When I was younger, I used to always say that I would go natural in college. That was when I was around 14 or 15.
I’m 20 now, almost out of college and have decided that now is the time to follow up on the promise I made to myself.
While the thought of going natural has always been embedded in my mind, I found myself recently inspired by classmates and my new favorite author (shoutout to Professor Olosunde for choosing her as a class required reading) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Olosunde teaches a Black Women’s Fiction class, and most of the students, apart from the two boys in our class, are African-American women.
My inspiration started as I read the book, entitled Americanah, as the main character Ifemelu struggles with conforming to Western beauty standards in terms of hair when she moves from Nigeria to America. She relaxes her hair, for fear that her natural hair will hinder her further in her career (i.e: not having the right look.) I felt inspired as I read on, because eventually Ifemeleu learns that she does not have to adapt to society, but rather society needs to adapt to her and accept her natural hair for the beauty that it is.
I would always see my other classmates with their hair thick and shiny, pulled up into a nice kinky-curly puff; and it was natural, untouched by chemicals.
What also disturbed me was when I realized that I knew little to nothing about my natural hair. I was about four years old when I got my first relaxer, and I remember my aunt going into the store on Fulton Street and giving the Just For Me kids relaxer kit box to my mom. Growing up I knew that my hair was thick and kinky; that was about it. I was always under the impression that it was unmanageable.
“You can’t even run a comb through her hair.”
One of the many quotes I heard whenever someone attempted to do my natural hair when I was a child. In all fairness, I was (and still am) tender headed as a child. However, it was not until now, at 20 years-old when I realized that my hair is something to be nurtured and cared for, and just like anything that needs TLC, you have to have the correct items for it. Maybe my hair doesn’t take to a fine tooth comb, but that doesn’t mean that it’s unmanageable.
In middle school, particularly the 7th grade, I stopped relaxing my hair. I did however, still straighten it. And it was then, after sweating in a chair every morning while I waited impatiently for my mother to hot comb my edges and roots so she could comb them, that I gave up and said my natural hair was too much to deal with, and went back to relaxers.
Fast forward to now and I have realized that my hair is beautiful; it is something to love and nurture. As I begin this journey of my 20’s (and trust, these are the years that all of life occurs), I feel now is the perfect time to start.
Relaxers are cool and all, women are beautiful whether your hair is natural or relaxed, and having a relaxer in your hair does not make you any less black, but I have reached my wits end of skin burns from the chemical being too strong, from the burning-like smell of the perm sweating out, and treating my natural hair, the stuff that grows out of my head, like weeds growing in a field of dandelions and destroying it at the first signs of new growth.
In Americanah, Ifemelu starts a blog sharing her black & natural hair experience. While I was inspired by that, I am naturally a writer and I wanted to document my experience. I also want to share my experience because I gained so many tips and so much support from my classmates and strangers on the internet (thanks Twitter) and I want to share it with the world. For anyone who wants to go natural, it’s certainly a process but making the decision is the first step.
I’m ready for a long, interesting, fun, frustrating and ultimately rewarding journey of self-love, self-care and most importantly, hair love. Stay tuned for the journey – I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I do!