When I first went natural back in 2009, it was on a whim. My relaxed hair was thin, fragile and hadn’t grown past my shoulders since I was 9 years old.
An achievement I wouldn’t even have remembered were it not for the proof laying in the pages of a dusty family album, between pictures of me missing my two front teeth and a group shot of my family on one of the two trips we ever took to Six Flags.
There I was, a veritable beauty queen in a jean skirt, matching jean vest, and knee-high lace socks standing proudly beside a pool with BSL freshly pressed hair, immortalized. I gasped when I saw the photo, scratching the plastic as if the hair I saw was a smudge of eyeliner.
By 2009 I was a long way away from that youthful head of hair. After years of relaxers, flat-irons, and curling irons* to fit in with all the other girls, by the time I was in college my mop was feeling the effects of all that heat-addiction.
So I “Big-chopped”, before BCing was a thing, with the help of a friend who made me sign a hand-written liability waiver and insisted on a witness for her protection.
After she nervously put down her boyfriend’s shaver, and showed me the results, I was actually pleasantly surprised. My face glowed,.. actually, it radiated!–and I was suddenly filled with delusions of grandeur as images of the great African models Iman, Alek Wek and Grace Jones swirled around my mind.
I left, dancing blindly along a path that three months later would end on a bluff. As I stared at the canyon below, with a plastic comb wedged between my coarse, malnourished curls, pouring olive oil* on what felt like steel wool and crying, I was certain I would die.
Surely, I had already fallen, and here I was standing in the middle of my personal hell, slathered in oil. The frustration of not knowing how to care for my own hair was exacerbated by the feeling that everything that had previously worked on my relaxed hair, failed miserably when tested on my kinks.
Now, this was right before the natural hair movement really took off and vloggers, bloggers and YouTube naturalistas were unbeknownst to me, so I suffered through what I thought was my curse until one day, I just gave up.
Walking out of a Chicago salon a year and a half later with flowing, bouncing, chin-length relaxed hair, I could hear the bells of victory ringing. The sound faded–on cue–exactly one month later as my little kinks returned to remind me that though the battle was won, the war was not over.
This time around I vowed not to relapse on my favorite fixes, no matter how ratchet I was looking, limiting myself to curling once a month and flat-ironing once a week.