It’s been about 4 years since I decided to do the big chop (june 21st 2008). Unlike for most, it wasn’t a “life changing” decision for me. It’s not something I mulled over for months while carefully transitioned. I was in the midst of a bad few years stress wise. Planning my wedding. Daddy dying. Mommy sick (and ultimately dying). Between teh stresses of what I was doing to my hair for the wedding (putting in weaves and what not) and the sheer intensity of everything going on in my life, my hair was falling out. It was thinning. I was pretty miserable. After the wedding and daddy’s passing, I took to wearing wigs to cover the gaping bald spots in my hairline. They were right at the front and on the crown of my head. I tried to keep the hair underneath permed, but the shedding that was taking place made it impossible for me to actually showcase my own hair and feel proud. One saturday morning I woke up with my laundry list of items to do and turned to that wig. It was summertime. I’ve ALWAYS hated things living on my head for the entirety of a day (wigs, weaves, hats… you name it). I turned to Earl and stared at him while the thoughts went through my head – I’ve always wondered what my natural texture would be like. Even when I was natural before my first perm in the second grade, Mom and Granny took to hot combing my hair. So all I knew was the coarse “straight” that they’d managed to tame my tresses into. But I had mused with my fingers on my needing-a-touch-up scalp and felt bouclettes of pretty, strong hair. I would always want to twist them around my fingers and play with them but they were deep at my scalp hidden by the lye treated ends of my hair. What would be so bad about finding out what it’d look like if I cut it? If I didn’t like it, I could just perm it again – it’ll be like a fresh start, I said. And with that thought I opened my mouth and said, “Earl, I’m going to go cut my hair off… I’m done with this wig and can’t take it anymore.” He looked back at me squarely and said, “Are you sure?” and I said… Yes. “Yes, I need to do it now before I lose my nerve.” He shrugged and said, “I’m all for it. Just don’t come back here with a haircut shorter than mine.” I laughed and made a b-line for the door.
I’d found a natural hair salon in the general vicinity that was willing to a) take walkins b) not rape my wallet for what I wanted to do and c) was open on that Saturday. I sat down in the chair in front of what I would learn later was the owner of the establishment and said, “Please cut off all the permed portions.” She fingered through my hair and examined the strands section by section and then said, “Are you sure? It’s going to be really short.” “I’m fine with that, ” I replied. She verified my absolute certainty with this decision about 3 more times before she put a scissor to my hair. 2 hours of deep steam heat conditioning, washing, cutting and styling with Kinky Curly… I emerged. Natural. Curly. Short. and Pretty. I was pleased. I had always held on to my long hair because it hid / disguised my waddle and imperfections on my face that I was positive greeted everyone more than my smile and my eyes. But I exited the salon extremely happy with my decision. I got looks and winks in the street from my new found swagger. My coworkers at the time gave me a standing ovation in the morning meeting that following Monday when I walked in. (Although I think that was moreso because of the braveness to cut my hair so short. Not the fight-the-power-black-power-struggle represented in my T.W.A. (teenie weenie afro, for the uninitiated). I felt great about my decision.
The winks and looks in the street died down as I went through “the awkward stage” where I was fro-like… but he length was… well… in between Angela Davis fro and short cropped pretty. I learned my natural texture was what I’d always wanted. Tight curls of strong hair that cascaded around my scalp. I took great glee in spending hours touching and twirling them. Once past the awkward stage, my hair “fell” – in a good way – it had weight enough to “hang” so this made my umgawa black powah acceptable for my sisters in the struggle because it was napptural and for the 2520’s because it was “long”. I was happy. I could be myself. Not be a part of the collective race that alters themselves for acceptance. That totally didn’t sit well with me ever.
When I was pregnant with Athena… between the hormones and a few experimentations with heat to straighten out my follicles my texture just wasn’t what I loved anymore. So right before I gave birth to her – on June 21st 2011, did my 2nd big chop. This time it wasn’t quite as short because I could actually control how much I wanted to cut this time. It was all natural – I just wanted rid of the damaged portions. Holleration in the street had died down significantly but I thought it was due to the weight I’d put on from the baby (even though some cats would holler when I was full on visible preggers). But I just chalked it up to being fat (but happy) that I didn’t really get noticed.
Then this weekend came. I needed to travel to Las Vegas for a big radio convention and thought that it was best for my networking purposes to straighten out my tresses. This time I knew better than to go to the mamis that had administered 14 kinds of heat to my head that time that permanently damaged by texture. I went to Fatmiot and she hooked me up. My hair was longer than I thought it would be and it was thicker than it had been before. That was the texture change brought on by the pregnancy. I was happy. Didn’t care for the burnt hair smell that followed me around, but knew it was temporary.
I walked out into the street and it was like the doors for holleration flew open. “Hey mami lookin good!” “What you need to day baby what can I do for YOU?” “Oooh… I see you girl… them AKAs always FINE”… and I thought to myself… so……. it’s not the weight???? Cause I’m still fat, tho.
So I wonder… I’m here advocating for us to just be ourselves. Enjoy what grows out of us, JUST the way it grows and not feel beholden to having to alter it in order to be accepted. And I’m for sending that message by being an example. But do I have to forsake being admired like a woman so long as I do that? The rest of the world is so colonialized that they can’t see the beauty in my natural hair? I’m only pretty permed / straight? I’m truly confused now. Even the hubby referred to my hair as “chic” and reached up for a handful of it. He claims that he touches my natural hair too, but mostly when I’m asleep (huh?)… but this formation of my hair got that tangible attention while I was wide awake.
My biggest concern is how to I tell the most beautiful human being I’ve ever laid eyes on that what is growing out of her head is perfect and beautiful and divinely engineered by God to protect her head and crown her and frame her face – if I go back to straightening it for my own selfish ego?