Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Am Not My Hair

Why is hair sometimes such an emotionally charged thing? Women are especially prone to worrying about this; since all men really have to deal with is the possibility of going bald, they do get it easier. But, women? We have a lot more to think about with regards to hair.

We worry ourselves over getting the right length, shape or color. Does it go with my skin tone? Does it make me look too old or too young? Does it look professional enough, or freeing enough? We endure mild forms of torture with a variety of chemicals and hot as hell tools to get it all just right. Or so we think.

Well, I am done. I stopped all the fussing with heat a few years ago. I simply got tired of trying. And now I've decided to stop with the chemicals. As of early this summer I stopped relaxing my hair, after 23 years of holding fast to unnaturally straight (for me) tresses.

For those of you who don't know, having your hair relaxed is no joke. That stuff is potent. If you leave relaxer on too long it can dissolve your hair or burn your skin. And yet, millions of women take the risk for kink-free strands.

We also blow dry or flat iron our hair into submission. And, many Black women will remember having their hair done in the kitchen as children with a hot comb. This was a metal comb that was sat on the open fire of a stove and then raked through the hair to straighten it. I know! It was insanely capable of burning the shit out of you if the person doing the combing wasn't really careful. Or if you moved. Oh, God. If you moved, forget about it!

My freshman year of college in 1993. Long before having to endure styling over bald spots.

My reasons for going natural were two-fold. In 2008 my hair fell out and it's never really recovered. I'm hoping that getting rid of the bi-monthly usage of harsh chemicals will help my hair finally grow back. (I did see a doctor who specializes in hair/scalp issues, by the way. None of the stuff he gave me helped.) Also? HUBS and I just couldn't afford the cost of upkeep anymore. It cost $50 every time I got my hair relaxed. Considering our previous financial situation, I actually started to feel guilty when I went to the salon. I was always thinking about the bills we could pay with that cash or the groceries we could buy.

The downside now? I'm embarrassed to say it, but I have no idea how to care for my natural hair texture or how to style it in this weird in-between stage. And I have no idea what to do with it once it's fully natural.

I was never good at futzing with my hair anyway. I've never had the arm strength for all that hands-over-head stuff that creative styling requires. Now? Thank God I own a lot of scarves, headbands and bobby pins, because I'm in some combination of those things daily.

So I'm waiting. Waiting for my hair to normalize. Waiting to figure out a way to look polished with whatever my kinky/curly hair will turn into when all the relaxer has grown out. Waiting for a new freedom that I wish I'd been brave enough to dive into ages ago.


JeriWB said...

I've had all lengths and colors of hair, but am happiest when it's short. Then it stays out of my way and I can forget out it. I've found that as I grow older, it keeps turning reddish when I apply color, even though I've tried to follow all the right tips, etc. Keeping my fingers crossed that I can find a good colorist...

Susan Cooper said...

You go girl. Good luck with that. :-)

Tope Olofin said...

I take pride in my hair, which female doesn't but I am ready to stick with the perm. Going back to my natural hair? It will be too stressful

Citygirl said...

Jeri: I haven't had short hair since I was a baby. Considering the difficulty I'm having dealing with my transitioning hair, I have thought about chopping it all off. But, I just don't think I have the right head for short hair.

Susan: Thanks!

Tope: Girl, you're right, this natural hair stuff is unbelievably stressful! I'm trying to breathe through the pain and learn to live with it :)


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