I first began thinking about going natural at my brother’s wedding. His wife to be had her hair in plaits before the wedding. I remember thinking what is she going to do with her hair? When she walked down the aisle she had it in an updo that looked soft and smooth. She looked beautiful. It made me think maybe I can do that too. Well, going natural is like entering into a whole new world. One has to learn what products to use, and what styles can be done on natural hair. Before going natural I read several articles online. One article said “going natural is not for everyone”. This is a very true statement. I had to consider my husband. Would he be attracted to me if I didn’t have a perm in my hair? What about the workplace? Would I be accepted or gawked at? Could my hair be worn in a way that was neat and professional? Let me say that I work for the government, however, had I worked in corporate America it would have been a more arduous decision to make. I also worried about what people would say outside of the workplace.
Going natural is like entering into a whole new world.
Before making the decision to go natural I contacted the stylist who braids my hair. She told me that going natural is more work than having a perm. She suggested a wet set as my first style. It was cute but after two days, it was like now what? How do I maintain it, do I comb it, do I wear it nappy, I had no clue. After that I started using a hot comb, something I swore I would never do. I often told people I would rather go bald then get my hair pressed. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. I bought a hot comb, and learned as best I could how to straighten my hair. The next couple of months were a struggle as I had to learn how to manage my hair.
Finally I concluded that going natural was not for me. I called my hairdresser who normally does my hair and told her I wanted a perm. I made an appointment, and had to travel 20 minutes to her new location. When I got there she told me she did not have the perm she used previously, nor did she have any perm products. I was angry. I even thought about turning around and going home. Then she said I can straighten it with a flat iron. I didn’t even know you could use a flat iron to straighten hair. When she finished, my hair was so straight, bouncy and shiny it looked like I had a perm in my hair. I was shocked! I can do all this without putting harsh chemicals in my hair, sign me up! A couple of months later I called my hairdresser but she had gone missing in action. I did not know what to do with my hair. That’s when I turned to a familiar style, good old fashioned braids. This style worked because I did not want to do the big chop; this is where the entire perm in your hair is cut out at one time. During my transitional period, I used the time to build up my self-esteem regarding becoming natural. After I took the braids out, I was at a crossroads. I knew I did not want another perm in my hair and was committed to no chemicals. Ah ha what about an afro. That should be easy to take care of. I called my hair stylist Emma, and she cut the final perm out of my hair, and I got an afro. I wasn’t totally comfortable with it at first. One day I wore it to work. My co-workers were silent, which normally means they don’t like it. I went to the grocery store. I think I may have scared some white people and shocked some black ones too. I admit I was self-conscious but still glad I did it. Out of all the hairstyles I have tried the afro makes me the most self-conscious. Each time, I leave the comfort of my house to go into a world where straight hair is the norm, I am making a statement whether intended or not. Anyone who knows me knows I am a quiet low key person. I am not one to draw attention to myself. But wearing an afro goes against the norm not only in white society but black as well. I can remember being in the retail store. I walked in feeling self-conscious. As I was there I walked near the card aisle. There I saw a huge card saying “Be true to yourself”. I felt like God was saying to me it’s okay, just be you.
Many times I have thought of going back to the perm. Even if I straighten my hair with a flat iron or pressing comb, just let the moisture hit and it reverts back to its natural state. I almost feel like for me, the perm is the best way for me to manage my hair, yet I am not quite ready to go back. Ultimately I will have to do what works best for me. There will be successes and failures, but I am confident I will figure it out. This journey has taught me to go against the standard model of beauty. It has taught me not to define beauty by society’s definition but by my own. I am proud of myself for fighting my insecurities and wearing my hair natural in spite of how I may have felt. I have learned that if I exude confidence others will pick up on that as well. In the end it’s about being true to who you are. As my husband said to me, “honey it’s just hair”.