I have a living bucket list. Since I underwent the “big chop” on my 22nd birthday, I have vowed to change something with every following birthday. For next the few birthdays, I got a tattoo, went tandem hang gliding, and my natural hair crept down my shoulders. Then, I got bored with my hair. So on June 5th, 2009, I donated ten inches of my natural hair to Locks of Love, then, permed and cut the remainder into a short short bob: Toni Braxton circa 1996. All was well, until the new growth began. I felt conflicted. I welcomed the hair growth, but how could two textures coexist on three inches of hair? For about six months, I continued to perm my hair and endure the burning torture session called a “touch up.” By month seven, enough was enough. I went back to roller sets, twist outs, and the like. My relaxed hair and my natural hair would just have to get along because I was not going to peel another scab from scalp. I vowed to never perm my hair again. And I haven’t. Then, I got bored and colored my hair on June 5th 2011.
As with most women, my hair is an expression and extension of my beauty. I love and embrace everything it is and everything it is not. I consider myself a card carrying member of Team Natural now that every strand on my head is natural again, but some argue my credentials. In my travels, I have had many conversations with Black women about what being natural means. Below are some biases on the natural question along with my thoughts.
· “If you flat iron your hair all the time, you might as well get a perm.”
Negative. A perm is a permanent, chemical process that irreversibly changes your texture and damages the hair. Most women who perm their hair flat iron it as well adding more damage. Not to mention that most White women typically blow dry and flat iron and/or curl their hair everyday or every other day without a perm. We can do the same thing.
· “If you color your natural hair, it’s not really natural.”
I disagree. While permanent color can alter your texture, it does not straighten it. As I am learning, colored hair behaves different from non-colored hair, but it is all one curly-kinky-wavy mass of loveliness.
· “If your hair is natural, you need to set it in a twist out, Bantu knots or something.”
Nope. India Aire said it best. “Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I don’t.” The most important thing I have learned on my hair journey is that you cannot tame the natural mane. You can only hope to contain it. That’s why I have six different combs with varying teeth. Part of the freedom of being natural is letting your hair do its own thing. It doesn’t have to be in uniformed, military precision curls. That’s the beauty of it.
· “You can be natural because you got ‘good’ hair. I couldn’t do that.”
EEEEEENK!! Wrong answer. Caution: I will probably offend someone with the following:
As a people, we MUST let go of the “good” hair mantra. If we honestly look at the root of that statement, it bears a strange, ugly fruit. There weren’t enough Native Americans to procreate with every Black person’s great-grandmother. Our female ancestors were victimized by horrific sexual violence and manipulation, usually at the hands of White men. That chapter in history is over, and “good” hair is not a consolation prize. Please let it go.
If you want to go natural, do it. If not, that’s cool too. As long as your hair is well-moisturized and growing, it is all good.