Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Is you mixed??" - My decision to go natural

"Is you mixed???"

The million dollar question I had to answer too many times to count in my youth.  Growing up in a predominantly white school system, I was often seen as the "high yellow" girl with the "white girl" hair.  My long, straight, relaxed hair was often the topic of conversation amongst my peers as well as my family and friends of my mom.  I couldn't go anywhere without having people asking if I was mixed and admiring my hair.  My hair was the first thing people noticed about me and eventually came to be what defined me.

Every time I would get a touch-up, I would be inundated with compliments and comments such as, "Oooo you got a fresh perm!" But God forbid, I didn't do a good job of slicking my edges down with Pink Stuff when I was overdue for a touch-up; or I would have to endure insults from my Uncle such as "What's wrong with your hair?" or complaints from my mom about my "naps".  Just as many other young, black girls I was conditioned to believe that I wasn't pretty with "nappy" edges and I began to hate them.

Aside from the whole feeling "unpretty" with new growth, I hated having to struggle to comb through thick, "nappy" roots.  So whenever that 6 week mark was soon approaching, I'd make sure I had locked in an appointment at a salon or mom's kitchen to get my touch-up.  I craved that bone-straight, flat on my scalp, silky, bouncy hair that my white counterparts had effortlessly.

A few years ago, I began to notice what I referred to as the "Natural Movement".  One by one, my friends, family, and other women I knew were "going natural".  It was spreading like a disease.  My initial reaction, was why in the world would anyone want to do that??  Who would want to wear a bush or deal with constantly putting heat in their hair to keep it straight??  It just didn't make any sense to me.  And what annoyed me even more was the way they were going about it.  I found myself constantly being questioned about why I was still relaxing my hair and why was I not natural; and these questions would come with such contempt, as if it were a sin to relax my hair...that's right MY hair.  I couldn't help but wonder why others were so concerned with my hair.  People were condemning relaxers left and right.  From the movie "Good Hair" to my husband despising relaxers to hair stylists pushing "going natural" to the "team natural" posts on Facebook and Instagram, just hearing of "going natural" made me sick to my stomach.  It seemed as if these natural chicks felt they were somehow better than me because they didn't relax their hair and they felt they were saving the world by being a part of this movement.

See for me, relaxing my hair never made it break off.  Relaxers were actually what helped my hair to grow and remain silky and smooth.  So I never felt the need to "Go natural".  That is until now....

A couple years ago, I noticed that my relaxers weren't taking like they used to.  It didn't matter whether I went to the salon or mom's kitchen.  I even tried doing my own touch-ups and having my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law try.  I could no longer get those bone-straight roots I longed for.  I don't know if my hair was becoming resistant to relaxers or if they were just making relaxers weaker amongst the whole "natural movement"; but all it was doing was softening my roots, leaving them still "nappy".  This made me question if it was even worth it to continue to relax my hair.  Thinking of how curly my daughter's hair was when wet made me wonder where she got that curly hair from.  It was then I realized that I didn't even know what my true hair texture was like.  All I knew was straight, relaxed hair for as far back as I can remember.  My hair could have been as curly as my daughter's hair and I wouldn't even have known.  But these things still were not enough to make me hop on the natural bandwagon.

In the past 3.5 years I've had 6 weaves and I've had braids with extensions twice.  During this time my daughter has witnessed all these hairstyles, along with others, and has always complimented me.  There were a few times when she asked if she could wear her hair like mine but I would just tell her "one day" and then I'd dismiss the question.  I just figured it was normal for little girls to want to wear their hair like their mothers.  But as time went on, I noticed how much my daughter really disliked her braids and puffballs.  I would see her watching me combing my hair in the mirror with a look that was all too familiar.  Not to mention, she always reached for the white dolls, loved Rapunzel from Tangled, and always talked about how pretty she thought her white classmate's hair was and how she wished she could wear her hair down.  It seemed as though no matter how much I told her how pretty her hair was, she still longed for that long, straight hair.

Recently she asked me, "Mommy why do you always wear fake hair?  Why do you always want it long?"  See even though my own hair was about 16 inches long, I would add weave to make it even longer and fuller.  Here I was trying to sell her on how pretty her braids and curls were, meanwhile I'm relaxing my hair and adding weave to make it even much of a hypocrite was I???  Smh, needless to say, this was my "Aha" moment.  Everyone who knows me, knows how much I love my daughter and how important it is to me that she grows up with a strong sense of confidence.  I would do anything for my baby girl so I said to myself, "If wearing my hair like hers is what it takes to make sure she knows how beautiful she is, then that is what I will do."

It's been six months since my last perm, which was right before my wedding.  The first five months were a little rough and the thought of getting a relaxer did cross my mind a few times.  But I was able to hold out by getting Marley Twists for a couple months and reminding myself of the promise I made for my baby girl.  My hair had been breaking off pretty bad during the transition so I decided to get it cut into a Bob in order to get those bad ends off.  This past month, I've been loving it!  It's much more manageable being shorter and I'm a lot closer to being all natural and no longer having to deal with the two different textures.

I never thought I would be one to give up my straight hair but I'm proud of my decision and I'm loving my curls! I love that my hair now matches my daughter's hair and I love that I'm also learning new ways to manage her hair.  In no way am I attempting to condemn relaxers; because I don't consider relaxers or wearing straight hair to be a bad thing. I feel that with regular touch-ups (every 6-8 wks) and proper conditioning/moisturizing, you can have healthy hair with least I did.  And I loved my straight hair just as much as I love my curls.  I just feel like too many African Americans (women & men) are obsessed with hair, straight hair in particular.  I don't want my daughter or any other young, black girl to feel the need to relax or straighten their hair in order to feel pretty.  I want them to know that curly hair is just as beautiful and that is why I made the decision to go natural.

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