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Confessions of a Reformed Relaxer Addict…. Then, Now, Why and the Space Between

 THEN

Well, If someone asked me six years ago if I would ever go “natural” or stop putting relaxers in my hair, I would have probably laughed in their face, for a while…..uncontrollably.  But after I completed my undergrad, the idea to go natural started to become “less frightening”. I lived alone, worked three jobs and still I had enough time to reflect on my actions, habits and thoughts…It was one of the best years of my life, now that i think back on it.  I started to read more about the things I didn’t understand and I was fortunate to work with very open people, who had very different perspectives that allowed me to examine my own.  Then  the following fall I decided to cut the relaxer out of my hair and wear braids long enough for my hair to grow back out. Unfortunately, I put off learning what was for my hair and what was not…

CLOSER

Fast forward two years, I made so many changes in my life, new coast, new career, new life path I suppose… it was strange and exciting times for me. So, I take my braids out and it was an “unruly mess”, that  I have no idea what to do with and my older sister wouldn’t be able to save my hair out west. I take one look at my hair and think..you will have to drag me out of the house kicking and screaming, but I didn’t want my hair to be permanently straightened again. I also did not want to spend hours straightening my hair and trying to comb through my tangled curls.. who has time for that?! Certainly not me, I worked full time, went to school full time and  that was  during the time I actually participated in optional social gatherings, with people.. I guess, but I didn’t want to to worry about styling my hair. So, I thought hey big sissy, throw a texturizer on it…and here’s a little obvious foreshadowing….it didn’t work.  At first it was great, I could just wash my hair and go, straighten it in 30 mins and still have looser curls Yay!!  The Yay, didn’t last very long after though, I was no longer in my home state I had kept getting texturizers from different stylist who just didn’t get it right.  I started seeing more and more hair in the drain and the breakage became increasingly noticeable.  No more loose curls, just damaged hair…now it’s time to cut it off…..again.  A few months and a few hair stylist later, I see someone with texturized hair and I ask her who her stylist is and I hope this is FINALLY someone that can get it right. So, I try a texturizer one. more. time.  The stylist cut out most of the breakage and damage, my hair is shorter than it’s ever been, but I really like the style. Now I just have to wait a few days until I wash my hair to see how it turned out. Yup…the shit turned out practically straight and of course I was really pissed off;  then and there I decided NEVER to relax AGAINNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!! ROAR!!!

 ALMOST THERE

Well, I decide to braid my hair again to give myself time for my hair to grow out yet again, and I was super busy so really like the low maintenance.  While my hair is braided I attended the university of Youtube to get ideas on how I can style my hair, with occasional lessons from blogs and other websites catering to natural black hair.  I even looked into Brazilian straightening when my anxieties bubbled up again, but videos about hair loss and breakage, plus my sister’s severe warning about the damage it could cause, made me decide to leave the formaldehyde off of my hair. My fear about letting go of the creamy crack started to lessen, fear turned into curiosity, anxiety into excitement. So the day finally came and I actually had ideas how to take care of my hair, but still no idea about how it would turn out.  I hadn’t worn my hair without some kind of relaxer in it since I was 12, when this hair madness began and sixteen years later I didn’t not even know what my natural hair was like, nervousness starts to resurface. The braids came out (which took for fucking ever), but then my sister needed to straighten it in order to cut a couple of inches of dry damaged hair off, so I had to wait.  So after a week of hard vacationing, my sister styles my hair and tada!!!! I love it!!! But what will people say? Dread. Ahhh, will I look like a boy? Will people tell me to go comb my nappy head? Will I get dirty looks from people (I did at times)? Will people make fun of my hair? Fortunately, most of the comments from the people that matter and those peoples opinions that I hold in little esteem were favorable, then some “oh, that’s different”  (than what my hair was like before)comments. So I’m pretty happy with my hair, but there was still one huge downside…sitting under the dryer.  I HATE sitting under hair dryers with the passion of a religious fanatic. Styling my hair in twist sets require that I sit under a dryer or that I have about a day and a half to let my hair completely dry..booooooooo.  There had to be something else less time consuming..and there was.

NOW

You tube ended up saving the day, once again..a magical mixture of EcoStyler Gel and Shea Moisture curl enhancing smoothie…curls that are quick I say. I basically discovered how gel tames my hair and allows my very tightly curled springs to stay springs and not frizz up. So, I don’t do much with my hair these days, it’s very simple; I condition more than I wash, keep it moisturized and sleep with a satin cap on at night, most days in the morning I throw a head band on it. I must say that it is very freeing to not be a slave to hair salons, harsh chemicals or dryers…no thank you. My HAIR is what IT is, and I love and accept how IT is. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more like me, I change less , It was like.. there YOU are, where have you been hiding?! Don’t ever do this to yourself again, never hide. Now this does not mean that I will never straighten(non-chemically) my hair again, it just means that if I do, straight will be the exception to the rule, curly is still the rule for me, because it is the way my hair was always meant to be. I want to biggest fro of them all!!! Muhahahahahahah!! Just kidding, but really. Then, why did I have to go though all of that? Where did I get the idea that my hair needed to be straight or a certain type of curly from?

BUT WHY?

Where did the idea come from that black women need to alter their hair to be accepted, seen as beautiful or whatever it will be called? How did We get here? I admit it, there was a time when I thought not having straight hair has was ugly, unattractive, unkempt and a sign that a person did not care about their hair. Where did I pick up all of these ideas? Why was I so excited to relax my hair for the first time when I was 12 years old? None of these questions have easy or simple answers.I believe they are large and small bits and pieces of white beauty standards, unrealistic representation in the media, covert messages that imply that pretty hair is long, straight and flows in the wind and black women taking it in and believing it. There are some black women who don’t even know what there real hair is like, I know I was one of them. There are simply not enough Black women in the media that show the natural beauty in their hair and that needs to change. Now I’m not saying that if a black woman, straightens her hair that she is buying into white standards of beauty, but it should not be the norm to change yourself in order to fit an ideal that doesn’t celebrate you.

But let’s keep in mind that, although for black women’s hair can carry a lot of complex shame, esteem and everything in between…it is just hair. Live long and prosper.

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