…And Realizing that Hair Does Not Equate Femininity.
In this installment of Insightful Saturdays, I want to talk about hair. Bear with me, I have a bit to cover.
Getting ready for the hot comb
Being a female, so much of our beauty is wrapped up in our hair. And when I was a little girl, one of my first memories involving my hair was having my mom pull down a few strands of hair in the back and stretching them down my back to see how long my hair was. My ultimate goal was to have long hair.
Like most little Black girls back in the 80s, my hair was natural and my mom straightened it weekly or bi-weekly with a hot comb that was heated on the stove. In other words, sheer torture. When I was about seven-years-old, my mom finally let me get my hair relaxed. I was so happy to finally get a more “adult” and easier way to do my hair.
Don’t make fun of my “Glamour Shots” photo
During my 22-year love affair with Creamy Crack, as relaxer is now fondly called, I tried all different types of styles, cuts, curling irons, deep wavers and crimpers, flat-irons, braids, sew-ins, glue-ins, fusion, etc. Damn near everything! I loved my relaxed hair. I had learned how to moisturize without overdoing it so that my hair swung and moved like someone with finer hair. I remember in high school, another Black girl asked me how I got my hair to swing like a white girl’s hair.
But once I turned 29, I wanted something different. A girl I worked wore her hair natural and it was glorious. It was this voluminous curly fro that framed her face to perfection. And it got me to wondering, “What does my hair look like natural?” So I decided to Transition from creamy crack to a naturalista. I was tired of paying high prices and giving up my entire Saturday to look pretty. But I found that the Transition wasn’t going to work out for me after an extra two weeks of new growth had grown in and when I tried to comb my hair it was extremely painful and hair was falling out by the handfuls. So I decided to say, “Screw it! I’m doing the big chop.” Luckily, I’ve always had a motto for my hair that I’ve lived by almost my whole life, “It’ll grow back.” So I wasn’t too nervous about buzzing it all off. But just in case, I did buy a cute little asymmetrical wig. You see, I’m short and round, and I knew that more than likely getting my hair buzzed off would make me look like a butch lesbian. I’m cool with the LGBTQ community, always have been, but that didn’t mean I wanted to look like a lesbian.
I wore that wig for about a good week before I again said, “Screw it!” I can’t do wigs. They just irritate my scalp and I always feel like a liar. I felt that way when I wore extensions as well. I’m not downing anyone who loves wigs and weave. It’s just not for me on a long-term basis. So I just let my bald head shine. I felt a bit awkward, but I knew it would grow back.
Luckily, I did cut it all off and went natural, because a few months later, I got a job teaching English in Japan. I knew there wouldn’t be anyone who could relax my hair for me or a place where I could buy relaxer and do it myself. So going natural was a Godsend.
During that time frame, I learned a lot about my hair. I learned that I absolutely LOVED it in its natural state. The tiny corkscrew curls. How soft it could be. How it framed my round face and chubby cheeks. It was pure awesomeness. Until it wasn’t.
People who say, at least initially, that going natural is cheaper than getting your hair relaxed, is a lie! Just trying to find the right products that work for your specific hair texture is a pain in the ass. And I swear no two afros are alike. In my head alone, I have about 3 or 4 different textures. I go from a 3c to a 4c all in one head. WTF?!?!
So after being completely natural for nearly two years, I chopped it off again and got a texturizer. That lasted for only so long before I wanted my fro again. So once more I grew it out. I kept it in its full glory for about 5 years, with a cute tapered cut towards the end.
At one point, I was ready to call it quits once more, but then found the ‘shingling’ wash-n-go method and I was overjoyed. The twist-outs, Bantu knots, roller sets, etc were just too much. It took a whole dang day to do them and dry them and after that, the styles would only be cute for a day or two if you were lucky, unless you redid them every night. I can’t. I just can’t.
So I rocked those rock hard corkscrew curls for a couple more years. Then I got laid off my job and I decided to give writing full-time a shot. That’s when I got creative with my hair and had more fun with it than I’d ever had in the past. With no corporate job or boss breathing down my neck, I cut my hair into a frohawk and then started dying it crazy colors. I’m proud to say that I laid that ish out! And I got more compliments on that colorful frohawk than on any style I’ve had to date.
But of course with crazy colored hair, you have to bleach it. In which, bleaching is no bueno on your hair and keeping those colors up was a lot of work, since they faded very quickly. After a year, it was time to give it up. That is when I decided I wanted to start all over and grow out a cute, short natural tapered cut.
I got all my pictures ready on Pinterest to show the barber and scheduled my appointment. When I got there and he looked at my head, he told me that in order to begin the growing out process into the tapered cut, I was gonna have to cut it super low. To which I said, “That’s cool.” Remember my motto, ‘It’ll grow back.’
When he finished that cut and turned that chair around for me to see, I fell in love with myself all over again. My round apple head looked so cute. I just looked like a mature, confident woman. Immediately I said, “Oh, I love it! I’m so keeping this for a while.” Along with wanting something new and my hair being damaged, I had been working out since the start of the year, trying to change my lifestyle. I’d recently injured my foot and ankle and working out had become almost unbearable, but I didn’t want to give up all the progress I had made. So I had been thinking about swimming instead, but didn’t know how I was going to pull it off with my bleached hair. Now being nearly bald, the problem was instantly solved.
Last Thursday marked two weeks since I buzzed my hair. I went back to the barber and he was surprised that I wanted him to cut it back low again. But these past weeks have been glorious in so many ways. First off, I swam 5 days a week for three weeks and didn’t have a care in the world. Second, every day that I woke up, I walked into the bathroom and brushed my hair and was done. One minute…tops! Maybe 5, if I add a little gel to it. Third, and the whole reason for this post, I found my femininity and it has absolutely nothing to do with hair.
It is really hard to explain, but so often we women think that in order to be womanly or feminine, we have to have long hair. That is such a lie! Try being feminine when you don’t have hair to flip, toss, or hide behind seductively. When I see women rocking short cuts or barely there hair, I think they look more fierce and more feminine than those hiding behind long locks. When you’re not hiding behind hair, all you have is your face and the way you move. And I’ve never felt more womanly, more beautiful, more confident, or more badass, quite frankly, than I do with barely a centimeter of hair.
And the best part is… A whole new world is opened to me with practically no hair. Not only can I be more feminine on my own terms, but I can go anywhere, do anything, and try everything without worrying about my dang ol’ hair. Now that’s worth its weight in gold!!!