When I first returned my hair to its natural state some 15 years ago, I did it out of grief. I cut my hair down to nothing–a bald fade, I think it is called–and kept it low to mourn the death of a relationship and life that I thought I would have forever. I was hurt and despairing, trying to piece back together the person I used to be before that relationship and destroy the person I had become during it. I cut my hair to rid myself of expectations while at the same time struggled to figure out who the heck I was.
As I grew out of that depression, I attempted to grow my hair out in its natural state. The problem was that I had NO IDEA what to do to it or with it! All these natural hair blogs and websites and stylists simply did not exist in the late 90s; and other than braids or an afro, no one could tell me how to care for (let alone STYLE) my very thick, very coily hair. More so, no “beautician” wanted to deal with the washing, drying, and styling without some chemical relief. Even in permed state, my hair kind of does what it wants to do. So I bowed to pressure (from stylists) and ignorance (lack of knowing what to do for myself).
I got another perm.
In 2013, I cut off all my hair again. Some of it was frustration at stagnant hair growth; much of it was because chemical relaxers burned the crap out of my scalp after I had two kids (not the case before). But underneath all of it lay a real need to define myself outside of the normal constraints of my life.
Who am I when I have no cover? When I have ZERO masks? Will I even LIKE the self that I want others to love unconditionally?
Sounds incredibly hyperbolic to write it, but I cut off all my hair a year and a half ago to prove to myself that I am cute–hair or not. That I could comb my own hair without a perm and it would be healthy and grow. That I could be myself without constraints and love that chick with the scarred forehead and bushy hair and too fat thighs and snarky attitude and very strong opinions. That I could be the person that I hid behind suits that I did not like and conciliatory words that I did not believe and agreeableness that I did not feel. That I could live out loud and folks would love me anyway. That I could have imperfect hair and be my imperfect self and y’all would DEAL.
And everyone did deal. And encouraged me. And complimented me. And gave me suggestions. And tools. And not always just for my hair.
I need to learn some self control so I can lose some weight. I need to learn how to braid. I need to learn how to be tactful and kind now that I am actively expressing my opinion. But I learned the most important things already: how to love me.