Written by: Bamidele Dipo- Ajayi
I believe that the answer to that question is IN! At least for me; I have an afro and have more than a few friends and acquaintances that rock their manes as well. I decided to go natural in 2006 because I was tired of the creamy crack (relaxers), of the burns on my scalp, the smell, the 4 -6 weeks touch ups as soon as new growth sprouted.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the feel of silky straight hair and loved, and still love to change my hairstyles. I didn’t have any idea what my natural hair would be like because for as long as I could remember my hair had always been relaxed.
The only times my hair was in its God-given state was when I was a small child with locs (dada-hair as it was called in Nigeria) because I refused to let my mother or anyone else comb it. I would scream bloody murder if they came close with a comb.
The other times included when I started primary school and had to cut it low because that was the rule at the school, and when my mother was just so frustrated with me that she would cut it just to save us both from having to deal with my weekly tantrums when it was time to braid my hair.
I never liked it when other people had to do my hair. I remember in boarding school when the lady that braided hair would come on Saturday mornings. I tried everything in my power to delay my time with her, reading novels, chatting with friends, even hiding. She would pull so tightly that my head would throb incessantly for the rest of the day. I loved the finished product of having my hair freshly plaited but I detested the process.
I carried all that with me until one fine day when I just did it. I cut my hair myself. I decided that I was never going to put the dreaded creamy crack in my hair again. I didn’t ask anyone’s opinion because I got the impression that most of my friends wouldn’t have understood my point of view since they were all still getting relaxers. I had enough new growth, about 4 inches, that it wasn’t too much of a shock for anyone.
The elation I felt cannot be described, I felt free in a way. I could really be myself; I didn’t have to hide behind my hair. A new me was birthed. I was surprised by the support and acceptance I received by those same friends I had judged and I learned a very important lesson in that: never assume anything! My family loved it as well. My hair thrived and so did I. I was unique, the girl with the ‘fro. I travelled to New York the summer of 2007 and I dyed it this lovely reddish orange and shocked all the Minnesotans that knew me.
Until 2008 when I did it again, by this time the ‘fro had a life of its own. It was big and tightly coiled. I had lived with it for over 2 years and was just ready for a change. I was making a geographical change and I wanted to look and feel different. I told friends of my plan to cut it very low, like back in my primary school days. I was told that I was crazy to do such a thing. The hair stylist I went to gave her professional advice that my hair was so long, why would I cut it? She refused to cut my hair and styled it to look short. I was upset but loved how she styled it so I left it alone.
Like the first time I cut my hair, I decided to just do it. Over thinking the process can often deter one from moving along with a decision. So another fine day in November of 2008, I went to a barber shop and told the barber to just do it. He and everyone in the shop were dumbfounded. There was just one other woman, with straight hair down her back, in the shop and she was looking at me like I had grown 2 heads. All the men were pleading with me. I just told them that it was my decision not theirs. I kept wondering, ‘why do people take it so personal when you make decisions about the hair on your own head?’ I had to remind them that it is just hair and that it will grow back.
I felt a moment of panic looking in the mirror as the clippers made its journey across my head, but I could really see my face, my eyes, nose, lips, everything was coming into clearer focus so I just went with it, totally appreciating and embracing the new me.
I could feel the wind on my scalp. It had been so long, I said to myself, ‘oh air, how I have missed thee.’ I thought back to my first cut and knew that this was an even better feeling. I was really free, free of external voices with opinions on who I should be or what I should look like. Free of the pressure to conform to a society’s standard of beauty: straight hair down one’s back. Free of the internal voices: should I or shouldn’t I? Would he think me beautiful? Would I be accepted just for me, short hair and all? Today, my hair has grown even longer than when I cut it the second time and I still feel free because I made up my mind not to be conformed to the things of this world. I am embracing my God-given tresses, however kinky or coily it might be.
As I have shared my journey to natural, I hope that you will be willing to share yours as well. It just might encourage that sister that is ready to take the plunge into the world of curls. Please feel free to leave a comment or two, and please, share your story, it might change someone’s life. Here are some gorgeous and proud black women rocking their natural hair like no other!
Jill Scott Yaya Dacosta