I can remember being around 6 or 7 and being over-the-moon happy with my looks:
– I loved my lips because they were more plump than anyone else I knew.
– I loved my natural hair because it was so bouncy and all over the place, I got a little thrill every time the wind blew.
– I loved my rail thin figure because I could fit into any small space and fold up really tightly and hide when I wanted to.
– I loved my eyes because they were so slanted and small I looked almost Asian.
I felt so FREE! I can also remember becoming a teenager and hating everything about myself. The expectations for femininity were extremely high for me because I was the youngest of four sisters growing up during a time period when Teenage Pregnancy was rampant. Not a day would go by when someone wouldn’t get on to me about my hair or my posture or my clothes or the way I smelled. I was called really hurtful names like, “Monkey,” “Big Hair,” “Booger Wolf.”
It was pretty much impossible to please anyone – especially myself – because all of the things I learned to love about myself were not defined in any context of conventional beauty for black women and it just felt like the whole world hated everything I loved about me. So, I gave up on me. I adopted elements that helped me fit in with my peers. – I began over sexualizing my wardrobe. Every dress I wore was super short. Every shirt I wore revealed all the King’s jewels. I loaded my face with eye shadow, lipstick, blush; anything I could find. – I began exhibiting a really aggressive attitude: picking fights, skipping school, using foul language. – I started pretending that I wasn’t really smart, so my “friends” could shine in the classroom when I was around. After awhile I couldn’t even recognize myself. All I could remember was that I hated everything about myself; especially my hair. It became the embodiment of my whole lack of self-esteem or individuality.
When “the crowd” juiced up their hair and went with the Jheri curl – so did I, when they shaved the sides of their heads to look like Salt-n-Peppa – so did I, when they shaved the back of their hair off grew the top into a mushroom bob – so did I. I don’t think I ever stopped. Since my teenage years, I’ve been trying so hard – UNSUCCESSFULLY – to fit in. Until August 13, 2014.
And the way it happened was so random and off-the-cuff, too. I had been wanting to go natural for months. . months I researched online, and talked to the few women I saw around Jackson, MS who had already made the switch, and put out “what if’s” to my co-workers and family. My co-workers and family were SO negative. After hearing “Your hair is not good enough,” “You will look like a man,” “You won’t be able to manage it” from everyone close to me (minus the guy that I’m dating), I was discourage and decided to just drop it. So, as I accompanied my guy to the barber for his haircut, I mentioned my desire to go natural again, but was joking more than anything. But when he sat down in the chair he said, “WE want to get our hair cut today.” I heard him. I looked him in the eye. I saw the smile on his face, but heard how serious he was, and I got so scared. I don’t know why I was so scared, but I was at the verge of crying when I saw the barber approaching my hair with a pair of clippers.
Then, something occurred to me. I hated my processed hair. I HATED it!
Every single morning I would comb it and get it ready for work, but right before I left I would sit on the toilet and sob because I hated the final product. I was spending a CRAZY amount of money to maintain hair styles that I hated. The cycle I was in just made no sense. So, I whispered to the barber to ignore my tears and to chop off my hair down to my natural roots.
It took FOREVER. . or at least it felt like forever. But as soon as he was done, I looked in the mirror, and I finally saw her. Me. The ME I loved with natural hair that was mine. . that I loved.. that I remembered. . from those days when I could just be myself and love myself for it. And when I walked outside and felt the wind blow through my natural hair, and recognized that tickle I always loved.
Well, it was over. I was in love. . with me. So, I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. And there’s no stopping me now, honey. So you may as well enjoy watching my natural hair journey to the top.