Week Four: Why can’t I shampoo my hair?

One of the strangest things about having baby locs is understanding when it is appropriate to shampoo one’s hair. Going from a twice weekly shampoo or co-wash to a scalp massage and ruffling of the fingers through my little locks is about all I do daily. I’m a member of a FB page dedicated to the care of Sisterlocks, and the opinions vary, as much as the lock lengths and personalities of my fellow sisters, about when is the best time to shampoo. Indeed, I’ve seen posts about everything from three (3) HOURS post-install to six (6) WEEKS post-install before shampooing. I wasn’t concerned about shampooing my hair during Week One and Two, and at the start of Week Three; there are no products being applied to my hair, so what was I trying to wash away from my scalp and hair? Product buildup and odor were not concerns either, but by the end of Week Three, I had slightly more scalp itchiness. I assume the natural oils from my scalp are the culprit. Now that Week Five is here, my hair doesn’t smell as fresh, but it’s not offensive. I’ve asked my husband for verification. โ˜บ๏ธ  Never once plagued with dandruff or flaky scalp, my hair continues to grow, quickly, and from this picture, you can see that my scalp is not flaky although my hair has not been shampooed since July 23rd.

It makes me wonder-why some Sisters are able to shampoo soon after installation and others must wait weeks for the warmth of water and the soothing properties of shampoo.  Perhaps most shocking to me is that my hair remains “oily” although I have not added any oils since my install. I’m thinking about my ‘fro prior to install and how dry it seemed in comparison. I also wonder why Sisterlocks lend themselves to natural oils producing, but my ‘fro could not thrive without product to protect its fragile ends. Perhaps those curly ends, which are struggling to lock, are protecting my hair from its roots.

Above: The picture on the right (maroon tee) is my hair right after install. The one on the left is three weeks post install.

The picture above was taken just moments ago (Sunday, August 21st) prior to the release of this post. I spend a lot of time with my cousin, RJ, and he thinks my hair is progressing as it should. Because I have decided that my consultant will maintain my locks, I will wait until her cue for my next shampoo. I suspect within the next week or so, I’ll be sitting in her chair. I’m pleased that my hair has grown about one half inch since my install a month ago. While that’s not surprising growth, it is a healthy start to the length that will, eventually, giving me the styling versatility I want with my Sisterlocks.

Until next week….

Week Three-What’s going on with your hair?

Have you ever made a decision that was just for you? A decision that was so selfish, so self-absorbed, so about you and only you? As women, we rarely consider how we are impacted by our own decision-making because, more times than not, we are making the best decision for the wellbeing of others, not necessarily for our own wellbeing.  Women express ourselves in multi-layered ways. Over the years, I’ve worried less and less about what others think of me; however, my career and my work with students and with teachers has always been the image I most strongly clung to in order to define my worth. Since I decided in my mid-30’s that parenting a child was not going to be one of my life experiences, I dug in deep, face forward, toward the goal of being the best educator I could be. It’s in me, it’s my calling, it’s what I think about when I am happy, and it’s what I think about when I am sad.

But, what does all of this have to do with my Sisterlocks. Well, as my hair continues to transform, so does my opinion about my hair and my womanhood. Here’s an up close photo of my baby locs on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 right before bedtime.

I understand that my baby locs require a certain amount of healthy eating, sound nutrition, water consumption, and general care, which will maintain a healthy look and growth for years to come. However, I’m really talking about that internal stuff. You know, how you feel about yourself-no matter the condition of your hair.

Here I am on Thursday, August 11, 2016 returning home from work. The gray hairs are quite noticeable now as they wrench away from the confines of each baby loc.

You can see how my babies have thickened throughout, but especially on the top. My current pictures, for Week Three, are pretty reminiscent of my ‘fro a few weeks earlier-kinda frizzy, kinda disorderly, kinda free.

But, what’s going on with my hair? When I decided to Big Chop in December 2015, I took a huge risk. For some time now, I have understood that my husband, Frank, was not too fond of short hair. It wasn’t quite clear to me if his distaste for short hair was connected to short natural hair or just short hair, in general. In my mind, I kept going to a space of when we first met, I had shoulder length hair, but for the bulk of our dating experience and for years prior to even knowing him, my hair was always short and relaxed. I remember when we got married in March 2012, by August 2012, I came home with a short, freshly cropped, relaxed ‘do. He hit the ceiling.

