Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My 2 Year Natural Anniversary or: Why I Don't Care About Long Hair Anymore

I'm pretty good at setting non-weight loss related goals and sticking to them. Really, I am. So this past New Year's I was sure I was going to stick to my resolution of not cutting my hair. It's not that hard to not cut your hair right? And at the end of the year, I would be 2 1/2 years natural. My curls would be long like the light brown ladies you see in tv commercials (you know, that one light brown ethnically ambiguous girl smiling with a group of white friends).

Now, I had never wanted long hair before. All my life I had never made it past shoulder level. So why was I trying to grow it out now? Because my big chop freaked me the fuck out.
Why was I freaked out? A couple of reasons:
1) I had just randomly hacked at my hair with scissors (as is VERY obvious with the above picture) a la a mental patient in the movies right before they ship her off or Felicity as she was claiming her adulthood. It wasn't exactly flattering.
2) People would notice how fat I am without all that hair to distract them.
3) Everyone was staring at my face.

I was not expecting this freakout. I'm a feminist. I encourage other women to to cut their hair with wild abandon. I am smart enough to know that when I cut my hair people wouldn't suddenly go "hey, did you know Ijeoma's kinda fat?" And also, people realizing I'm fat really is not the worst thing in the world. 

This was a great opportunity to challenge these internalized patriarchal assumptions about what is valued in a woman in society.

Did I rise to the challenge?


I hid my hair in many sometimes ridiculous ways.

Giant head full of flowers, various wigs, multi-colored braids - I was in a very creative phase. Now, not all of this was to hide my hair, some of this was to put it away for a few months for it to grow faster. But it was all very confusing to my younger son as to how my hair was changing lengths and colors so rapidly.

When I did wear my hair out I was constantly fiddling with it. I had watched EVERY YouTube video about natural hair I could find. I tried every style I could find with the care of someone diffusing a bomb, because Natural Hair Gurus make your hair seem like it will literally crumble in your hands if you use a comb to detangle instead of your fingers.

Some of these styles looked great! Some of them didn't. But as time passed and my hair got longer and longer, I was having less and less fun. I realized that in the last year and a half that I'd been natural, I had lost the reason why I had gone natural.

I went natural to see what MY HAIR looked like. To enjoy what was coming out of my head. But what I was doing was twisting and retwisting, braiding and hiding under wigs. I was spending 3 hours setting my hair at night. How exactly was this natural?

And then I started seeing people with short natural hair - little curls springing out of their head looking great. They were enjoying the discovery of their hair.

So one day, after a disastrous flat iron attempt, I walked into a salon and said
"Cut it. I don't care. CUT IT."
I wanted it off my neck. I wanted it to flatter my face. I wanted it to just look cool because it was. I didn't want to fuck with it anymore.

And cut it they did.
For the first time, I was wearing my natural curl pattern. Styling was cut down to 30 minutes every 4 days. I was hooked. I had them cut more and add some highlights.
I'm crazy in love with my hair right now; with my hair as it grows out of my head. I'm fascinated by it, staring at how my curls change as it grows. I think I'll wear this for some time and then I will big chop again, because I really do feel sad that I missed out on enjoying the shorter stages. But for my next big chop, I'm going to do it better. 

Ijeoma's Tips for a Great Big Chop and Beyond:
1) Have a stylist do your big chop and try to transition long enough for them to be able to give you a shape that flatters your face and matches your style (if that sort of thing matters to you. If it doesn't, more power to you lady - you rock it however you want).
2) Simplify your products. If you find that you are having to layer 10 products on your hair - that means your products aren't working and you are wasting money. I currently style with a leave in, a styling foam, a little curl cream for my 4b strands near my nape and temples, and almond oil.  I have to buy new products about every 3 months or so. Natural hair maintenance is cheap y'all. 
3) Your scalp rules all. I was terrified to wash my hair more than every two weeks when I first went natural because so many gurus acted like shampoo was literally acid. But my scalp was NOT happy. And if your scalp isn't happy, your hair won't be either. And itching at your scalp like a crackhead from a Dave Chappelle skit is not attractive. I find that alternating a cowash and a shampoo every 4 -5 days or so works best for me. I also learned that my hair doesn't like they mystical magical shea butter. In fact, my scalp pretty much likes to be naked. I do my best to keep product off of it.
4) Your hair is still hair. It didn't become magical and fragile gossamer strands of silk and gold. It's fucking hair. You can comb it if you want. You can grease it if you want. It's hair. Hair should not take 20 hours of styling every week. You should not have to read the labels of your shampoo bottles like someone on Weight Watchers trying to calculate the points values for a box of cookies. The shit that would destroy your permed hair (overdying, burning the shit out of it with a flat iron every day, washing it with Drano) will destroy your natural hair. Stop freaking out about your hair. I'm pretty sure we all have real problems that aren't folically related that we could be putting that energy to.
5) Stick to simple styles most days. My current (and likely forever) style of choice is a very simple wash & go (and I do understand that with 4a hair it is easier for me to do this than many people with 4b or 4c hair). I used to live for twist outs, but the constant manipulation was taking so much of my time, and it was KILLING my ends. That brings me to the next item:
6) Get regular trims. Even if you are growing out your hair, get trims. If your ends are starting to get thin, trim it. If your ends are really fuzzy, trim it. If your ends feel dry, trim it. I personally find that my hair looks AMAZING when I trim it every 4-6 months. Your hair will style better, it will tangle less, it will look healthier, you will enjoy it more - which brings us to the last item:
7) Enjoy every stage of your hair. There is no awkward length. If you are at an "awkward" length, that just means you need a more flattering cut. Really, what does "awkward length" even mean? Is it a stage where your hair doesn't know how to make conversation at parties? Does it suddenly get acne and braces? It's like this supposed purgatory between short and long hair where you haven't earned the right to hair pride. This is like those women who refuse to buy nice clothes until they lose weight. MY FAT ASS DESERVES FASHION, and your hair deserves to be enjoyed at every length.

Actually, that reminds me:
8) Length checks are bullshit. Really, who the fuck MEASURES THEIR HAIR? Good lord, can we just let one part of ourselves just be without rating, measuring or weighing it? It's hair. It will grow. The time will pass. It doesn't matter if it grew 1/4 inch last month vs 1/2 inch last month. STOP MEASURING YOUR HAIR FOR GOD'S SAKE.

So that's it. This is my slightly overdue, very overlong, 2 year natural anniversary post. To all of you in some stage of a natural hair experience, enjoy it.

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