I used to be I used to be in middle school, a boy I had a crush on said that I used to be cute, but that he did not date girls with “my kind of hair.” I used to be unsure what was wrong with “my type of hair,” but presumably he meant the short kind. Although I never really understood what he meant, that comment really stuck with me, because I’ve hated my hair for so long as I can remember. I’ve always wished it were just a little bit longer. A tad bit fuller. And far, much thicker.
Although I was late to the natural hair movement, after i discovered it in 2013, I believed I had found the golden grail. After reading countless hair blogs and watching hundreds of YouTube videos, I concluded that sulfates, chemical relaxers, and heat were the cause of my short, damaged, and thin hair. All I needed to do was co-wash my tresses, use protective styles, and take some hair vitamins, and that i too could have thick curly hair. All of my hair problems would be solved.
And so my natural hair journey began, but for quite the wrong reasons. I stopped getting relaxers, and within months my hair started shedding like crazy. In line with my extensive online research, the place where your natural hair meets your relaxed hair is named the “point of demarcation” and it is rather fragile. Intense deep conditioning is encouraged, but some women just experience more shedding than others. I was a type of women that experienced intense shedding. So after a month of my hair falling out in handfuls, a new beautician pushed me to chop my hair. Recognizing my anxiety, she tried to go away some of my relaxed hair at the top, so I did not feel quite as bad.
After just a few weeks of looking a bit crazy, one my besties sat me down with some scissors, and said, “Sweetie, that hair at the highest has to go. Trust me, it should look better.” Stuffed with fear, I finally gave in, and let her cut the last bit of relaxed hair off the highest of my head. I felt a mix of emotions. I used to be relieved but nervous. Over the subsequent few days, she taught me how one can finger coil my new teeny weeny afro (TWA), showed me her favorite products, and introduced me to edge control. I was determined to do this right. So I changed my diet, starting working out, drinking water, cutting chemicals out of my diet and my beauty products, all to add in my hair growth (and body goals). Healthy hair comes from healthy habits, I kept reading. So being the over-achiever I’m, I adopted all the healthy habits I could.
Anytime I got depressed about my lower than an inch of hair, I would just google natural hair styles, and day dream of how my hair would look in a year or two. In keeping with all of the hair blogs, you possibly can count on about ½ inch of hair growth every month. So I expected to have a head stuffed with bouncy moisturized curls within a year. And i just knew that within 2 years, I would be slaying my IG with all of the natural girl hair styles. All of my friends had long luscious hair after so effortlessly going natural, so I knew it was possible. I told myself that if I could just put up with my TWA for a year or so, I might have a lifetime of healthy curly hair.
But after a year, something terrible happened. My hair was growing so slow. I used to be definitely not getting ½ inch per thirty days. My hair was not getting thicker and my curls weren’t popping like the ladies within the blogs. I tried two strand twists, braid outs, and wash-and-gos and they all looked a hot mess. I felt just like the natural hair movement had failed me. My hair didn’t have the curl all of the naturals had on my IG feed. I used to be furious. I had done everything right. I had not put heat on my hair in over a year. I easily spent thousands of dollars on all of the most recent hair care products. I was indeed a hair product junkie. And I used to be eating clean. I lost 30 pounds! But my hair? My God, my hair, just wouldn’t act right.
I hit a low point when I discovered myself single after my husband and that i separated. Having short hair and a husband was one thing. But having short hair and being single was something entirely different. I’m sure that some guys prefer short hair, but my experience has always been that guys prefer longer hair–they could not care if hair is straight or curly, but they secretly want women to have hair, plenty of it, and ideally not the sort you will have to buy. My hair an area of real insecurity.
Dealing with all of this anxiety and self-doubt, I met a really blunt, borderline-rude executive type, and after a couple of drinks, he looked at me and said, “I do not usually like girls with natural hair. You’ll look so much prettier with a weave.” I wish I could say I cursed him out or that threw my drink on him or that I gave him a lecture on black beauty and respectability politics. But I did neither. I shrunk in my seat, laughed it off, and said, “Oh yeah, I was desirous about getting a weave.”
A number of weeks later, I was driving an hour away to get my first full weave. Although I did not need to make decisions about my hair based on what I assumed would attract a man, I still heard the voice of that middle school boy in my head. I justified my actions by telling myself that I used to be getting a protective style that might help my natural hair grow so that after a few months, my big beautiful curls can be hiding underneath. But a couple of months become an over a year, and i still had nothing to point out for the thousands of dollars I spent on the very best weaves, closures, and wigs that money could buy.
More importantly, after a number of installs I realized I did not even like weaves, because I actually didn’t want bone straight Eurocentric hair. I wanted curly, kinky, textured hair and i wanted to have the ability to work out without worrying about looking crazy. That is when i discovered crochet braids, and I have been addicted ever since. They are healthier for my hair, I can still workout, and they’re cheaper than a weave and faster to put in.
The one problem is that they don’t help me deal with the emotional and psychological baggage I’ve with my God-given hair. I still have not accepted who I actually am, because I still hated the stuff that grew out of my head. I have realized that I have fine hair that can just never be thick and full. It will never appear like the women on IG. Yes, it can grow, but it will always be thin. My TWA just isn’t a phase. It’s my chosen hairstyle. My hair is short, and I’m still beautiful. And I’m learning to love the texture, length, and sort of hair that grows out of my head. And that i can only hope that the natural hair movement might be less about achieving someone else’s look or length, and more about accepting ourselves as we are. Naturally beautifully.