For me, when I decided to wear my natural hair, the shedding of my relaxed tresses left me feeling a bit vulnerable. I knew, even before I did it, that it would not be well-received by my husband. Internally, I struggled with, “Is this really about him not liking short hair or is more about him not liking me with my own natural and short hair?” Therein lies the struggle-the one of unconditional acceptance of the person you profess to love. So, if Frank’s issue with my hair was really about him not liking me, in my natural state of being, the battle, the risk, the sacrifice was truly worth it to me. He was going to love me, as I am, or he would have to face himself, his biases, his God to justify why I was suddenly unattractive, unworthy, undeserving of his love-ALL BECAUSE OF MY HAIR. That’s when I understood, for the first time, that it wasn’t really my problem. It was his. What’s perhaps more important here is that, on more than one occasion, he expressed his distaste for my ‘fro. I dealt with it, I stood by it, but I didn’t shrink from my decision. I was going to do what I wanted to do with my hair. Period.

Here are some photos of my hair on Friday night, August 12, 2016. I had been outside for several hours for a football jamboree. I sweated quite a bit, but my hair seems relatively unscathed.

Where my hair is its thinnest, across the very front and closest to the temples on both sides, the grid pattern is still noticeable.

In the back and very top, I would have to manipulate my hair to see the grid pattern. The change in just a few short weeks is jarring. Sometimes, I’m not very sure what’s going on with my hair, but I know that whatever is happening is welcomed and a part of the process.

Which brings me back to my original question: What’s going on with your hair? My Frank asked me this question a week ago today. It’s very interesting to me because I have not felt compelled to share one iota of my hair transition with him since I big chopped last December. In fact, when he asked me, in that very frank way he addresses me, I was a bit startled. I began to explain what my hair is doing, what my hairstyle is called, why it is a perfect choice for my lifestyle, and I even showed him several pictures of my favorite “LocEnvy” divas who are enjoying the personal and styling freedom of Sisterlocks. His only reply? “I like it. I can live with it.”

Week Two: What is slippage?

Week Two has been much like Week One, not many changes with my hair except two very subtle ones: there is a natural, healthy sheen without the use of oils, sprays, or glosses and my baby locs have volume despite the length. My natural hair color is a reddish, dark brown, and while standing in the sun or a well-illuminated spot, this is most evident to onlookers. While maintenance is just a breeze; literally, I fluff my hair with my fingers and go, this journey leads me to another question: What is slippage?

I scheduled an appointment with my consultant for Friday, August 5th so that she could take a peek at a couple of areas where I suspect slippage has occurred. I’ll admit; it’s difficult to keep my hands out of my hair. It feels so good! I hope that obsession will end soon, but I think it’s quite natural. It made me wonder if my daily touches, by myself and others, may contribute to slippage and  what, exactly, is the difference between slippage and unraveling? Considering the length of my locs, they are essentially one and the same. Unraveling occurs when your baby locs start to come undone and lose their pattern at the ends of your hair (because the ends are too immature to lock). Slippage, on the other hand, happens when the hair at the root begins to slip and lose its pattern at the base of the “lock.”

Below are some updated pictures of the back of my head. I took these photos on Thursday, August 4th. I’ll take more after my visit with my consultant.

From the photos, it’s difficult to tell where slippage may have occurred.

The photo below is a closeup of the back of my head, closest to my nape. My baby locs look like woven curls (they remind me of shiny worms) when I inspect the photos.

After my appointment on Friday, August 5th, my consultant retightened a few of my baby locs, and I was out the door within 10-15 minutes. It might be more advantageous for me to wait a month between posts so that you can see more drastic changes with my locs, but when I was searching for images and bloggers that posted weekly photos, with commentary that helped me understand the phases, I simply could not find anyone willing to be “frequently transparent” about the growth of their Sisterlocks from infancy. My blog is an effort to fill that void.

From the pictures below, you won’t be able to tell much difference from my Week One pictures, but my curl pattern seems more evident and the baby locs are thinner than they were the first week. As I touch them, I can definitely feel their thinness. This phase will subside, according to my consultant.

Most were in the very back of my head, with two or three being on the sides.

I’m acutely aware of the many textures that are evident with just one head of hair. My hair may be a different texture than yours, but the progression of growth and maturity of our locs may be similar.

When my friends, family members, or strangers tell me, “I like your hair,” I cannot help but beam the response, “Thank you! So do I! Freedom!” This past summer, I’ve taken on the “hobby” of thrifting, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. During my Saturday visit to a local store, I came across a black woman around my age, who looked to be in her late 40’s, early 50’s. She approached me and said, “I love your hair,” and began touching her own. I noticed that she had very short hair, with wide square parts, and it looked as if she had two-strand twists. After thanking her, I asked her if she was locking her hair. It was evident to me that her hair was not sisterlocked, but I did not know if she was simply styling her hair for a temporary look or committing to a lifestyle change of maintaining locs. She explained that she was a cancer survivor and that her hair had undergone many changes over the course of a year, especially in the resultant texture. She was disappointed with the look of her two-strand twists and told me that her stylist would re-do the twists in a couple of weeks. She wanted to lock her hair, but she wasn’t sure if her hair would lock. She went on to talk about the thinness of her newly textured, post-treatment hair, and that her hair used to be coarse, but would never be as full and as thick as mine. I did not know what to say to comfort her…or even that she was seeking any encouragement from me. I stood there, watching her as she reflected on the transformation that survivorship has meant for her. Finally, I told her that Sisterlocks may be a way for her to embrace her freedom from cancer and celebrate her naturalness in the process. I walked away knowing that I would think of her often and pray for her strength to live her best life, cancer-free.

My next visit will be a true followup with my consultant to ensure that my babies are progressing as they should.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy chronicling the changes, taking lots and lots of pictures, and sharing my journey with you.

Week One: Where is my umbrella!?

Week One of my Sisterlocks Journey finds me searching feverishly for a small umbrella for my work tote; a large umbrella for my car; shower caps for virtually any bathroom encounter with water; and the anxiety of, the possibility of, the mere THOUGHT of getting my hair wet has me afraid to be outside, sweating even, in the unpredictable weather of Memphis! I had become accustomed to NOT carrying an umbrella. In fact, I haven’t used one since October 2015. Luckily for me, I survived Week One without getting my hair wet, and the daily photos of my loc changes are fascinating.

By Wednesday, I experienced slight itching of my scalp, but nothing obsessive. I’ve been thinking about what it could possibly be-the only thing I can think of is dry scalp. For almost eight months, my natural hair and scalp was moistured DAILY, and my hair was used to the tejuvenative properties of Memphis water, along with hydrating creams, oils, and the occasional gel.

On Thursday, July 28, I took several photos of my hair, during a brief break at work, to include in this week’s blog entry. What is most noticeable are the little “buds” forming on the ends that look like “hair balls.” I’m sure there is a technical term for it, but through the eyes of a newbie, they look like little fur balls. ๐Ÿ˜ The spacing seems less obvious to me, after four days. I’ve been following my consultant’s directions, namely wearing my Loc Soc while I sleep and under no circumstances getting my head wet. You may be wondering why it is important for my hair to remain dry. At this stage, my baby locs are too immature to sustain water which will cause them to unravel or increase the chances of slippage (unraveling). Indeed, the time and financial investment is just too great to be frivolous about maintenance of my baby locs.

By Friday, July 29, the itching has subsided. I was sure to use a flash to get a better look at the texture of my hair. My hair seemed a bit more “spacey” today; interesting that the flash magnifies this effect, but my hair does not look this sectioned when I look at it in the mirror. The individual locs appear to be a bit stringier today, too. See what I mean…?

On yesterday (Saturday), I was in my school building for two and a half hours trying to semi-organize my new office space, and I broke a sweat (or two) climbing two flights of stairs, no less than six times, to gather items from my old office, as well as to move a table and four chairs with the help of a parent. Afterwards, I did a lot of running around town because of my father-in-law’s retirement party, and my hair looks a bit different by late afternoon. Here are a few photos.

Week One turned out to be pretty successful, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you on next Sunday this week’s hair changes. What is perhaps the biggest success is the hair freedom…throwing away hair combs of all types, hair brushes, hair picks, shampoos and conditioners in the shower caddy, and ALL hair care products that cluttered our bathroom drawers, basin counter, and even the little spray bottle of water and avocado oil I kept in my makeup bag. This journey just got real for me.

Until next Sunday… ๐Ÿ˜˜

My Sisterlocks Birthday: Install Complete!!!ย 

Today was a good day! 

According to my Sisterlocksยฎ consultant, Sunday, July 24th is my Sisterlocks Birthday since my install was completed on that date. We began the installation on Saturday, July 23rd around 3:00 pm, but my emotional preparation occurred hours, weeks, months earlier. I’m so very happy that the install is finally complete, and I am looking forward to the transformation of my locks over the years. This blog post is quite special to me. It is the beginning of a personal transparency that I never believed, in a million years, I would explore. You’re going to see images of me, some quite unflattering, that I don’t usually share with virtual strangers. I fully anticipate personal growth and coming to grips with some image issues I have endured most of my adult life. I’m looking forward to coming full circle. It is a journey about me, and me alone.

The install begins with a deep cleansing. Here is the shampoo that I was asked to clean my hair and scalp with, four washes, until it was “squeaky clean.” I had trouble finding it because it was not at my frequented Walgreens on Union & Pauline on the regular shampoo aisle. In fact, I could not find ANY clarifying shampoos on that aisle. Today’s savvy hair product consumer looks for “hydrating,” “moisturizing,” or “conditioning” shampoos, which coat the hair follicles and strands. This particular clarifying shampoo was located, several aisles over, with the $1.00 finds. I was pleased that it was economical, had a nice clean fragrance, and did what it should, remove all traces of built-up product, oil, sweat, and environmental dust and dirt.

Once my hair was thoroughly shampooed, I took a few photos of my hair in its “‘fro” state; the last time I will see my natural hair “free” and without product. To be honest, it was actually the first time I had seen my hair dry and without product. Since my Big Chop last December, after a shampoo or co-wash, I immediately apply oil which springs my curls and coils to life. This state of hair being was new to me-the dry ‘fro. Despite the change, don’t I look happy?

Once I arrived at the salon, I sat through a parting ritual which took about an hour (it seemed). My dry, clean hair was sectioned for grid patterns. I haven’t seen parts in my head since taking down my pre-Big Chop braids in December 2015. As a preventative measure, I took three regular strength Aleve with my breakfast just in case I experienced any discomfort. I will admit that pain relievers are a must have whenever I used to get my hair micro-braided. Without a doubt, they were NOT needed on Day 1 or on Day 2.

Once we began the install, my consultant, who was not feeling very well that Saturday, quickly tackled one section at a time, starting in the center of my head and moving to the back. My initial thoughts were that my hair was all over the place, and while I know there was an intricate grid pattern, I didn’t quite understand how they would end up “settled” and going in a styled direction.

Before our six hours for Day One ended, all of the back was completed. The next day, we started early and by 10 am, the first side was completed. I was excited because I could actually see the work in progress at this point.

Day Two arrived, and I was thrilled to be on my way to the salon. Here I am as I was preparing to leave my house to see my consultant and to complete my install on Sunday, July 24th.

It takes a patient and methodical professional to stay focused while locking hundreds of parted and sectioned locks. We took frequent stretch breaks, talked about my new role within the district, and of course, chatted about my Frank. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜˜

Finally, the moment I had been awaiting arrived, and she was finished! Here are some shots of my hair before it was styled. You’ll note a few spaces, which is natural in a grid-patterned ‘do. My spaces are much more pronounced with braiding. Because my hair is pretty dense, with my baby locks, the spacing was minimal. Note the individual “‘fros” at the end of each lock. Those ends will transform over the course of the next few months, and it is where my lock will form.

Styling was an invigorating ritual of massage and manipulation of my locks. The massage felt good, and resulted in a more polished look which made me feel, not only grateful that the 11-hour install was over, but that my newfound hair freedom could begin. Here are a few photos of the final look.

My instructions were to NOT get my hair wet and to contact her if, prior to my follow-up appointment (included in my install price), I had any slippage (undone locks) around my edges which is common with short hair. At night, I should wear my “Loc Soc” or sleep on a satin pillowcase. I have two satin pillowcases, a crimson one and a cream one, that I rotate. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿฝ Here is the “Loc Soc” brochure. I am pictured above and below wearing mine at the start of Day 2.

My husband, Frank, didn’t see my hair on Day 1 or on Day 2. He has not embraced my natural hair, so in my quest to evolve in the most positive way I know how, I donned my Loc Soc all day on my Sisterlocks birthday. Was I uncomfortable about my new look? No. Was I hiding from him? Perhaps. โ˜บ๏ธ I had less than 24 hours to reveal my new look, and it was for a precious few hours that it was just my own.

Interestingly, yesterday was our New Leaders official cohort photo day. I wore blue, because according to our national facilitator, Glynis, blue is a “warm color.” Here I am, in my baby Sisterlocks glory, ready to face my work day and to “go public” with my new look.

Today was a good day for one more reason. As I kissed my Frank goodbye on my way out the door, he said to me for the first time in several months, “Baby, you look good.” Validation? No. But, does it feel good? Hell, yes! ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

