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.