There are a number of reasons I’ve returned to wearing my hair natural. I’ve been natural nearly all my life, having perms only intermittently, mostly during my college years, more than twenty years ago. But while I’ve not had perms most of my life, I have flattened or straightened my hair most of my life, only intermittently wearing natural styles as it suited me. That changed when my sons were toddlers, and I declared I wanted to live a more “authentic” existence, so I determined to wear my hair natural — no color, no heat, keeping it as healthy as possible (mostly in twists).
It grew into a jungle. As my boys were growing, my natural hair grew right along with them, and soon required more and more time, and I found I had less and less time to attend to my “jungle”. I admit, I had neither the patience nor the wisdom to care for such thick and demanding hair. My husband referred me to a beautician (someone he’d heard was really good) who might be give me the “mild” texturizer I was hoping for, to loosen a bit of the kink that was growling at me.
That was a mistake. She’d gone the full limit and given me a perm! I hadn’t had a perm in 13 years up to that point, and I was not happy. But I got used to the ease of wearing my hair that way. It was easy and simple. I now I had more time to devote to other things, and my hair wasn’t doing too badly, the unintentional perm notwithstanding.
Now here is where things get tricky. I value my time highly. I’d read another blogger whose blog I follow say that money is his currency. I relate to that so well. If I give you my time, you must be pretty special, because I don’t have a ton of time margin these days, so I’m usually possessive of my time. It’s also important to me to live close to my values and time margin is a dearly held value of mine. I hate rushing and the stress it brings, yet and still I find myself caught up in its snares far too often, and so I value having a little extra time currency; particularly because I’m introverted and I often need solitude to re-charge my batteries.
But I also value the God-given blessing of having hair. And I’ve been blessed with a lot of it. I am not the sort of woman who cuts off all her hair, sports a TWA proudly and with enviable confidence. I realize that wearing a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro, for those not familiar) would save me loads of much-coveted time with the additional advantage of being true to my heritage and wearing my hair the way God created it. There is goodness in that. And, by the way, goodness is another dearly held value of mine.
Once I’d gotten used to wearing my hair straight, when I grew out my perm I continued to flat iron my hair for maximum ease. It didn’t hurt that my hair got a lot of attention. I got the sense that people liked the way my hair “moved” and “bounced”; it seemed more desirable. It seemed acceptable. It got noticed. It seemed the standard to have hair that most closely resembled that of a European. The straighter, the better…the more it bounced and moved, the more mass appeal it had. And not just to others, but to me, as well. But to keep it looking “acceptable” and to keep stunning the masses, I had to do serious heat damage to my hair, which in fact I did accomplish gradually, over a period of time. It occurred to me that I now found myself in a vicious cycle: treat my hair well with no heat and lots of moisture for the better part of a year, then celebrate it’s new growth and vitality by frying the life out of it and swinging it everywhere I went.
And since humility is also a very dearly held value of mine (just you wait…I’ve got lots of them!), I couldn’t honestly continue in this way much longer. Killing my hair for the sake of so-called “beauty” and “acceptability”.
So, yes, simplicity is perhaps one of my more highly-esteemed deeply held values, and I know the road to caring for natural hair is one of decided unsimplicity, but I have renewed determination for caring for my oft-resistant mane. Doesn’t mean I don’t have days of wanting to lug out the hair flattener to make life easier. Doesn’t mean I’m at all perfect in this quest in any way, shape or form. It just means I’m tired of running in circles trying to have hair like a white woman’s when I’m a black woman. God made me a black woman on purpose. And not to discredit those who have helped black women (and men) with tools and hair care products that soften our natural kink, but I secretly hope that every woman of color out there will wear the hair she was born with — will learn how to love it and gently care for it, the way she would a wounded man who needed her strength and gentleness to survive. I secretly hope all of us would have the courage to be who we are — our own shape, our own color, our own authentic selves.
Now that’s good.
Copyright © 2013 Muhala Akamau