Everyone’s natural hair story is different because it’s shaped by many different circumstances: our families, our peers, our environment, our self-esteem, economics. Mine is dubbed the Up and Down, because my hair journey has had highs and lows.
I’ll start with my family. I come from a family of Indian women with long, beautiful Black shiny hair. And then my mother married a man on my island of pure African stock, resulting in two nappy-headed daughters. My mother was quite horrified. She had no idea what to do with real African hair! She couldn’t braid, she couldn’t twist, so she decided the best way to deal with our “difficult” hair was to a) perm it or b) cut it. My older sister has more “manageable” hair, to this day I still envy her hair which is thicker and longer than mine. So she got the perm. My hair was wayward. I got the cho
I went through middle school, a bit of a misfit, because I had short boy’s hair. I was called a lesbian. Other Black girls came to school with pretty braids, and I came nearly bald. As I grew up and had more control over my head top, I experimented. At 12, I learned how to twist my whole head. It took hours of precise work, standing in front of the mirror but I loved it. However, all I saw were girls with perms and braids. I didn’t see girls with kinky hair like mine embracing it. When it came time for high school and my peers were getting their first weaves, I lost confidence and chopped my hair. This pattern would continue for my whole adolescence: liking my hair, trying to fit in with a wig or occasionally braids, then cutting it off in frustration. I had no idea how to take care of this rough, kinky hair my mother hated. Whenever I wore my hair naturally she would cluck in pity and say,
“Oh child, you can’t go around looking like that. C’mon, let’s go to the salon and let’s go do your hair.”
Then something happened when I was 16. I normally wore a wig, but I had slept over a white friend’s house and had taken it off to sleep. The next morning, her gorgeous older brother walked in and saw my dry, tangled hair and for the first time, talked to me. (swoon). He told me I should wear my hair like this, it as pretty awesome. I thought yeah right, never! at the time, but his comment wiggled around in the back of my mind for years until I decided to forego perms and weaves and anything but my hair. I was in college now. I still had no idea how to take care of it so I flat-ironed and bleached it blonde for the next 5 y
And then, I discovered the natural hair community online and learned a thing or two (or a million, thank you Naptural85 a lot). I went out and bought a whole arsenal of natural haircare products, none containing petroleum or mineral oil). I used a silk bonnet. I twisted my hair before bed, and deep conditioned and hot oil treated my hair until I woke up one day with more natural hair than I ever had in my life on my head. And I wasn’t cutting it!
I was 23 years old. I was so in awe and so alien to my natural hair with length that I studied it up close in the mirror. It was love. My mom’s comments got nothing but a derisive snort from then on. My family told me to “comb my hair”. Ironically, white people always found my hair cool. I did grow it very long and thick and then when my son was born, I decided to loc it. I thought I would love locs but I didn’t and cut all my hair off after 6 months. I cut off 2 years of thick, beautiful growth. And determined, I started again. Then I dyed it blonde. Then back to Black. And
That was 6 months ago. And my hair is still recovering from my last minute hair shenanigan ideas but I love my hair. I love it and it’s still the beginning of a journey. I am learning to love what I have heard my whole life was unlovable. Oh,
they were wrong.