"Why did you go natural?" seems to be one of the top questions I get from people. So I thought I'd give you not one but seven reasons why. Firstly let's just clear something up. I didn't "go" anywhere. I simply stopped relaxing my hair. Secondly, we should probably talk about what "natural" and "relaxed" means and remove any images of sipping herbal tea in your vintage (second hand find) recliner armchair from your mind.
Relaxer also known as a perm, straightener or, creamy crack (if you're from the ends), is the process of permanently (relaxers need to grow out) changing the structure of your hair and loosening the hairs natural curl pattern, making it straighter or easier to straighten once heat is applied, usually with a hair dryer and or hair straighteners, more commonly known as flat irons.
Natural is when your hair is in its natural state. There are some arguments that if you apply heat to natural hair and straighten it temporarily, that you might not be considered as natural. I don't sit on this side of the fence.
So, here are my reasons...
1. CHANGE. I was curious by what I would look like, how I would feel, and excited by a new but familiar me. But I also had questions about what this change would bring too. I hadn't seen my hair in it's natural state since I was 14. Would it be thinner? thicker? Would I need to schedule a different wash day? What about the crate size box of products I had accumulated, could I still use them? Dear God, please say I won't have to find a new hairdresser that understands the difference between 1 cm and an inch.
With all this running through my mind, it might sound silly, but, I had an image of what I would look like with my natural hair. I wanted to don an afro and I wanted to don it real good (like when I was 4 years old, vogueing and ting!).
2. THE PAIN. As soon as the relaxer was applied to my scalp, I felt like I could empathise with how hot and burnt the earth felt when it was being attacked by one of those out of control bush fires you see in documentaries about natural disasters. I would grip the hairdressers chair wincing and sometimes even walk around talking to myself or singing ,whilst I glared at the clock trying to pull some Roald Dahl Matilda shit and fast forward time.
3. WILL POWER. Could I really do it? Betcha last tenner I could, and for the most part, it was great! But, I had heard horror stories about transitioning (the somewhat annoying phase of your hair strand being two different textures whilst the relaxer grows out) and how hard it was to care and style this new situation your head would be housing until the "going natural" all over phase was complete, and more importantly how loads of women had lost their confidence and found adjusting to their new look and texture didn't come naturally.
4. COST. And I mean the cost of my time, sometimes my pocket and my self-esteem. Getting your hair done in a lot of black hair salons takes the best part of a day - braids excluded, I once spent 14 hours getting those bad boys done, and whilst there are salons on the streets of Tottenham that will do it for £20, based on point number two alone, I would not suggest it. It can cost anything up to £150 fully styled.
When it comes to self esteem, things like occasionally be the subject of some drunk Shoreditch visitor's joke, having you boss would ignore you for a week and being negatively questioned on my hair style of choice. "and still I rise." what can I say, I love my 'fro.
5. BEDTIME. This should mainly be about creating the right environment to sleep in and intimacy, not negotiating how tight to tie your headscarf so that it won't slip off during the night and mash up the 6 hours you spent in the salon to get your edges sleek and roots paper flat, or trying to avoid the almost guaranteed headache it would induce too.
6. FREEDOM. From the 6-10 week (can be more or less depending on you, your hair and the way you like your hair) "I've gotta get my roots done" relaxer cycle. Freedom to swim, properly swim. Freedom to sweat hard, freedom to go out in the rain, to never buy an umbrella again and to skank out on the dance floor all night without fanning your face franticly with multiple flyers.
7. LOVE NOT LIKE. I chose love over like because I was tired of liking my hair more than loving it. Don't get it twisted, when it was straight and done to my satisfaction, I loved it. My bob was sharp, I was one-side-short before Cassie and my side burn creation was Missy Elliot worthy. However, whatever look I was rocking, the perfection of my style was short lived due to the fact that my hair grew quite quickly encouraging natural bouncy roots to come through. Any form of sweat induced activity, including skanking in the club would remind my hair of its reality and start to curl, frizz (whatever you wanna call it) and gain volume by the minute "ruining" the look I had curated for that night, forcing me to bring wash day forward and the mammoth task of putting my hair back in it's straight place, or patiently waiting until salon day again.
The biggest lesson I have learnt has got to be that I am not my hair, but God dayum my hair is most definitely me! I would love to know why you wear your hair, the way you do.
Holla at your girl!