The internal battle that came along with this was probably completely unnecessary. Questions like, “Will this affect my career?” “Will this contribute to me possibly going bald in the future?” “What about those assholes that judge at the sight of straight hair alone?” continuously sprang to mind. I also was getting pretty sick of random insults from bums about “Not accepting my reality as a black woman”, at the sight of my long, beautiful straight hair. Not to mention, the oozingly attitudinal looks and comments from curvaceous chocolate women with crowns of curly hair as I flipped, ran my fingers through, and tucked my straight hair behind my ears. Gestures like these got me accused of “trying to be a white girl” in grade school, and I’d hoped that my peers had at least somewhat matured since then. But as it turns out, quite a few have not. It saddens me that something so trivial (though historically loaded) could cause such a negative initial reaction between women, and between members of a community that has already endured so much unjust BS and prejudice. What sense does this make?
As I sit here now with a head full of nappy hair, almost a year since my last relaxer, I honestly have to question why I did this in the first place. Now don’t get me wrong– the tough, emotional journey of letting go of Betty/Spock bangs, sleek, full-of-body hair that makes a statement of being well-groomed and refined, and redefining what I understand as beauty, has been quite a difficult one that I feel has changed me for the better. I’ve made it to the point in my transition where people are complimenting me on my new look, more black men are hitting on me, and I am more carefree in general. I feel more a part of my black community now than I ever have.
Being a black woman who grew up in Wisconsin suburbia, alienating is an understatement of what my experience was there. To juxtapose this (or maybe to match it, actually), I was shunned within black communities (during my summers and weekends with cousins in neighborhoods rich in the worst parts of black culture), because of the way I spoke, dressed, and carried myself. The gay community is the only place where I felt a sense of belonging and camaraderie, but that topic is a separate blog post alone.
But still, why did I do it? Why have I gone natural? Have I just given in to another form of peer pressure? Am I just keeping up with ‘trends’? Am I even being true to myself? Truth is, I’ve never quite been a dashiki-wearing, fist-in-the-air type, and I’ve never exactly felt at home anywhere racially, and being defined solely by race is something that I have considered pretty narrow-mindedly depressing in itself. However, seeing as how this is a cultural movement that I somewhat fell into from simple neglect of getting my hair ‘done’, I’ve gotten quite a bit out of something that I initially was putting absolutely no conscious effort into.
Having a sense of home by default is admittedly comforting. Now that I am well into this journey and am, what one might say, ‘on the other side’, I am toting something that is purely characteristic of a body of people that I, by default ‘belong to’, and I am proud of something that was ridiculed 15-20 years ago. A decade and a half ago, nappy hair symbolized being poor, ugliness, and lack of upkeep. It pains me to say that some of those ideals are still alive and thriving, as I had the pleasure of hearing a close family member say jokingly that, a friend of hers that has gone natural “looked like a slave”, as she herself whipped her long, artificial tresses back and forth.
I must admit, I do feel “blacker” (as I feel blackness is defined by genetics and historical background, i.e. kinky hair and dark skin, and black ancestry) and as more acceptable in a community that I feel has never had a place for me. Within that, I unexpectedly have found a community of women who I instantly can relate to, women who are also not of the norm, but are powerfully a part of the black female community, and are adorned with unique talents, sexy aspirations and the dopest of crazy colored and styled, natural black hair. It was difficult to not be coerced by the pretty, powerful and black, with amazing hairstyles that I’d never worn before. In the midst of so many life transitions, such an empowering and liberating thing seemed like a great idea, and so, it has been. Now, on to other things which are much more life-defining and significant than my fucking hair. #teamnatural.
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