I read a lot of websites and blogs on natural hair, most of which come with a tale of the author’s or webmaster’s journey – most of which starts after a bout of enslavement to the regular relaxer/texturiser regime. Which many can relate to – as can I.
Many of them started chemically processing their locks by their own choice, while others had no choice – my initial journey started without a choice.
When I was 9, my aunt was so tired of spending half her weekend wrangling thru my large Afro (one that would often hide my entire face in a big jet black ball) that I was shoved at a hairdresser that burned my hair so badly the first time that part of it was completely welded to my scalp! Being from a tropical country and being an avid swimmer at the time, I did not acclimatise well to the high maintenance and by age 11, my hair began combing out in chlorine-stained chunks and could no longer be pulled into a ponytail – that was literally the last straw. I reflect many nights on the love and nurturing that my mother (who wears the ultra-short cut that I also donned a few years ago) bestowed on my hair even when I didn’t love my hair for myself; she’d wipe my tears when I cried that my hair would never grow back and just encourage me to just let time do the healing. And that it did – with time and my mother’s loving touch, my hair was shoulder-length by my 13th birthday.
But my battle with the creamy crack didn’t stop there – I got so tired of being teased and badgered about my “dry bushy hair” that I caved to the peer/family pressure and went back to relaxing at the age of 15 (the age that a lot of bloggers seemed to willingly relax their hair). Vanity brought me to my snowy grave yet again – every 6-8 weeks, I was in the hairdresser’s chair, getting my touch-ups like most other obedient servants of the relaxer regime. Every 6-8 weeks like clockwork, there I was once again and while I made a number of great friends while bonding over our “rebond”, I slowly grew to loathe the fact that I was imprisoned by my hair – but trying to fit the LSLH stereotype at the age of 16 dictated your LH was long – and straight. So I continued to submit.
Of course, the continued enslavement had its ups and downs and after moving from a tropical uniseasonal country to a place with 4 seasons (particularly in China at a time where finding many hairdressers who didn’t charge you your firstborn for a can of relaxer), I found my hair caving even more to the stress of the weather and my own personal struggles. By the time I turned 22, I had been stressed to the point where locks of my hair were randomly falling to my already-low shoulders. I realised that night that it was time to make a decision – and 2 weeks later, I sat in my mum’s barber’s chair and left him to cut off all my hair for the first time. I thought I would have been a lot more emotional than I was, but surprisingly, I didn’t shed even one tear. As the locks fell (this time by choice!), I knew I was committing myself to letting myself be and not letting hair define who I am and something else I discovered when my barber was done – I was still the same person, inside and out. And now it was time to love me, not just my hair.
Fast forward 5 years, and I haven’t gone back to the “creamy crack” since – and loving my decision. I stopped wearing the ultra-short cut about 3 years ago, which I struggled not to go back to for a long time, especially during that in-between stage where hairstyles that don’t invite questions, stares or touches (even worse) from work colleagues or even people on the street – but every day, I am happy that my mother nurtured me with the love and patience that I needed to get to what I have now – a full head of healthy, shoulder-length curly-to-wavy hair that loves to do whatever it feels like, as most 3 year-olds tend to – and I just let it.