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I’ve never had long hair, though my older sister had flowing locks that made being related seem torturous at times. I got my first perm in junior high school after begging my mother because…I don’t know, at the time I thought she was a Nazi out to ruin my middle school existence. I remember pulling my short silky hair into a ponytail and feeling like I finally fit in with the other girls. You couldn’t tell me nothing (in my Kanye voice)…until the other girls made fun of my little pony tail. It didn’t bother as much as their other insults, so it rolled off my back with ease. I was introduced to weave via my babysitter, who also did hair. Her daughters had full weaves that added length to their hidden strands. My mother allowed me to get a pony tail for my birthday but not the full shebang, still I was content with the added flare. I came to school with my new pony swinging, a new confidence instilled in my adolescent loins. I never wore my real hair again.

As you may have guessed, weave and perms can be damaging to your hair. Who knew? But with tracks glued to my scalp and the appearance of long beautiful hair, I didn’t actually care what it looked like underneath. My weave was seamless (for a middle schooler at least) and after a while people even believed it was growing from my scalp. However, it wasn’t and I grew ashamed of my short, damaged hair that was choppy in places, broken in others and permanently ear-length. I would wonder as I combed out globs of glue that pulled out clumps of my hair, what I would do when I got older? Like, would I be wearing weave for the rest of my life. Would it really take me 4 hours to get a hairstyle every two months when it was time to buy a new pack (bundles weren’t around that time) and how long would I have to spend $50 on my routine.

My mother and father would always suggest just wearing my hair but after becoming addicted to the perception of long hair, I just couldn’t. My older sister (with the long pretty hair that curled when wet) would tell me to get a short cut like Halle Berry. But I was no Halle Berry and still in my teens. Then she’d suggest I sew-in my tracks which made sense but I didn’t want anyone to see how badly my hair looked. Being the person I am, I learned how to sew-in my own weave (yes, that included braiding it too). Still using glue on the top of my head, to maintain that flawless look, the back of my hair began to grow. I was stuck with useless, uneven hair.

As I got older, I used less glue. Until I finally rid it from my hair regime. The turning point in my hair journey came when I colored my hair red. By this time, it had grown a lot in the back and because you can’t color your hair and perm at the same time, I decided to abandon perming all together. One of my best friends had gone natural and it seemed like the thing to do since I have really thin, fine hair anyway. For the first time, I took out my full sew-in and just wore pieces in my hair until it broke off from the color and lack of perm. Back to full-head weaves I went.

I stayed natural because my hair wasn’t exposed. I trimmed my ends every now and then and deep conditioned it for hours in between weaves. Eventually, I learned about invisible parts and lace closures that allowed me to give my “leave-out” a break. My hair finally seemed to be growing but not enough for me to wear outside comfortably. My boyfriend of years hadn’t seen my real hair. EVER. After years of building myself up, I revealed it to him in its natural afro state.

He joked and said I looked like I stuck my hand in a socket. Besides, realizing he loved me for me, I came to terms with the idea that my hair wasn’t vomit-inducing. Slowly, I told myself I would focus on growing my hair underneath my weaves so I could have the confidence to wear it out. Each install, I got closer and closer to my goal until…I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew something was wrong, because the luxurious bundles of deep curly hair I received didn’t have the same feeling anymore. I didn’t get elated blending my real hair with the Indian tresses. I hated it. I wanted out.

Since my hair shrinkage made my hair appear short and every naturalista knows that applying heat daily to keep your hair straight is the ultimate no-no. I found myself hindered by my natural texture of kinky curly. Then my co-worker (a fabulous woman with grey hair who embraced her natural look) introduced me to the Beautiful Textures Texture Manageability System– a new hair care product that offers Reversible™ Straightening Texture Manageability™ System— a revolutionary product that allows women with natural hair to go from curly/kinky to straight and back without harsh chemicals.

I made the decision to just see what my hair would look like if it were straight using the system. Each minute as I sat in the chair of my stylist’s chair, I regretted my decision. My own hair could never be good enough to wear in public. As she blow dried and flat-ironed, going over some sections three and four times, I just knew it wasn’t going to work. I became discouraged and thought of ways to cover it up without even seeing how it looked.

Already counting my tresses out, I took a much-needed bathroom break where I came face-to-face with what I had been dreading. An array of emotions ran through my body. My hair was longer, prettier and healthier than I ever expected. I exhaled and inhaled at the same time. “This is my hair?” I exclaimed. Incredulous to it all, I ran my hands through it for the first time and felt it was all coming from my scalp. My scalp! Not a pack of hair I purchased or my older sister’s. My scalp! I’ve never felt more liberated in my life. A tear lost speed around my cheek and I quickly wiped it away.

I played in my hair all night. Proud of every inch even though it wasn’t 10 or 12. I’m not saying that I will abandon weave forever (I can never forget what it did for that little ugly girl in me) but I’ve made peace with my own hair and plan to nourish it like it deserves.

Jumps into a split. Yay me!

MUST READ: 3 Reasons All Naturalistas Should Try This Reversible Straightening System

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