My “Naturalversary” and Next Steps: It’s A Journey

I celebrated my six month “Naturalversary” in mid-June, in the midst of a career transition and two weeks into my abbreviated summer break. On this past Saturday, I visited my Sisterlocks consultant to do a “length assessment” and to make a deposit on my near future install. I’ll admit; I was a bit excited just to take those baby steps, and I had an opportunity, while there, to chat with a “newbie” about her three month Sisterlocks journey. She was getting “bundled and banded” for a shampoo, and I was intrigued by the process. She seemed open to sharing with a stranger and after realizing that I could ask her any questions I may have, I asked her whether she had any reservations about her decision to move forth with the installation. She told me that it “was the best decision” she had ever made about her hair care and that she had “no regrets.” I couldn’t help but notice that her hair was considerably longer than mine and our textures were quite different. That reality is the reason I began this blog in early-May as I was in the infancy stages of my decision-making process. It has been difficult for me to find a black woman, who looks like me and who dons a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro), as she begins her Sisterlock journey. Someone out there, like me, wants to see the before pictures, the complete install, the early baby loc phases, and the growth progression of Sisterlocks in a very methodical way. As a matter of fact, my self-awareness and personal transparency lends itself to sharing as a way of helping others to reflect on their rationale and reasoning as they grapple with choices. Creating a blog and sharing periodic streams of consciousness was a mere extension of that natural communication process for me. I was so comforted to know that My consultant’s client began her journey completely natural as well, and that her hair was evolving in its natural state.

Waiting for my hair to lengthen has been a test of will and sheer patience for me. I’m quite accustomed to making a decision, any decision, and acting on it immediately, so when my consultant told me in early May to come back later, well…let’s just say that I was not at all happy. This recent visit was different; my hair has definitely gotten longer (and healthier), and I believe it has thickened (particularly at the roots) where it is curliest and closest to my scalp. She inspected my hair, scalp, and length and proclaimed, “You’re ready!”

For about five seconds though, I paused, “Am I?”

Since my first visit to the consultant in May, some realities about my career as an educator have surfaced, and once again, my hair has become an obsession, along with my professional image. For a black woman in academia, image and perception are real identity concerns. While the success ladder is a steep one, I pause because there are not many sisters in school leadership who choose to wear their hair natural. However, I happen to be surrounded by many role models of natural beauty who have made their mark in our local public education system, those who stand tall, run in stilettos, and jog in Tiek’s through the hallways of schools everyday; those who walk the walk, talk the talk, and lead by creating leaders. I’m comforted to know that all of my natural mentors, my Natural “Board of Directors” (to coin a phrase used by my APP Director, LaWanda) are just an email, text message, FaceBook post, or phone call away…some I see in my building, others I see in my community, in the business of sorority meeting, at the local Kroger’s. Recently, I asked one of them, Tara, “So, I am wondering how those baby locs will look…and how to integrate my new look with my new leadership journey. My director talks to us all the time about image, perception, and maintaining a professional “look.” I know many successful black women with locks, but have you encountered any bias related to your hair?” Brief in her response, but the affirmation I needed, Tara replied, “Not one bit. Your locs won’t look much different than your fro.” From her reply, I gained that extra bit of certainty that my transitional journey will be a familiar one for me, not like the Big Chop which rocked my world for a few pivotal weeks last December. Due to the length of my natural hair, my install should be very reminiscent of my current look. In fact, some people may not realize even that those microlocs will represent, for me, individual seeds of highly anticipated hair freedom.

I do not anticipate that the shift, from my ‘fro to Sisterlocks, will be a dramatic one for me, but the freedom I have enjoyed wearing my hair in its natural state has been life-affirming and intentional along my personal hair journey. When people say to me, “See, you can wear your hair like that. Everyone can’t pull that off,” it makes me wonder from where, exactly, does this disdain with our natural hair originate. Unfortunately, it is one of the reasons I can’t just enter school leadership equipped with a lifetime of knowledge AND remain unconcerned about my image because my hair is a primary player in the perception game.

Below is my one and only attempt to wear a headband with my TWA. One of my oldest and dearest friends, Karen Lynn, quickly warned me about the dangers of headbands and edge destruction. Her exact words on my FB post were, “Come thru! Come thru! Looks very healthy. Gotta be careful with the bands as they may damage the edges.” I can appreciate a sister who IS a true sister…Lord knows, I need my edges with this broad (big) forehead.

Below is the condition of my hair during yesterday’s deep conditioning ritual, post-length assessment for my install.

One of my favorite pastimes after rinsing out the conditioner is combing through my hair with a wide-tooth comb and inspecting my hair before I put one drop of oil, cream, or gel in it. This is the hair I was born to love, and the transitional phases of Sisterlocks will enable me to celebrate my hair, chemical-free and minimal product-free, for years to come.

The delight and reality of gray hair in my late 40’s…. I’m still on the fence about coloring my future Sisterlocks. I really want to enjoy and celebrate my natural hair, my natural color, my naturalness.

Stay tuned as I chronicle my Sisterlocks installation process. I’m excited about the endless possibilities, the evolution of natural beauty, the transition of professional image, the role-modeling potentialities for black girls, and how I standardize my personal image for myself and others. ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