling free and absolutely beautiful. It may have been the very first time I felt truly beautiful and seen. People noticed me and my short sexy cut. I had watched Auntie Paulette until I was convinced I could have the same freedom and happiness she had, if I returned to natural hair. In that moment, I found freedom.
That was my start to natural hair. It would take a few more years and some life experiences for me to fall madly, deeply, head over heels in love with natural hair but trust me, I’m there now. 23 years later, I’m all in. Shortly after cutting my hair, my Auntie would become my very first paying natural hair client. My auntie and my mother unknowingly nurtured my love for natural. My mother allowed me to turn her kitchen and den into a styling salon, without so much as 1 complaint. She sat back and watched me play in natural heads of hair, smiling, encouraging me, and of course babysitting my rambunctious son. This gave me the time to create with natural hair. My auntie returned time after time, allowing me to try new products, oils, herbs, styles, and techniques on her, the whole while complaining that I was hurting her head. These two women, who still come sit in my chair religiously, shaped my view and love for my natural hair and myself.
I have listened to probably thousands of women share their story and journey to natural hair, I have learned that this journey is about so much more than simply returning to the hair as it grows out of the head. For so many women, this journey to natural hair, is a return to truth. It is the acceptance of who they are. It is the freedom from the expectations of others. It is the inner strength, courage, and fight necessary to take complete control over their lives, or at least control over the things we can control. It is seeing themselves, truly seeing themselves for the first time and absolutely loving the beautiful brown woman looking back at you. It is not needing someone else to validate your beauty. It is actually not giving a shit if they don’t, can’t or won’t see your beauty. It is black girl beauty, black girl magic, black girl amazement coming to life in front of your eyes. It is the realization that all of those words artfully put together to create a cute little phrase about My black is strong and beautiful, was actually created for YOU!
This space is created out of the love I have for natural curls. It is a space that will be filled with knowledge and inspiration to help us all care for and accept our natural hair just the way it is.
I would love to hear about your natural hair journey. Where did you start? What was it like?