Hair. It’s something you don’t think about until it’s time to think about it. Growing up, hair was a big ordeal in my house. Afternoons would go into evenings with washing, combing, rollers, and sitting under a hair dryer while completing homework or reading. I can still feel the heat on the back of my neck from the dryer.
Speaking of heat, I would really feel it every 6-8 weeks when it was time to get a relaxer, or the process to chemically straighten my hair. My mom would sit me in the kitchen and I would whine and complain while the application took place. I think I got my first one when I was around five or six, and that was the life I knew for over the next two decades. Chemically straightening my hair to mirror my peers was routine, and I don’t remember anyone else who looked like me doing otherwise.
All the while, I was still wishing my hair could be tossed and whipped around like the kids around me. Even at its straightest, it wasn’t the same, and I can recall feeling sad about that. Big events like school pictures and weddings were marked with sitting under that very hot dryer, being careful not to agitate the inevitable chemical burns I would I get from scratching my scalp prior. It would take years later when I would realize that enough was enough.
I toyed around with the idea of “going natural” after I had my oldest son. This was before YouTube and Instagram were really a resource, so I didn’t know what I was doing outside of asking my one friend who had done a “big chop” a couple of years prior, and since we have different hair textures, our hair needs were different. Back to the relaxer I went.
(Feeling like you need Google translate? I’ll explain. Going natural means just that, letting your hair grow out of your head without any chemicals altering its texture. A big chop is when the chemically altered hair grows out long enough to cut, but the length differs, and all that remains is your natural hair.)
But then, I got divorced. And if you don’t change your hair, did you even break up? I started the transition (from going to relaxed to natural) but I was still straightening my hair regularly which, in this Louisiana humidity, is nonsense. I would pack my CHI and touch up in my car. In 2015, I finally chopped. When I got remarried a few months later, it was my first major event in my life when I wore my hair natural. Since then we’ve had two more kids including a little girl, and my natural hair is a way of life. It has to be, since straightening my hair takes about 2 hours minimum, which is very challenging to maintain with 3 kids. Plus, how I can teach my kids, especially my daughter, to love their hair if I’m constantly manipulating mine just because I don’t like it? There’s nothing wrong with changing or experimenting with our hair, but I know I was so reluctant because I was comparing myself to others.
I need my kids to love their hair, and I want their journey to that self love to be much shorter than mine. I have to teach my daughter that straight hair doesn’t equal beauty. I’m looking forward to the kitchen wash days with my little girl, but I don’t think she’ll be feeling the heat the way I did.