I remember the day I stopped loving my hair. It was in the sixth grade, I was walking into homeroom with friends. We were discussing hair our troubles, likely our biggest problem at ages 11 and 12. Comforting one another in ways only young girls do – “I wish I had your hair”, “No. I wish I had your hair”. Each of us offering friends her own passionate diatribe on why hers was the least desirable.
Shannon’s was a mass of thin loose curls. She could rake her fingers through them and they’d coil right back into place. But to her it was too thin, you could see her scalp if she didn’t comb it just right. Tasha’s was bra strap length, full and thick; when she turned her head, her mane swayed in the opposite direction. But in Tasha’s eyes it was unmanageable, too many strands to pull together for a quick ponytail or a fun up do.
Me? I was barely used to relaxed hair and struggling to find a way to do it each day. By that age my mother left me to my own devices as far as daily upkeep. She only styled it for church and picture day. And even then we still weren’t sure what to make of my newly relaxed mess.
While I made the case for why I’d take the head of hair off of either of their heads, it dawned on me that no one wanted mine. Not even me.
From that day forward, and for years to come it always felt like my hair wasn’t quite right. Each year I’d find something new to try, braids, color, twists, faux ponytails, bangs, bobs, wigs, Rihanna’s cut. Every new look fun for a time, until that old feeling of resentment set in. Is this Me, I’d wonder. Is this the hair that I want?
The answer was almost always no. And that revelation would most certainly be followed by questions of what I do want my crown to look like or say about me. I have a folder on my computer entitled “hairspiration” for these times of introspection. Every now and then I’ll scour hair blogs, and Google images; sifting through different styles and claiming them as my “one day” do’s.
But as quiet as it’s kept I’ve always wanted my crown to be dreadlocks. I’ve obsessed over them for much of my adolescence. I even persuaded my then young adult brother to trade in his cornrows for the hair I deemed to be a more sophisticated. I’ve loved them on everyone else, while fearing that I’d never love them on myself. After all, I hadn’t learned to love all the other hairstyles, right?
Beyond that there was also the little hurdle called a relaxer that stood in my way. The same one that set me on a path of self-hatred twenty years ago, was blocking me from having the one hairstyle I’d wanted for nearly the same length of time. I certainly couldn’t just chop my hair off and start anew. What if I didn’t like my natural hair? What if I hated an afro about as much as I’d learned to despise all the other things I’d tried. Why chase a dream when you already know how the story ends?
Because this year is about facing fears. That’s why.
In April I cut off my relaxer after five months without a “touch up”. I’d grown tired of waiting for the right time for dreads, tired of being afraid of a TWA, and just plain tired of not loving exactly who I am. Not obsessing over what I wish my hair looks like, nor the body I had at 24 (I was one helluva vixen though lol). I wanted to look at the person I was in the moment and love her. That hair, that smile, those arms, and that body.
So I did. And I do.
In a year or so I’ll dread, finally taking a step that has made a long-term fantasy real. Between now and then I will enjoy the feeling of the curls between my fingers when I wash my hair. I will stand in rainstorms without as much as a second thought. I will sweat profusely when I go to the gym without wondering what my hair looks like. And I will smile every time I look in the mirror. But what’s more important is that I will love who I am every single day until I crown myself.