twisted and tangible

It’s been a little over a year since I jotted down some stray thoughts and observations regarding the voluntary changes in my hair’s appearance.

The impetus to write came from someone I once knew, who found the photos I was sharing of my hair at that time to be remarkable. He felt that I was more in touch with myself when I ditched the straightening comb and hair dye.

I had some reservations about the message I received from that person, but have not voiced them until now. While I’d be hard-pressed to deny the striking physical shift, not much else changed beyond the surface. Not immediately, anyway.

March ’11, Seattle Center – photo by Gary Kornheiser

about five months of new hair growth

I’ve had the natural hair on top of my head ever since I can remember, save for a couple of experimental chemical relaxer incidents in my preteens that went sour without delay. My hair was often unkempt and dirty. It was considered an afterthought, because my mum was a single businesswoman with a single kid. There was only so much ground she could cover.

Years of being teased by other black kids got old quickly, and I developed a thick skin. High school came round, though, and that dramatically changed things for a solid while. I was in a new area of town where no one knew me. I got made up like a little princess, my hair in carefully pressed curls and sealed under a headband. A little darling for show.

From the last good drops of high school ’til college and a bit beyond, the straightening of my hair endured. I’d fallen into a pattern with it, as most would, and it seemed to placate the folks in the neighbourhood where I lived (which was predominantly black).

January ’06, Los Angeles

To be honest, I don’t know why all of that mattered so much, because I never really interacted with anyone around there. I was usually somewhere else – schlepping around with gamer friends or lovers, or lost in any Douglas Adams book I could get my hands on.

I didn’t start considering ‘going natural’ to be A Thing until about summer 2009. My roommate’s sister had these artistic wonders in the form of hair on her head. She took good care of it each day. The texture was ever so tempting to touch, but I never did, nor did I dare to ask. It had a delightful amount of thickness, yet appeared light and fluffy. It defied anything my hair ever was, and I believed I had done everything under the sun!

There was a sense of culture and confidence that was positively bubbling, and I’d been blind to it. It came as a real shock. I couldn’t have imagined that not only were there people out in the world who were comfortable with the natural look and feel of their hair, they were celebrating it, and sharing it online. I gobbled up personal stories, photos and videos.

April ’10, Ballard Locks, Seattle – photo by Greg Stonebraker

six months prior to chopping off & starting fresh

Seattle became my home in the fall of 2009. It didn’t take me long to acclimate to the cooler weather, the many bodies of water, the mountains and the trees. The new, wet environment was perfect. I put some serious amount of time and consideration into not only returning to my nappy roots, but toying around with items with few to no chemically altering ingredients.

I had to transform the idea into action. This took a year; I’d grown attached to my fun, loud hair dyes. I managed to whittle down the use of them to absolutely nothing, got my head shaved (which wasn’t my first time), and went right to work on my first manageable ‘fro. I had support from my partner and friends, which I credit in part for my going forward.

December ’10, Skagit County, Washington

two months of new hair growth

It’s been a worthwhile learning experience thus far. I have attended natural hair workshops, purchased homemade natural hair care materials, and have even created my own. I can achieve an amazing amount of length when I remove harsh elements from the mix. I have returned to a mode that I grew up in, with a higher level of understanding and satisfaction.

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the awkward dance

I don’t miss you, just who you used to be

and you don’t ring true, so please stop calling me

— Robbie Williams, “She’s Madonna”

Most of the time, I would tell you that I believe in second chances. I’ve believed in them so fiercely, it can cloud my judgment. It could also be that I am hasty to hand out second chances when what I should really do is take a proper amount of time to suss out the scope of a situation before coming to a decision. I’ve had my fair share of reaching out to people when I was younger, but my experience as of late is that I’ve been more on the receiving end of things.

April ’11, Vancouver, British Columbia

It is my sincere hope that I will not be discouraged against doling out chances in the future because I’ve been burned by people more than once. It’s unfair to immediately cast new connections into the shadows of those who came before them, isn’t it? I think so.

Though I wish I could, I cannot say for certain if previous experiences will impact how I deal with interpersonal issues later; the resentment tends to manifest and grow exponentially with each case. Let’s be kind, and assume the wisdom does as well.

I like the idea of continuing to explore friendships despite a misunderstanding here, or a genuine misstep there. That’s tricky — I don’t know if it’s for the best, or if I can actually do it all alone. It helps if the folks involved are willing to admit to such things, and then move ahead.

I can’t forget how others have made me cross, feel hurt, and/or disrespected. I dare not. That would open myself up for more of the same treatment. However, I enjoy believing that I’ll do my best not to harbor petty grudges and allow negativity to rule my days. Work must be done to support this. Perhaps I can mull it over, practice forward thinking, and see where it takes me.

April ’11, Vancouver, British Columbia

I will not pretend, I will not put on a smile

I will not say I’m alright for you

— Martha Wainwright, “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”

For the record, I do not believe in third chances. It sounds ludicrous!

If issues cannot be resolved after one lump or two, it’s likely that the connection was not meant to endure. Also, if someone is keeping track of times they’ve been wronged or upset by one person or party, that can be indicative of stress, and the beginning of a grudge. There are more productive means of using one’s energy.