Back To My Roots
As a little girl, hearing stories about Rapunzel and seeing television and movie stars with long flowing locks of hair, I wanted nothing more than to someday be on screen with my long, lovely locks. After getting my hair washed I would stand in front of the mirrored shower door with a towel hanging off of my head and a brush, or bottle of shampoo in my hand as a microphone, envisioning my silvery, glittering ball gown and a crowd of adoring fans. Then the towel would inevitably fall off and my actual, tightly curly hair would be standing straight out and up and I was quickly shoved back into reality.
I still had hope, though. Looking at the older women in my family and my favorite actress, Phylicia Rashad, I knew that as soon as I became an adult my hair would magically turn from braided ponytails to flowing curls that would bounce as I moved my head. I didn’t realize that the women I was looking at all had chemically processed, or heat-straightened hair. All was not lost though, once I turned 11, my mother decided to take me to the hair dresser and I was able to get a relaxer. At last, my hair bounced! It was long, light brown with naturally blonde highlights, and I could style it myself! I could comb through it in smooth strokes! That first relaxer was the best thing that could have happened to me!
Unfortunately, with each relaxer, I lost length. I didn’t know how to properly take care of my hair because I thought it was essentially the same as my friend Jenny’s* hair and I should be able to care for it the same way. My mother tried to tell me, but as an eleven year-old, I was sure that I understood way more about taking care of myself than she could possibly know. Instead, I listened to Jenny. After school, we would go up to her room and use her curling iron while listening to Bon Jovi and she would “fix” my bangs. Burning my forehead multiple times, she would curl one layer down, then she would take the top layer and curl it up and back while spraying the strands that were locked around the barrel of the iron. I thought nothing of the smoke, or the odor of fried Aquanet hairspray. I just knew I was getting the latest style bangs and nobody could tell me I wasn’t cute. It all changed when Jenny and I got mad at each other. We stopped talking for a few days, but I still needed my bangs to look “fly” so I decided I would do it myself. Again, nobody knew better than me how to take care of myself. As I searched under my bathroom sink for some suitable tools and sprays, I realized the only hairspray we had was an old bottle of Stay-Sof-Fro and a small barreled curling iron that didn’t compare to Jenny’s. Oh well, I could make it work. I vaguely remembered Jenny saying something about wetting her hair first. Instead of undertaking this mission before bed, I decided I needed my hair to be fresh so I waited until the morning while I was running late getting ready for school. After wetting my hair, I applied the Stay-Sof-Fro then commenced to curl my bangs. I was then on my way out the door to a very foggy morning causing a very long, very moist, fifteen minute walk to school.
I was so confident when I walked into class, until I saw their eyes. The first one to speak was Jenny , who, with one sentence, had gone from being my best friend to my arch nemesis with the words, “Wow, you look like you stuck your finger in a light socket.” Never being blessed with the gift of witty comebacks, I just went to my desk and sulked and tried to come up with, for the rest of the school year, the perfect insult to hurl at her, but to no avail. That was the last time I attempted the “JennyBang.”
Now, over 20 years later, I have evolved into loving the hair I was born with. After being frustrated with the chemicals I was constantly subjecting my hair to and the damage it was suffering, I realized that I wanted to go back to my roots. I wanted to be able to wear my hair in its natural state without chemically altering it, without constantly straightening it with heat. If other members of cultures are comfortable with wearing their hair the way it grows from their heads, then I should be able to do the same. In 2009, I decided to finally stop getting relaxers and began experimenting with braided and curly styles, on my partially-relaxed, partially-grown-out. Then I got fired.
After dealing with an extremely stressful job and people, my supervisor decided I was no longer worth having around and manipulated things in a manner to justify terminating my employment. I was devastated. Although I was married, we still had 4 children to take care of and my two youngest absolutely adored the company’s childcare center as well as its teachers. After those things were ripped from my grasp, I decided I might as well make a fresh start. I visited my former hairdresser and asked her to cut off all of my relaxed, damaged ends, leaving me with a much shorter, curly afro.
The moment I looked in the mirror and felt the small soft curls of my own one hundred percent natural hair, my whole soul breathed a sigh of relief. No longer was I conforming to what television and movies, and countless other people told me was beautiful. I knew, that with the hair God gave me, I was beautiful, and quite unique. I haven’t looked back since. Although I like being able to change my style and occasionally straighten my hair, I will never put a relaxer in it again, and I will no longer accept that I am not beautiful just the way I am.
I have grown into myself. I have accepted me for who I am and “going natural” was the step I needed to take to reach a new level of maturity. Since that time, I have returned to school full time and I have decided to take full control of my path in life by refusing to be bound to a single employer, instead using my talents and learning new ones in order to make money for myself. My life story is still being written. I’m sure I will probably have more hair endeavors, but I am certainly satisfied with the direction my life, and my hair, is moving.
|In this photo, I had flat-ironed my hair and it shows how long my hair had grown 2 years after cutting off all of the relaxer.|
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent