Over the past five or so years, black women have begun to opt out of relaxers to embrace the kinks of their natural hair. Me, on the other hand, can't and won't bring myself to take part in the trend. All but one of my friends have chosen to let go of perms and rock protective styles instead. I started transitioning the summer of 2013 after seeing so many beautiful curly hairstyles that I couldn't wait to try. I stopped calling my hairdresser to make appointments for my touch-up and instead started doing my hair at home. I wore braids to give myself a break so I wouldn't have to detangle and style my hair in the morning. However, by winter 2014, I was almost certain my hair was falling out. Sadly, it was. The crown of my head was extremely thin and the hair only a few inches long. I panicked. I asked every naturalista I knew for a solution. Almost everyone's response- I think you just have to cut it and start over. W H A T. Nah. My aunt recommended a braid shop in Brooklyn so I trekked over there a few times and after a year, it was as if the Transitioning Disaster of 2014 never happened. After my transitioning fail, I reevaluated my hair regimen and realized the repetitive blowouts, flat ironing, and heavy braids were to blame for the atrocity. Recently, two of my friends relaunched the Natural v. Relaxed debate in the group chat. The conversation made me think, should I give another try? At that moment, I felt like I needed to be natural in order to express my blackness and self-confidence. I'm not someone whose struggled much with self-acceptance or felt uncomfortable in my skin so this was a really awkward moment for me. I wondered if that was how outsiders were viewing me, as an insecure woman who gets perms as a way to look closer to what society accepts. My hands don't even feel right typing that because I've never once wanted to be in anything but my beautiful dark skin. Not going natural simply comes down to knowing exactly what I want.
For starters, I never learned how to do my hair and I'm not committed enough to start now. My first relaxer was in seventh grade. I was so eager to stop wearing braids to school for the simple fact that they made me feel too childish. [Note to younger me, you're twelve..chill out.] But I felt like everyone around me, including my mom and aunts all had voluminous straight hair and I was walking around looking lil Lil Bow Wow with my cornrows. I guess that was also the beginning of my transition from a super tomboy to a somewhat girly-girl. I begged my mom to let me relax my hair and after being such a pain while she braided my hair, she gave in. I went from having my mom braid my hair every few days to visiting salons weekly so I never had time to learn my hair. With my schedule now, I am not willing to put hours into playing in my hair and figuring it out.
Another mistake I made in this natural journey was focusing my attention on the media's idea of natural. The Instagram pages for natural hair and the models on all the products all have something in common. The media highlights loose curl patterns, known to the natural community has 3a/3c/4c/4a. This was my idea of natural so when I was a year post relaxer, looking at my curl pattern, I was confused. My hair was not what I expected and I wasn't interested in having to pay hundreds of dollars on products to get the curl pattern I'd imagined. I guess we all have our vices because in my eyes, my choosing to relax is no different than women manipulating their curl pattern to achieve a whole new look. I guess that's when you have to pay careful attention to what natural really means. If 'm going natural..I want to be able to roll out of bed, take my bonnet off and be on my way. My idea of natural doesn't involve spending hours braiding, twisting, rolling and then having to spend extra time styling in the morning
The bottom line of this relaxed vs. natural debated comes down to Black women wanting to uplift one another to embrace their African features over the European characteristics the beauty industry has forced us to idolize. After much thought, experimentation, and conversations, I've come to the conclusion that loving yourself and your culture extends waaay further than how you style you hair. A woman's self confidence is not measured by her hair because I know there are plenty of women who rock their natural hair and still have loads of insecurities. Are women who wear Brazilian wigs and extensions over their 4c hair any less natural because they choose to put their African feautures on pause? What about the ones who highlight and contour to give their nose that elongated look..are they expressing self-hatred? The list can go on but I am sharing this not to put anyone down for dabbling in different looks but to answer any and everyone who's asked me why I won't go natural.