I was 8 years old when I got my first perm. I remember wanting it more than I had ever wanted anything. Getting a perm meant no more Sundays sweating under a hot comb, less tears as my mother battled to tame (read destroy – sorry mom!) my curly mane, and the start of my signature hair flip. My mother, much to the dismay and anger of my grandmother, dropped me off at the salon after failed attempts at at-home kiddie perms, and three hours later I emerged. My edges were laid for the gods, my ponytail was swinging, and I had finally arrived. In short – I knew I was cute! I had begun my relationship with the creamy crack and I was never going back. So, from that point on (sans summers when I opted for braids) I relaxed my hair every 4 weeks like clock work, erasing the trace of every curl in sight.
Fast-forward ten years. The “natural movement”, which I was sure, was a fad that every new member of “team natural” would one-day regret joining, began. Soon my Facebook timeline was inundated with pictures of black women making the “big chop”, posting transition styles, or preaching the “the creamy crack is death” gospel. As you can probably tell I was not a fan and not only that, I would not be drinking the Kool-Aid or joining the cult. I was happy with my monthly appointments, sleek edges, and by this time unbelievably long weaves. Afros did not appeal to me, and neither did the amount of work and products I saw my friends devote themselves too, just to avoid a few chemicals. I was living for my edges and my length. Discussion closed. Except, now I am a bit over one year in this natural game and loving it.
Pause – obviously something changed between 2008 and 2014; I went from I can’t live without a relaxer to I’ll probably never chemically process my hair again. What changed? It was the realization that the need to perm my hair was because I was afraid that if my hair wasn’t long and straight that I would not be seen as beautiful. Here I was out in the world proclaiming to be a strong, black woman and I couldn’t even shake the ideals of beauty that society had placed on me. I was obsessed with straight hair and I didn’t want to be. So it had to go.
Now, I wish I could say this was a super smooth transition where I reclaimed my power and came out flawless. But I can’t because that would be a lie. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of anxiety, some tears, a lot of fear, and a lot of support and reassurance. From my best friend Kia, who went natural in 2008, also ending her love affair with monthly perm sessions. From my wonderful friend and second mother Jennifer, who affirmed me and my beauty regardless of my hair. And from my homie Gerald, who I saw after my big chop and said something that I remember to this day: “Your hair looks good now and just remember it’s only going to get better”. I could not have started my journey with confidence without them.
So here I am, rocking my curls, marveling at how fast my hair has grown, how healthy it is, and how much I love it. I’m still anxious and ready for it to be long, but not because of a beauty standard, but because I feel more powerful the bigger my fro gets. I swear by wash-n-go’s with Wen shampoo, coconut oil (for everything, to be honest), and Miss Jessie’s curly pudding for the days between washes. I could not be happier with my decision and wish I had done it sooner. Now, going natural is not for everyone and I totally respect that. In fact, I would never tell someone they need to go natural, because that is not the case. BUT if you do decide that you want to take the plunge and need some encouragement or someone to debunk the fear, I’ve got your back! So here’s to Black Southern belles being their true authentic selves, whatever that looks like. For me, here’s to my natural!1