Writer’s Block: Personal Freedom

It was only a couple of years ago that about this time I declared my independence from relaxers. I know that there are plenty people who make this declaration every day – and many of them follow through.

The interwebs are full of sisters who have decided to "Go Natural". It happened in the 70’s. It’s a trend now. I can only hope, though, that this is not a trend for me. And though my twists may annoy me (due to the overwhelming fuzziness on my head), and though I would love to be able to do something with my hair other than…well…nothing is what I do with my hair now, I declare, this day, that I will never go back.

Many people ask me why I made this decision. Mostly people who don’t know me. Mostly black women (young or old) who have their own hair relaxed. I’ve noticed that the natural ones don’t ask me this question. Perhaps it’s because there is a very simple answer that The Natural Ones (TNO) already know, because many of them came to this conclusion on their own.

It’s not about the maintaining the hair. Though I will be the first to admit that shaved hair is VERY easy to take care of. Low-maintenance and all that.

It’s not about the cost. Though I can’t now imagine that there was ever a time when spending $55 for something that would last about a month was routinely part of my budgetary concerns.

It’s about looking in the mirror and discovering, with relief, that I could still look pretty with this black steel wool that God gave me to work with. And it was knowing that I didn’t have to fight myself all the time to be pretty – that I could still be beautiful being myself.

It took a long time to get up that kind of courage.
As a little girl I used to watch movies – The Little Mermaid was my favorite – and turn green with envy. Ariel had such beautiful thick, long, wavy hair. And she was a mermaid. The mermaid part I had down pat. I used to pretend that I was a mermaid at the pool. My cousins and I would have "tea parties" along the concrete floor of our azure retreat. We would have contests to see how long we could hold our breaths. We would pump our legs up and down and not use our arms, so that we could swim mermaid style. It was the hair I couldn’t get. I used to put on wigs every chance I got. I would wear my t-shirts over my head and pretend that my hair was nice and long.

Eventually, I convinced my mother to let me get braids with long, flowy, extensions. And that made me happy. When I got older, occasionally I would treat myself and get them. And it was nice, having long hair to be annoyed with. One day, my friend said "You look so pretty with long hair to frame your face. You should let your hair grow out like that naturally." And I was bitter. Because I couldn’t do that, it wasn’t an option. Without perms and hairdressers and self-sacrificing Filipino women giving up their hair, I couldn’t look "so pretty". My mother and sisters could. My cousins could. Even with perms, their hair fought back. It grew out, and grew straight, and laid flat. And when they slept, they managed to keep on their night caps. They didn’t root out their hair in the night during one of their crazy semi-lucid dreams.

And the bitterness hurt.

And then my husband (then boyfriend) came along and convinced me. Maybe I ought to try it. He wanted to see me, as he said, truly "naked". I wasn’t sure I’d like it. He was.

And so it was that one day I got up the courage to go in and sit down and tell them to "shave it off".
And I haven’t looked back since. I loved my face…I loved my hair…and most of all, I loved that it was really, and truly, all mine. And I loved that when he looked at me and said "you look amazing", that he was really looking at me, and not all the fakeness I’d piled upon myself. I needed to know that I was beautiful underneath it all. And I found out that I was.

"Hey, Alicia," The Boy asked, one day. "If you had never met me, would you have gone natural?"
"Probably not."
"Are you glad you did?"
"Yup," I replied, as we browsed through the selection at the Lara Crofty type of store in Carr Mill Mall.
"If we broke up, would you ever go back to perming your hair?"
"Not on your life."
"That’s good," he says, and smiles. He puts his hand in mine, and I smile back. I wasn’t just saying it to be nice, it was true. If I have nothing else to be thankful for (and I have plenty) I can thank Jeremy that he showed me how to be me.

Now, that’s not to say that relaxers are horrible. I decided that the true beauty of my hair was that I could relax it. Or cut it. Or grow it out. Or twist it. Or braid it. I have options – and that’s the best part. I don’t have to be fake (but I can be, if I wanna be).

So, this Independence Day, I declare my freedom from fake-ass hair products.

At least…for the time being. I mean…I’m not saying the micro-braids will NEVER make a comeback…

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About alburnet

New mom, new natural, and..for the last year...still a new teacher!

Posted on July 5, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The microbraids always looked good. That’s one style I envied, I don’t know that I’d ever be able to manage them. Between time, expense, and not washing my hair every. single. day. I had my hair braided in early high school, and while it was cute, it itched so bad. No idea how you do it, even with your awesome current twists.
    I always wanted to be a mermaid, too.

  2. Oh, did I mention that your hair looks awesome now? ‘Cause it totally does.

  3. great post! i also stopped relaxing my hair-this is the first time since second grade that i’ve had really curly hair.

  4. I adore you. We should hang out or something.
    I kind of feel the same way about my legs. I stopped shaving my legs a couple years ago. One warm day I was getting dressed. I put on shorts or a skirt or something, and realized that I hadn’t shaved in a couple days and had some noticeable stubble. The first feeling I had was embarrassment – “I can’t go out in public like this.” Then frustration/anger – “So I have to either shave my legs or wear jeans on a hot day??” Then the lightbulb lit up – “Who gives a fuck if my legs are hairy?”
    Since then, I shave rarely (when I feel like it), but mostly I don’t. I save money, and Alan seems to like it. Mostly, though, it’s kind of nice to not feel like I’m participating in one of the many “natural is ugly” rituals that women (and men) go through on a daily basis.
    I also used to hate how curly and frizzy my hair was, and tried a relaxer once. I still had to flat iron it and hated it. Now I wash, brush, and go! I don’t add “product” or anything, and it looks fine. I was so afraid of my natural look not being pretty, that I fought it, only to discover that it’s much prettier when it’s natural.
    Sometimes I shave. Sometimes I straighten my hair. Sometimes I wear makeup.
    Mostly, I just enjoy being me and not spending time and money fighting it.
    Also, when people ask me why I don’t shave, I generally reply with a question, “Why do you shave?” It’s surprising how many people really can’t answer that question.

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