I went back and forth with relaxed and natural hair from middle school to college. For me, hair was just never that deep. From 2009-2010, I transitioned with the help of 16-inch weaves and blowouts until I finally chopped off the remaining relaxer and wore my lovely kinks in a cute, moderately sized, curly ‘fro—who I affectionately named Ebony, due to her stunning beauty, boldness and blackness.
I let Ebony grow out into a massive puff ball and wore her like that for two years. Last year, I cut her off again out of boredom and proudly rocked her the shortest she’s ever been (I was able to feel my scalp for the first time!). Currently, I’m on my Brandy flow with box braids down to my waist. Hair for me has always been a means to express myself and just play a little. I made certain not to get too attached to it and attach so much meaning to it. As much as I love my naturally jet-black, thick, kinky-curly ringlets, I know that there’s more to me than hair and it can be here today, gone tomorrow; things happen.
Growing up, my two older sisters and mother were like this as well; so even though I was aware of the significance of hair in our community, I didn’t really grasp how deep that significance was until the last time I went natural and started reading all the hair care blogs for what I thought would be strictly informational and entertaining. To my shock, however, I saw that this most recent natural hair phenomenon was a modern day remix to the 70s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” movement. People were sharing their natural hair testimonies of newly-discovered self-love, and others were making social, historical references. “How beautiful it is for so many of us to celebrate our natural glory in so many ways,” I thought. But in the midst of that celebration, I was soon turned off by the division I saw being created. Natural chicks were bashing relaxed chicks, weaved chicks, and chicks who were natural but opted for a press and curl or blowout. It felt a little cultish.
Last year EBONY.com gathered leading hair and style bloggers to discuss all things Black hair. Leola Anifososhe, founder of natural hair sorority Pi Nappa Kappa, said, “But when you break down the natural pattern, that’s going beyond, that’s on a more psychological [level]. There’s more layers associated with chemically altering your natural pattern.” I felt she was implying that our straightened sisters have some type of deep, heavy emotional baggage. As one who wore my hair straight, on and off for many years, I knew this wasn’t the case. I loved myself and loved that I could adjust my hair to my mood at the moment, nothing more or less. The only reason I stopped was more so out of hair health reasons and I knew I could just weave it up when I wanted the silky effect. I’m not denying that some straightened sisters are victims of social conditioning and the narrow definitions of beauty, but to make such a bold blanket statement is a bit much.