Yesterday, December 22, 2016, marked my one year “naturalversary.” Five years ago, no one could have told me that I would have worn a natural, an Afro, for some seven months and transitioned into another natural lifestyle, Sisterlocks. Amazingly, what the ‘fro lacked in daily styling ease, Sisterlocks has returned to me 100-fold: a freedom that I have not known in this lifetime until recently. 

My baby locs are finally beginning to transform and well…lock. I’m noticing textural, color, and density changes. My hair is much denser, thicker than usual at the roots, and many of my ends are light brown as if I had dipped them in a pot of honey. My hair has less volume at this length; it’s almost stiff, and my consultant states that these changes are a natural part of the locking process. Some of my locs are thin, almost stringy; some are plump and wiry. While my babies still manage to find some sort of shape, due to my ‘fro’s original tapered cut, I’m attributing some of my hair transformation to pre-menopausal, hormonal imbalances that I’ll just have to endure while my Sisterlocks are finding their way. 

Before Fourth Retightening:

After Fourth Retightening:

I see locs everywhere I go. I’m not sure if I’m noticing them more now because they are my reality or if I’m just paying more attention to others, a transparency piece of my school leadership training, and I am more in tune with others. At times, I’m obsessed with the beauty of locs of all types-especially if they are uniform, colored, or intricately adorned or styled. I feed this obsession through my social media contacts. I’m beginning to understand that not all locs are created equally and that my appreciation for all locked styles extends to my newfound pride of being a natural, by choice. It’s much easier to see the beauty in others who look like you or those who are traveling a similar path; silently, it is so life-affirming. However, when I think about some of the ignorance and self-hatred that manifests from “hair shaming” and personal decisions to stop using chemicals to straighten one’s hair, I’m amazed by some of the social media posts I see…daily. 

As I approach the mid-century mark in a couple of years, I recognize that I’m really from the “old school” way of thinking-I’m either all in or I’m all out; there are no gray areas of commitment for me. The decision to “go natural” is a very personal one and one that requires a steadfast commitment. The commitment, however, may or may not be a permanent one. It will, most assuredly, be temporary if you have not taken the time to rationalize your decision-making and pinpoint for whom you are, ultimately, making the decision. 

If you find yourself polling your social media friends about whether or not you should wear your hair in its natural state, you’re not ready. It’s fine to seek the opinions of others, but the lens through which you commit will be fickle if you allow others’ opinions to impact your final decision. If you can’t commit to a hair regimen that includes an introspective look at your own perception and image, you’re not ready. You truly have to own the decision to wear your hair in its natural state and embrace your natural hair – for what it is and for what it ain’t. If you look back at photos of your relaxed hair, fixated on the days when you could just “comb and go,” you’re not ready. The best gauge of future actions are present actions, as well as the actions you embrace from your past. Love that 2002 relaxed prom pixie from afar, but love on that massive, coily, frizzy, nappy twist out you’re wearing in 2016. If a wig or weave gives you the styling ease you desire, and what’s natural (or transitioning) underneath it never sees the light of day, you’re not ready. Being partially committed is not being fully committed; any relationship expert can tell you that. In order to be you, you must be unashamedly ready. 

Why? Because you’ll be bombarded with all kinds of questions about why you decided to “go natural.” These questions will come from those who are near and dear to you, as well as virtual strangers who want to question your decision. Some people will be curious and their authenticity will be apparent. Others will be rude and their insecurities will shine a bigger light on why your decision to be you is 100% about your own readiness. Your “momma-nem” will be some of your harshest critics because straight hair represents an uncomplicated existence, an ease that makes them comfortable. Years ago, a preacher man told me that I would never get a husband if I kept cutting my hair. His intentions were good, I suspect, but for a lesser woman, his words may have tainted her worldview about relationships, in general. You may even encounter the unsettling sting of your own man/significant other turning up his nose at your natural hair; he didn’t sign up for nappy and lets you know every chance he gets. My point is…unsolicited advice, insensitive messages, and peace-snatchers will follow you wherever you go. Be You. Be Ready.
Internally, wearing your hair in its natural state will be a war that you may just have to fight…until that very moment, that explicit second, that actual point in time when you will not give one damn about what others think about your hair. Honey, baby, sugar, chile…Be You. Be Ready. 

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