If anyone would have asked me a year and a half ago if I would ever wear my hair natural, I probably would have laughed in your face. I had relaxed my hair faithfully since the second grade, I am now over 40. So for over 30 years I had no idea what my natural curl pattern was or how easy/difficult it would be to manage without the aid of chemical processing. However, I was hooked and would fling my hair with the best of them. I enjoyed my med/long relaxed blowing in the wind hair. I have never been a fan of weaves, wigs or braids as a personal preference. So a relaxer and a wrap worked well for me. However as I got older my views on things shifted.
Once upon a time it was no big deal for me to add a rinse a splash of color or anything to spice up my look. Then I got my first gray hair. Once it came in I decided that I would no longer color my hair. My thought process on this was that I loved looking at the very few silver strands of gray that my 80 year old grandmother had in her hair. I thought if I am going to have it, I want it to be as pure and shiny as it could. Understanding that gray is harder to color and harder to purify once its stained i stopped with the colors and just let it go. That was stage one. Who knew I would have so much gray when I made that decision :).
The next stage came in two parts. Neither of them being an Afrocentric desire to reconnect to my African Heritage. I am an African American woman through and through so that never factored into it at any point. With these beautiful full lips relaxed or not there was never a chance of me hiding my heritage via alteration of physical appearance. Not to mention like anyone else my culture is important to me and it goes wherever I go. However what did speak to me were two thoughts that any woman, regardless of her color, could relate with. These reasons are also why I am not offended when asked about my choice in hair styles.
The first, my daughters. For years I had been perming my hair, some perms took well and other were mild forms of torture. I would hear my daughters all of whom are natural except the oldest (19) saying things like: “Mom I love your hair.” “Can I wear my hair like yours?” Then one day it dawned on me how much different the mark of beauty that I wanted for them was than the image I was putting in front of them. I thought if I believe that it is beautiful to have natural hair then it shouldn’t be beyond me to give it a try. Worst case scenario if I hate it I can press my hair or go back to a relaxer. Not to mention I’m certain my scalp could use a break from the burns, sores etc. See that’s not that different that any woman making the decision to not be hypocritical in the eye of their little girl. An unexpected bonus was, not only did my scalp get healthier but my face began to brighten up and become more radiant. I had really dry patches on my face and they went away as well. Whhhaaat! All worth it.
The second reason (and this ties to my daughters as well) was health. More and more studies are starting to show a link between uterine fibroids in African American women and the relaxers we use to straighten our hair. Think about how deep that goes. I started to think: My grandmother had fibroids and had to get a hysterectomy, my mother had fibroids and had the same fate. I have them as well and just can’t bring myself to do anything about them yet because I connect my uterus to so much of my femininity I want to keep it as long as I can. Yeah I know other procedures, but look at the research that is coming out about them. However, what if by presenting my daughters with myself as an example of how beautiful hair is naturally could prevent them from having the same issue? It would be so worth it, right? What if encouraging them to never put the chemicals in their hair I eliminated or even reduced the chances of them ever having a fibroid? Wouldn’t it be worth it?
As women, mothers, aunties, sisters doesn’t it make perfectly good sense as to why I along with other African American women are now making the choice to go with what God gave us instead of processing our hair? Think of it this way it’s the organic hair route versus the processed. Hopefully this will help someone not to assume when they see a lady with a natural coif what her motivations are. Or that she is any different than you in her choices to be healthier, to present a natural image of beauty to her daughters and to make strides towards ensuring her feminine health for herself and generations to come. In addition with the “Browning of america” a many women or other cultures are having little girls and might be faced with the question of relaxed or natural. I hope this sheds a little light on some of the reasons why I made my choice and the choice for my daughters. Perhaps it will help you with your decision as well.
So while I can not speak for any other woman or the level of comfort with questions regarding their hair choice. I can say that I welcome your questions and the ability to have an open dialogue about issues that effect any woman, our health and our daughters, regardless of race. Awareness increases understanding.
Oh and by the way, while I have not come up with the perfect styling techniques as of yet, I love my natural hair.