My Hair Story... Journey from natural to relaxed then back to natural. by Alecia James
Natural Hair (2012)
"You should relax your hair," curtly suggested a family member. "It's time now" she continued. Perfect— As if it wasn't hard enough being a teen, especially for someone with my degree of gaucheness (at that time). Just one more thing to worry about— start being self-conscious about my natural hair. Her doctrine was that my natural hair didn't look presentable and didn't enhance my appearance as an emerging woman. Of course I complied with this injunction, how dare would I posit my opinion to an older adult? Not to mention that at that time, the mid 90's were the heyday for relaxers and perms. For many, chemically altering the hair was almost like a rite of passage into adolescence. So yes, I acquiesced, and almost instantaneously, I got my first dose of "creamy crack." I was greeted with a slew of reactions, from startling looks to compliments and straight-up blank stares. How do I own and embrace my new look? Will I ever grow into it? Admittedly, it did take a while for me to get accustomed to my regular doses of "creamy crack" every 6 -12 weeks. This was exacerbated by constant exposure to high temperatures, disguised as a hooded hair dryer, along with huge plastic rollers (new hair styling tools that I'd have to get used to). But the result was all worth it— straight, slick, shiny, and manageable hair...... or so I thought. It took me a while to discover how brainwashed and delusional I was. You live and you learn, and knowledge is power. The question is, "When would I acquire the knowledge that would eventually liberate me from the external pressures that sinfully desecrated my fragile mind?"
Relaxed hair, circa 2006
Relaxed hair, circa 2006
I soon forgot how my natural hair looked or felt. The curls and coils of my natural hair fibers were as distant and vague as an unexplored galactic body. There was a price to pay for the harsh chemical treatment that my strands were subjected to. For one thing, I suffered from severe hair damage which included breakage, dry and brittle hair, split ends, and worst of all, ALOPECIA (hair loss). The sight of my bare edges evoked intense emotion. Was I going bald? No, I'm not ready for that. In fact, I'll never be ready to face that.
Making lemonade from lemons.... So I big-chopped. I felt this was my last resort to counteract the nightmare from the creamy crack. I haven't seen my hair in its natural state for at least 14 years, and what a shocker it was! I was unfamiliar with its texture, and I found it extremely difficult to manipulate although it was pretty short. I then turned to YouTube and other online resources for help. Since my hair was on the coarser end of the hair spectrum, I decided to lock it as it appeared to be naturally selected for locking. I kicked my "Rasta" vibrational energy into high gear, and in no time, felt like a new member of the Bob Marley clan in their early stages. I started with two strand twists which eventually transformed into tiny cute dreadlocks.
But this would only be ephemeral. I kept my locks for a year before tackling the painstaking task of individually unlocking over 200 dreads. It took a couple of days to complete this arduous task with the help of moisturizers and conditioners. Inevitably, there was significant hair loss with this procedure. I was now "au naturel" and was faced with dealing with hair that was unfamiliar albeit being part of my soul and genetic code all along. I kept my wigs close; I lacked patience and didn't have the time to fight with my strands when they failed to conform to my intended styling desires.
Natural Hair (2013)
Simple natural hair updo with Marley Braid Hair
Natural Hair Journey: Highs and Lows
I'll be less than honest if I were to say that my Natural Hair Journey has been "a breeze" with pure joyous moments for as long as I've reverted to this state. My journey has been orchestrated with periods of high points and moments of rock bottom self-epiphany.
Days when my twist-outs had no curl pattern, and just fluffed as if they completely disregarded the hours I spent prepping the night before.
Mornings when I would have plans for a "fly" coiffure, which remained a fantasy because my hair had shrunken to more than half its actual length and was resistant to my styling attempts.
Finally, just tangled and matted hair as if a comb were its greatest enemy.
I cite these examples to show that my hair has kept me in check several times. In fact, there were many times when I wrestled with the epiphany that natural hair was not for me. My hair wasn't as long and manageable with loose curls like those rocked by other naturals. I found even other reasons to complain and be unhappy. Why did it require so much maintenance, and why were the hair products so expensive?
But how can I truly say that I love myself if I struggled with embracing my own hair? Can learning to love your hair be learned? Of course this lends itself to other social issues which I discuss in the article Hair Debate.
Within all the struggles and trials, I can say that I have been happily "naptural" since 2010 (when I initially big chopped), and I've learned so much in my natural hair journey. I'm still experimenting and trying techniques that will help to serve the best hair game I can. I've also used the prayer for serenity which reminds me of the importance of self-acceptance. Whether it is Afro-textured, curly, or straight, love your hair the way it is.
The profound knowledge I've acquired through self-searching was effectual enough to cause me to view life through different lens; I can now state unequivocally, "Yes, I LOVE my hair!"