It has been many years since I've reflected on the topic of natural hair and women of color or afros; and, for just as long I've been trying to free myself from the constraints of adding chemicals to my hair. At first it was to empower myself and curiosity of wanting to know what kind of curly hair type I have. It's funny, you are unconsciously taught that in order to be a Black woman and wear your hair in an afro it has to be an "acceptable" natural hair type. I was curious to see if my hair fit under "acceptable". As the years went by I started to see more shaved heads and more broad spectrum Black women with natural "curly" hair ranging from very very loose curly afros to very very tightly curled afros.
I decided, okay I need to let go of the relaxer cause I was feeling very phony and my hair was breaking off - a sign that curly hair don't need such abuse. So I stopped, had all my relaxed hair cut and then totally copped out. It felt bizarre. So I went and got my hair texturized, which is a nice way of saying "mildly relaxed". I felt more comfortable, but a nagging voice raged in the back of my head "hey girl, you know your mind is still shackled".
I was puzzled. I obviously thought women with afros were beautiful and they appealed to me more than Black women who did not have afros. What in the choock was stopping me? Was it the desire to not have short hair? Partly. What else though? It was something stronger. Something much much stronger, strong enough for me, who tries to live a no " harmful chemical" lifestyle (from food, to beauty products, etc ...), to put harmful caustic chemicals on my scalp once a month-every three months and have it absorb into said scalp through pores and do all sorts of unspeakable nastiness.
Here's the low down:
I have never known my hair in its natural state.
That's a heavy statement which transcends ideals of beauty. I've never known my hair to be anything other than chemically choked. As far back as I can remember I've always had relaxed hair. I can just close my eyes and hear my mother say "come on, time to relax your hair, it needs to be done." It was as if she were trying to hide a shameful secret that would rue my life. The act of hiding it was what actually did the ruing though. My whole construct of "me" has never involved my face + natural hair. So when I finally did have natural hair, and very short too, I was shocked to the bones. The person I saw in the mirror was not the me I was used to and comfortable with; infact part of me said it wasn't me at all. Oh no. The me in the mirror looked strange to me even if she didn't look strange to others.
The image you have of yourself in your mind is very powerful. If you live in a society that forces your mothers and fathers to teach you to look at your natural hair as something that must be chemical bombed in order to be beautiful, normal, professional, pretty, controllable/manageable; then if you are suddenly left staring at yourself in the mirror with natural hair you will feel a powerful since of dis-ease. Members in society who know how you looked before will respond to you in such an intense way. The afro is a thing of scorn, mystery. It is a "trend". Some women who rock one do so because they don't see it as their normal selves, but rather as their trendy selves, or that they're giving their "hair" a break and that soon they'll be back relaxing again.
How can I live as natural as possible if I can only envision myself as beautiful and normal with a relaxer. What the bleep am I gonna do if the world ended and the expiration dates on the all the boxes of relaxers have expired? I don't wish to wait until then to get my shit together. Tina Turner be damned in Beyond Thunder Dome. That bitch character had to be wearing a wig, fuck it. There ain't no relaxers in the wastes of the Australian post apocalyptic desert. And I didn't want to cop out again and loc my hair or turn to acceptable "curly" weaves or wigs and crap or have it braided or twisted up forever (I mean, I don't mind all of said things. I love getting my hair braided and twisted and I have a lot of respect for locs, but I always like choosing the harder path - an afro). Hells naw.
It has taken me three years since the day I first went completely natural to finally be comfortable with a me with natural hair. So I've been growing my hair natural again and plan to chop the texturized chemically mess off. I know I still have some kinks to work out (quite a lot in fact), but hey, I'm envisioning myself with a beautiful tightly curled afro because hey, that's my hair! It's what I've been born with and will have until the day I die. I can hate the world or I can embrace myself. So I've embraced myself (my middle still flies up whenever I see a globe though).
So, after coming to that epiphany, with the help of a little inspiration, I've decided to go natural again and stay that way.
www.anitagrant.com for some hair products that show afro hair love