When I first heard orders about the self-quarantine, I did what any normal young woman would do. I packed my overnight bag and headed straight for my boyfriend’s house in New Jersey.
I’ve stayed with my boyfriend before, but I couldn’t foresee how long I’d be staying with him during this coronavirus pandemic. I did a quick wash-and-go with my hair, threw on whatever wasn’t dirty in my room and hauled ass out of the projects. Leave-in conditioner and castor oil dripping down my coils and landing on my face. There was a natural bump at the top of my head that made me look like a cockapoo.
On a recent episode of The Real, comedienne Loni Love mentioned the beauty of releasing the “tree monster” slowly around your man. While I’ve never been one to necessarily believe in a timeline of showing the “real me,” whatever that is, around my boyfriend, I will say that I’ve been taking my sweet time showing him what my hair really looks like under my box braids and protective styles because I wasn’t ready for him to see it and I wasn’t afraid to accept it.
My boyfriend is one of my best friends, so staying with him hasn’t been challenging. I’ve seen him in hospital beds post-seizure and he’s talked me off the ledge of manic episodes, so I guess you can say that we’re pretty comfortable around each other after nearly two years. This time was different because he had never seen my natural hair in-person before. Our entire relationship, he’s only seen my natural hair once in-person: on our first date when it was dyed electric blue and in a fresh braid-out. All other times have been over FaceTime when he watches me take out my protective styles and then hop straight into the shower just to get it braided that very same night. Wearing my real hair around Gary is my biggest fear because I’m not even in love with it yet.
Being bare-faced and stripped down around Gary wasn’t as difficult because I was never into makeup from the beginning. It’s getting to know my 4C hair around him that made me as anxious, especially seeing his twin sister and mother have beautiful, wavy, luxurious hair that I was secretly envious of. The past week has been challenging because I’ve been trying to get acquainted with the kinks and coils of my own head while trying to make myself still feel sexy and confident around my boyfriend with whom I should be comfortable showing off any physical appearance.
His twin sister Karyn noticed how uncomfortable I was with my 4C fro still air drying in my makeshift faux-hawk, so she and I took the time to head to the local beauty supply store to stock up on all of the old school products that bring you back to a simpler time: Hair Mayonnaise, Blue Magic, Sulfur8 and basically the entire Africa’s Best product line. When Karyn and I returned to the house, my boyfriend had gone grocery shopping with his mother so we had the condo pretty much to ourselves. Karyn sat me between her legs and began to part my hair and “grease my scalp” as my mother would say, and I began to feel myself transform into a beautiful butterfly.
When Gary returned to the house, my hair was moisturized, oiled, greased and styled – I felt pretty, but I was still not confident about my hair the way I wanted to be, especially with conversations filling the house about how gorgeous Karyn and her mother’s hair was. To be honest, I was completely insecure and knew that my new mission was to channel my envy for their hair into loving my own. The next day, I took the time to binge-watch YouTube videos by Naturally Queeny about how to moisturize and soften my curls, making it grow and quick-and-easy styling methods. I would later find myself waking up every morning to section my hair and run carrot oil through my scalp to keep my shine and moisture to make myself feel like a Dark & Lovely model.
A few days in, my boyfriend has even helped me deep condition my hair, rinse and towel dry my hair. Staying with Gary has not taught me to be comfortable around my man, but it’s taught me the beauty of being comfortable with myself and learning my body and growing with my hair as I grow within the relationship. Now if you’ll excuse me, my boyfriend and I are going to continue to binge-watch Netflix’s The Circle while he massages my new favorite oil therapy concoction from the local beauty supply store.