Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why I Went "Natural"... Part 1

First of all, I must say that I have been enjoying a plethora of amazing conversations with amazing people. I am naturally a very garrulous person, and one of the ways in which I feel truly content is by having meaningful discussions with others. When I have a conversation that is thought-provoking, humorous, or even sobering, I am happy. Even though I mentioned in a previous post that I often find that my vocabulary lacks when I am trying to convey my thoughts; it is only through discourse with other people that I am able to develop that vocabulary. In the past few days I have spent time conversing with old friends, good neighbors, workmates, family members, and even college associates, and each of their discussions provided me with new information. I have been forced to reflect on the beliefs and opinions I have about certain subjects, a challenge I enjoy profoundly. I enjoy questioning myself, my motives, my thoughts. I believe this constant reevaluation of one's self leads to perpetual growth...and that's a good thing, right?

Okay, now that my little preface is finished, I will expound on the original topic, "Why I Went Natural ". First of all, when I refer to the word "Natural", I am referring to the state of my hair, a state that is without chemicals, extensions, or dyes.

Even since I began being preoccupied with my hair, I have had what we black people call a "relaxer" (or perm) in my hair. Essentially, it was a process that involved putting a wide array of chemicals in my hair to achieve a bone-straight look, comparable to the hair of White or Asian people. Do you notice something wrong? I am saying that since I was at least 5 or 6 years of age, my hair had been chemically treated to resemble the appearance of a race that was not mine. The chemical submission of my hair led to a vast array of personal problems for me during my youth. Once I was led to believe that this inherent feature of mine was not desirable, I began applying the same reasoning to my other physical characteristics. Soon my skin, my nose, my eyes, my body joined took part in my constant scrutiny.

It sounds dramatic doesn't it? And you know what? It was, and it still is. There were so many other details entwined with the constant "relaxing" of my hair, that it became apart of my identity. I couldn't imagine myself without my relaxed hair. However, before you continue reading, I must mention a disclaimer. Yes, it was my mother's decision to give me a relaxer, but I do not blame her directly for my problems with my identity later on. At the time, it was the best decision she could think of (relaxing your hair was and continues to be a way of life for young black girls), and I leave her to her discretion. I still love my mother unconditionally.

Essentially, when I was young I believed that relaxed hair was what made black women beautiful; and without a relaxer, a black woman was not "behaving" as she should. It became an unquestionable fact: if beauty was to be achieved, a relaxer certainly had to be applied to the scalp! When I reminisce on these thoughts, I recoil in disappointment. How foolish and ignorant I was to believe this way, but I wasn't the only one. From where I came from, this way of thinking was in the majority. Added societal pressures did not ease this mindset either.

Teenage years. Once my teenage years started creeping in, my outlook severely changed. I can't say what motivated my drastic change, but something inside my consciousness switched. I began widening out, I began witnessing and recognizing with my own eyes black women with NATURAL hair. They wore proudly the unadulterated material that grew from their scalps. They too were beautiful, possibly even more so than the women I saw continually lathering on the "creamy crack". How deceived I felt! I could be beautiful too, but without having to submit my hair to the constant burning and pain of my relaxer. At 15 I began coveting natural hair. I continually wanted to take the final decision to go natural, but my mother would talk me out of it, for fear that I would be ridiculed in school if I were to go au-naturale. A fear that unfortunately manifested itself several times.

To be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! I did a post about Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair" here is a link:


    I'm leaving the link here instead of going on and on about it on your site, I hope you check it out!

    I think it's awesome that you're letting your hair do what it wants to do, I hate how
    even hair has to fit a standard! Why am I always trying to look like someone else? Why can't I be me? Anyway, glad I found your blog, and I loved the post!