I decided to do the big chop in 2007 about eight months after the birth of my daughter. I haven’t looked back since. A few years prior to my decision to stop using relaxers, I had toyed with the idea of going natural for quite some time.
During my late teens and early twenties, I was like the average young adult indulging in a fast-paced, modern lifestyle. But, I still had a love of nature bubbling underneath the surface that had started in my childhood. I always enjoyed being outside as a little girl and preferred to spend the day outside gazing at the clouds or twirling in the wind. My grandmother babysat my sister and me when our parents worked so we spent most of the day running around on her farm. She lived in the country and didn’t own a television so we had no choice but to entertain ourselves. It was during that time in my life that I became connected with and fell in love with nature.
This sense of feeling connected to nature never left me though my parents moved to the city shortly before I started kindergarten. During this period my mom had two young daughters, which meant that she had two heads of hair to toil over. Since my sister was already in school and I was nearing school age she decided that it was easier to straighten our hair to make this task more “manageable”. Thus, began my seemingly endless and dreadfully painful journey to achieving straight hair.
In the beginning, my sister and I would go to the hair salon every week to get our hair seared with a flaming hot straightening comb. Section by section, the hairdresser pressed a hot comb through my young and tender head often burning my scalp in the process. I spent the following week trying to prevent any form of water from touching my hair. This was typically easy, except when it was raining. During the period of straightening combs, rain was truly the “black” woman’s worst enemy.
We continued this process for a number of years until my hairdresser finally convinced my mom to relax our hair. Our hairstylist had sung the praises of these revolutionary chemicals that could keep kinky hair straight for 6-8 weeks without the need for a weekly “retouch”. My mom was apprehensive at the time because she felt that we were too young for these chemicals. But, she eventually consented to the idea as her patience for waiting hours at the hairdresser had worn thin.
My hair was chemically treated with a relaxer until it began to break-off after a few years. My mom decided to switch me to a Jheri curl because it was touted as the “best” thing for black people’s hair during the early eighties. Curls required less chemical processing, were cheaper and easier to do at home, and resulted in less damage than relaxers. But, like most trends in the Black American community, Jheri curls went out of style as popular movies like “Hollywood Shuffle” and “Do the Right Thing” made them a fashion faux pas.
So out went the curl and in came the relaxer. I was again using harsh chemicals so that I could easily manipulate and style my hair. By this point, the manufacturers of these products had streamlined the process and cosmetologists were learning proper techniques for applying these chemicals so they resulted in less immediate and visible damage. I was in my late teens by then and I guess my hair could handle the harsh chemicals better so I didn’t suffer from much breakage when I returned to the relaxer.
I continued to relax my hair for a number of years until I reached my mid-twenties. It was during this period that I met and married my husband. I had started becoming more spiritually-minded and health-conscious before meeting him, but I became more serious about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle after we got married. My husband has been into herbal medicine and natural health ever since I have known him. Thus, his knowledge and awareness in such matters has had a great impact on my desire to live a natural, holistic lifestyle.
When I got pregnant with my son, I began cleaning up my diet by eating more whole foods and staying away from processed and fast foods. I also switched to natural household cleaning, cosmetic, and beauty products. Shortly after my son’s birth I started experimenting with herbal teas, natural medicines, and nutritional supplements. Throughout my son’s early childhood years, I made alterations in almost every area of my life, except my hair.
I desperately wanted to go natural, but I was afraid that doing so would affect my career. At the time I was working in a professional job and too ingrained in societal norms about what professionalism should look like. I feared how going natural would impact my job at the time and potential job prospects in the future. Therefore, I continued to relax my hair so that I could maintain a “professional” appearance.
It was at this phase of my life that I started learning about the dangers of chemical relaxers. Yet, it seemed as if I was relaxing my hair more often. After the birth of my son, my tightly coiled roots were appearing sooner and more abundantly each month. This required that I relax my hair more and more frequently in order to maintain the sleek look I desired.
However, I had a deeper spiritual and self-awakening after my daughter was born two years later. When I first had her, thoughts of going natural became more prominent in my mind as I made the decision to never relax her hair. This was an easy and firm choice for me to make as I already knew about the dangers of the chemicals in relaxers to not only our hair, but also to our physiological, psychological, and spiritual well-being. I was not willing to sacrifice any part of her health or well-being so that she could look, act, or think like everyone else.
It was at this time that I began to really contemplate how my hair being relaxed would impact my daughter’s self-image and self-awareness. I started discussing going natural with my hairdresser as soon as I returned for a touch-up about two months after delivering my daughter. She suggested that I transition by wearing braided styles using hair extensions. I was apprehensive about this option because I have always hated waiting for hours at the hairdresser. I also didn’t like hair weaves and wigs because I have always felt that they projected the wrong image within the black community. But, I decided to give it a try because I was ready to start my natural hair journey.
I wanted something light and easy so my hairdresser styled my hair in cornrows with extensions. It took about two and a half hours, which wasn’t too much of a nuisance. But, I started to experience a great deal of itching and irritation from the extensions so I took them out after one week. This was my first and last time ever wearing weave. I knew that this option was not for me.
This is when I decided to do the big chop. I talked to my husband about cutting all of my hair off and starting over from the beginning. He was agreeable but he didn’t think that I was serious about it. He thought that I would change my mind after doing it and then be upset so he told me to wait for a month. I did and after that month was complete, I told him it was time. He went and grabbed his clippers and shaved all of my relaxed hair off.
My long, straight hair that had previously sprawled below my shoulders was gone within a matter of minutes. I was left with a tiny Afro. I looked in the mirror for several minutes trying to discern if people would recognize me. I was very happy, I couldn’t stop smiling. Somehow, I felt free by this simple act. I remember touching my hair trying to see if it was as coarse as it looked. Surprisingly, it wasn’t-it was actually soft. From the time I could remember I had spent my entire life trying to avoid dealing with this hair. As soon as it would sprout from my head I was on the phone making an appointment to have it straightened.
But this time I wanted to feel it, I wanted to wash it, I wanted to comb it, I wanted to care for, and I wanted to nurture it. Yes, it was that deep. I was completely enthralled with the prospect of getting to know a part of myself that I had never been formally introduced to. It was like having a newborn baby.
I continued to wear my Afro for about a year. I played with other styles during this period. At this time I became fascinated with locs. It’s ironic because I never liked “dread” locs before I went natural. I always related them to the Rastafarian religion, which I didn’t know much about the time. Also, I thought that most people who wore them were dirty and unkempt. Granted this was and is the case for some people, it is certainly not the case for all. As I explored this style in more depth, I began to see locs in a more majestic and regal light.
After being natural for a year, I went to a professional loctican to begin the locking process. She was very professional and walked me through the process step-by-step. I saw her once a month for the first year of the locking process and thereafter I started caring for my own hair. I wore locs for almost seven years before I cut them off in February 2015. I went back to an Afro and often style my hair in cornrows, braids, twists, etc. I have contemplated locking my hair again, which I may do in the near future. Regardless of which style I choose I know that I will forever maintain my natural tresses as long as I have a say in the matter.
Making this last step in achieving a natural lifestyle has changed me in many ways. My hairstyle choice has helped me to understand and accept myself as I am. I can even say that I love myself even more and feel more confident in who I am because I have embraced myself as being a unique and precious child of the Most High. I no longer feel self-conscious because I no longer try to conform to conventional standards of beauty. I am comfortable in my own skin and it shows.
Todah!!! this is wonderful all praise to YaHuWaH!!! this also will be filed away