Taking Care

October 1, 2012

The various stages of my hair journey.

I’ve been talking about my hair quite a bit lately. Again.

When I first went natural in college, it was for the most bizarre of reasons.  I had an event to go to with my then boyfriend (now hubby) and I needed to get my hair done.  I needed a relaxer, badly.  I checked my funds and they were next to nothing. My paycheck from my on campus job wasn’t due for another week. I hadn’t budgeted properly, but I knew I couldn’t go to a formal event looking like Benny in search of a home. So, when I got to the salon, I already knew what I was going to do.

The stylist whipped the cape out around and in front of me. Snapping it up, she said, “What are doing today?”

“Cutting it off,” I said, no hesitation.

“What?” came the response. So I repeated it.  And thus began the back and forth between me and her about my certainty to take this drastic step.  Mind you, I wasn’t looking like Rapunzel about the head, but I did have shoulder length hair.  I don’t think she had a clientele that came in requesting a big chop that often. Keep in mind, this was 1999.  She began to cut, but after few inches, she would check in with me to make sure I was still okay with what she was doing.  I was.  Cut, snip, cut, snip.  And then, it was over. I had about an two inches of hair all the way around.  And I loved it.

The reactions I got were mixed. I honestly can’t even remember what they were aside from complete surprise from Craig and my friends. I hadn’t told anyone I was doing it. I went with the sister of one of my good friends and she was totally blown as she watched the whole thing unfold.  But, I loved it.  I felt free.  Wash and go! No more curling irons! No more worrying about my ‘do when the forecast called for rain!  It was liberating and awesome.  All because, I didn’t have enough money for a relaxer and had no clue I could have gotten a box kit from CVS for the same price it cost me to have all of my hair chopped off.  Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.

When I think about that time, especially regarding my hair care routine, I really was ignorant.  I just washed, conditioned and rolled.  I used some gel to get some curl definition, but I had no where near the products I have now.  It wasn’t as if no one had ever been natural before. It was just that, it wasn’t as popular as it is now.  I didn’t have the resources like message boards, magazines, a variety of products or someone else to model after the way I do now.  I just let my hair grow; I didn’t get regular trims or anything.  Truthfully, I was pretty hard on my hair by the sheer fact that I didn’t do anything to it.

Like I said, I let it grow and grow, until I had the ‘fro for which I’m now known.  But then I got engaged, and since my parents were kindly footing the bill, they got to have a say on a few things — like my hair.  I was 21, not quite the self-possessed woman I am now, so I just rolled with it.  It took two relaxers to go from ‘fro to straight.  Then I had the stylist cut it into a cute little pixie.  When I was done, I went to get in the car and my dad wouldn’t open the door; he didn’t recognize me.

By this time, it’s 2001.  I kept the relaxer for a while as I let my hair grow again.  It was easy to fall back into the relaxed hair routine.  Natural hair was not receiving the love or attention (at least not where I was living), so I did what I knew how to do — got a relaxer.  Over time, I grew tired of maintenance, and decided to go back to the natural.  So, I put in some braids and started to grow my hair back out.  My hair care ritual was much like it was in the past, a very hands off approach.  I prided myself in the fact I wasn’t spending my Saturdays in the salon with everyone and their mother.  I loved how I could pick out my hair and have my brother trim it up with his clippers.  Thus began the advent of my grandmother asking me, “When are you going to fix your hair!”.  Good times.

Fast forward to 2010.  I’d grown tired of my ‘fro.  It had a life of it’s own.  It preceded me into a room. It had it’s own clique of friends.    It announced me, even when I wasn’t trying to be seen. I kept telling Craig that I was going to get a relaxer and he advised against it offering up braids and presses as an alternative.  One day, I just had had enough.  So I carried myself on over to the Hair Cuttery and said, “Let’s do this!”  The pixie had returned.

I loved that hair cut, but the maintenance was more than I wanted.  With short hair, you’ve got to keep it looking tight and that’s work.  I had to schedule appointments around the girls school schedule. I had to wrap it up and was afraid to work out, lest I sweat out the chemicals.  I kept a mini flat iron in my purse so that I could lay down the back as needed. There’s a reason they call the relaxer “creamy crack” — you just can’t get off that janx!

My breaking point came towards the end of that summer.  I’d had it. It had been hotter than all get out. I was constantly worried that my hair would “snap back”, that my nape (or kitchen for those of you in the know) would start to resemble a sheeps’ backside.  I went to the hairdresser for another touch-up and trim, and for as much as I enjoyed the community feel of the salon, I got fed up with being bumped from the chair when other patrons came in.  So, I decided that last touch up was going to be the last touch up.  When it came time for me to go back, when the kitchen started looking like “baaa, baaa, baaa,” I called my hairdresser and asked her to squeeze me in to cut the relaxer out.  She said come on over and guess who she bumped so I could get the scissor treatment? My own mother! SN: she has since gone natural herself and looks fantastic!

Despite the stink eye from my mom, it was the best salon experience I’d had in a while.  In about 5 minutes, I was back to my old self, and it felt great.  I told myself that this time, I was going to be more conscious about how I treated my hair.  Natural hair was en vogue and resources abounded.  I tried some tried and true products like Miss Jessie’s and Elasta QP, and I tried new products like Mixed Chixx and Ouidad.  I joined message boards. I read product reviews and all articles talking about natural hair care tips and tricks.  I put little to no heat on my hair. I got a satin pillow case and a new satin night cap.  I’ve talked with other curly girlies about products and practices, about curl types and curl friendly combs.  I found a hairdresser who wears her hair naturally, so she has experience with hair like mine.  I talk, she listens.  She advises, I comply.   I go for regular trims.  I’ve learned that no matter how many times you follow the same steps, the humidity, barometric pressure, alignment of the planets and the amount of iron in your blood will make your hair look differently every.single.time.  There’s no such thing as duplicating the same look, but that’s what makes it all unique and totally individual.

I make sure the girls see what I was doing because this is how they will learn to take care of their own hair.  Even though they see the brush and take off running in the other direction, I’m not going to relax their hair.  If, when they are grown women, they want to do that, it’s their choice.  As for now, I think this graphic sums it up nicely.

(image)

I’m leading by example (I have a natural hair themed Pinterest board).  I love the path I’ve taken.

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