Straight Hair Obsession
“Mommy. Can I get a relaxer, pleeeeeeease?” “No! You’re not old enough.” *Pouts and walks away.*
I was probably no more than 10 years old when I asked my mom this question. I wanted straight hair like on the commercials. Hair that blew in the wind and could be combed with ease. I didn’t want to wear afro puffs anymore or sit by a hot stove to get my hair pressed (plus I had my ears burned one too many times because I wouldn’t sit still). I wanted to feel like a young woman and go through that rite of passage where I go from getting my hair done in the kitchen to getting my hair styled at a salon. I had thick, long, frizzy hair. Picture a young Chaka Khan and that was me.
When I reached high school, my mom finally allowed me to go to a salon regularly and get a relaxers. Success, I won! No more frizz, no more afro puffs, and no more ear burns! And did I mention how laid my edges would be?! I was officially a young woman. Yep, I was grown.
The Salon Experience
“Ok. We’ll let this sit for about 8 minutes.” Anyone who has ever had a relaxer knows this 8 minutes is the longest 8 minutes of your life! 8 minutes is about the length of time your stylist allows the relaxer to sit on your hair before shampooing it out. While she goes off to attend to another client, you’re in your chair squirming, tapping your feet and taking deep breaths trying to cope with the burning sensation. I’m having flashbacks just thinking about the burn! Sure, you can pick up a magazine, check your Facebook and Instagram, or have a snack to comfort you. But really none of that will work until you can get your head in that shampoo bowl. The stylist finally returns and you feel like a kid on Christmas day! Relief, finally!
She shampoos and conditions your hair, styles it just right, and you feel like a new woman. You also leave thankful you won’t have to experience that torture again for another 6-8 weeks.
But why do we put ourselves through this process? We deal with the scalp burns and scabs all for what? Just so we can have hair that is easier to manage and “looks better” than our natural hair? Where do we conceive this idea that our natural hair is “bad” and thus needs to be fixed? At the root of it, we’ve allowed mainstream society to narrowly define beauty. So, subconsciously we buy into it and think we need relaxers. I bought into this notion thinking my hair was a problem that could only be resolved with a tub of “creamy crack.” Wrong! My hair itself wasn’t a problem; it was how I viewed my hair that was the problem.
And if the scalp burns weren’t enough, I started to experience breakage. My hair was so weak and damaged that when I would run my fingers through my hair, large pieces would fall on the floor. I used to literally scoop hair off my bathroom floor. Before relaxers, my hair was mid back length, but broke off to shoulder length. So I ended up with a bob that I didn’t intend to have. The breakage was enough to finally get me to stop getting relaxers and focus on reviving my hair. My last relaxer was in November 2009. I started wearing extensions in April 2010 to help me transition from relaxed to natural. U was too afraid to big chop since I never had short hair. I wore extensions until October 2012. At that time, a majority of my relaxer grew out and I cut the rest of my relaxed ends. I felt so liberated! I know that sounds cliché. But I was off to a fresh start where I could re-learn my hair: what did it look like again when it was wet? What products would work best for my hair? I was so used to wearing my hair straight, what styling options did I now have? With so many questions and not sure where to begin, I read “The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair” by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy. This book covers EVERYTHING hair related from the basics of what composes a strand of hair, how chemicals change the integrity of the hair strand, how various ingredients effect the hair, building a hair care regimen, and so much more. I encourage everyone to read this book if you’re interested in understanding and growing healthy hair.
I used this book as a foundation to help me build a hair care regimen that included a schedule and products to use (I will cover this in more detail in a later post). My regimen has evolved over time, but this book was a great starting point. Google search’s, blogs, and YouTube were my BFF’s during my early natural years and I still use these sources. There is a wealth of information available to assist you with your natural hair journey and I hope to also be one of those sources. I am so glad I made to choice to stop using relaxers. My hair is the healthiest and longest it has ever been. I went from shoulder length, relaxed and damaged hair in November 2009 to hair that is almost tailbone length as I write this post in May of 2016. I love my hair now. No, I don’t think it is perfect. But it is mine. My hair can be unruly and difficult to manage, but I appreciate it for all that it is. I don’t allow myself to compare it to anyone else’s hair. The fact that my curls are unique to me makes them beautiful in their own way!