The Well Magazine Summer 2012 - Page 17

my hair—applying chemicals every six to eight weeks to alter my hair and make it silky straight—last year I decided to grow the permanent relaxer out of my hair. It’s funny that it’s called “permanent” because it doesn’t last as any black woman with a perm can tell you. After a few months, it’s time to get another relaxer. And it’s hardly relaxing. The burning. The cost. The worry over the texture of your hair. But at 42, I finally had the confidence after more than 30 years to see what naturally grows out of my head and deal with it. As women, and black women especially, hair is so attached to our self-esteem and beauty. A woman’s hair is her crowning glory. For black women, our hair is a crown of thorns in a society where the Eurocentric standard of beauty dominates. As a woman in my early 40s, I’m going through other transitions. I’m not young anymore. I’m reminded of this when my husband jokingly calls me “Old Lady.” My children are not babies anymore. My daughter is a teenager—more than halfway through her high school career. Her time with us is coming to an end and she will be off to college in a few years. My son is growing—everyday his legs seem to grow longer and his head reaches my shoulder and I wonder what happened to the baby I cradled in my arms and who it seems not too long ago only reached up to my knee. Transitions in my hair, stage of life, career, writing, motherhood. Who am I? When my mother sees me, she pats my head. “It’s time for a touch up,” she says. “I’m going natural.” I made a conscious decision to never put a relaxer in my daughter’s hair, to never give her the addiction to the creamy crack. But I never felt the confidence myself until last year. I don’t know that it was a sudden epiphany as much as a growing confidence and conviction. I saw photos on Facebook of my friends who had gone natural. I saw more women in church rocking natural hairstyles. My niece and godsister were naturalistas. I saw the extremes of extreme weaves and eyelashes like tarantulas on some of my sisters and afros, twists and dreads on others. In magazines, more of the images of women of color showed them sporting their natural curls. But the clearest turning point was a conversation with my husband, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. We were sitting at a coffee shop in Chicago in April 2011—a mini-getaway. We were What’s wrong with the hair God gave you that grows out of your head? discussing his latest column idea. “I know how I’m going to start it,” he said. “Unbeweavable.” A parade of women walked by, many of them with bad weave. What ensued was a discussion on why black women don’t embrace their own beauty and what grows naturally out of their own head instead of paying to put someone else’s hair on their head. What are we teaching our daughters? Were we empowered as black women or not? It was a discussion we had had before when he had encouraged me to go natural. But I was too scared to do it myself. Again, I had excuses. We do it because that’s what men like. Women want to please men. Look at Beyonce. His words in that conversation resonated in my spirit in a way that gave me courage and conviction that I had never had before. “What’s wrong with the hair God gave you that grows out of your head?” I knew all of this, believed it and had the conviction to make that choice for my daughter to be free but remained in bondage myself. Flexibility. That was one of my excuses. If I went natural I would be limited in my hair styling. But I saw my daughter wear braids, twists, curls, flat ironed bobs. So that excuse had holes in it. I remembered the freedom of Saturday afternoons before the pressing comb. My hair a fluffy, wild halo before the pressing—dancing with the Soul Train dancers. I wanted that freedom again. I reasoned to myself I can always go back to the perm. It wasn’t permanent. I had a choice. hen I decided to go natural, I do what I do with most things. I start to do my research and educate myself. I went online and read blogs about natural hair. I found lots of advice, videos and forums about going natural. I had two choices: the Big Chop or transitioning. The Big Chop was basically cutting all of the perm out of your hair and starting fresh. The other option was transitioning gradually, growing your hair and little by little cutting the perm out. I could change, but I wasn’t ready for the Big Chop. My head was shaped funny, a FVFFFR֖FFRFB&&&ǒRגFW"גW6&BB&W7Bg&VB&VWF6ǒr&WBvVFBגg&VB&VWF66RvfRR6RGf6R( vFWfW"RvV"RfRFvV"BvF6fFV6R( Рpp7VW"#"FRvVvP