I was probably 12 or 13 years old when I had my first trial with chemical treatments designed for black hair, the dreaded Pro-line Curly Kit. Back then, the Jheri curl was “in,” and I wanted my hair to be curly and cute…not even aware of the sheer volume of glycerin curl activator and daily maintenance it would take to wear the style. Luckily for me, the curl didn’t “take,” and the results were something stringy, something straight, something definitely over-processed; a mess.
Shortly thereafter, when I got my first “kiddy relaxer,” I remember the styling freedom that came from that boxed lye relaxer. When people speak of straighteners for hair, they often preface it with “the need” vs. “the desire” to chemically straighten the hair. I’m not convinced I needed a chemical straightener back in the early 80’s, but I surely wanted one. As an only child, I was always a bit mature for my age, and having relaxed hair was just one of the many hair “rites of passage” that I would undergo over the next 35 years.
Some people think that I “went natural” to make a definitive statement against chemical straighteners or women who choose to straighten their hair. Not at all. Black women are beautiful in all the ways we choose to express our unique beauty. Our hair is how we individualize our beauty, and I refuse to become hyper-critical, negative, accusatory, me donning a ‘fro and judging my sisters. It’s just not who I am and no amount of convincing will ever make me transform into “her.”
Because my hair has been chemically straightened for most of my formative years, I thought it was time for me to seize the opportunity to spend the second half of my life, career, and sense of being in a natural state. I “big chopped” for that very reason. More important, as I age, the desire to do less with my hair in the future means I need to do more for at least two more years. When I turn 50 years old in November 2018, my hair will be the LEAST of my preoccupations. I don’t plan to own a comb; won’t need one.
The desire to transition from chemically relaxed hair to my hair in its natural state over time was not my chosen method to get to where I am on this date. I only had one choice back in December 2015-to big chop or to not. The duality of easing into my natural hair seemed counterintuitive. Length had never been my hang up, so the thought of slowly cutting my permed ends as my natural hair grew longer was like the anticipation of wanting to lose 30 pounds and sacrificing, indefinitely, all the yummy stuff I enjoy eating. I lacked the patience.
Here are some photographs of my relaxed hair in all of its glory:
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