For years, I never understood why an African-American woman would want to wear her hair "natural." That is, without any chemicals to permanently straighten the hair.
I never understood why an African-American woman would want to wear her hair in a way that might cause others to question her professionalism or even cost her a relationship. (Yes, for some
shallow, small-minded men, it is THAT serious).
[pullquote]If you are reading this post and have NO idea what I'm talking about, I highly recommend you read this article from TheRoot.com
. You should also check out Chris Rock's hilarious documentary Good Hair,
which, while not an academic study, definitely gives you a stark view into hair politics in African-American communities.[/pullquote]
In fact, I'm embarassed to say that I've said or thought A LOT of what is contained in this video
*hangs head in shame*
But, somehow, over the course of the last year, I began to understand.
I think this new enlightenment resulted in part due to my discovery that I had developed traction alopecia. There's nothing like having your hair dresser point out your "bald spot" to make you rethink your hair styling choices.
Also, I just generally began to grow tired of trying . . . everyday . . . to get my hair to lay a certain way or achieve a certain look. And in my attempts to try and look like this . . .
[caption id="attachment_2176" align="aligncenter" width="189" caption="Source: essence.com"]
. . . I was only increasing my risk of ending up like this . . .
[caption id="attachment_2177" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Source: fashionbombdaily.com"]
So, on December 31, 2011, I made the decision to cut my hair!!!
I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was concerned about how my colleagues would react to my hair. (In fact, one of the first questions my mom asked me when I told her I cut my hair was, "What about your job???" Um, I just cut my hair. It's not like I got a rapper's name tattoed across my forehead. That would be wrong.) But, I have been pleasantly surprised to receive nothing but positive feedback from my co-workers.[pullquote]While the issue of straight or curly hair takes on a much different dimension when viewed through a racial lens, it is worth nothing that the question of curly hair in a professional environment has been an issue for non-African-American women as well. I mean, who can forget when Rep. Alan West (R-FL) criticized DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and, somehow, her curly hair got tangled up in the debate. Thankfully, she came out on top, emerging as a “hair hero” for all of the curly-haired girls of the world.[/pullquote] It actually reminded me of what Chris-Tia Donaldson wrote about in Thank God I'm Natural--The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair. Once she let go of the wigs and went natural, her legal career actually accelerated in part because she abandoned the self-conciousness of trying to conform to what she thought others wanted her to be. Ultimately, though, I agree with Melissa W. who said, as part of the Naturally Professional Series by CurlyNikki.com and Afrobella.com: "I think people do not really care what we look like as long as we are producing quality results . . . . Regardless if you are in twists, locks, braids, braid-outs, twists outs, keep it neat and make sure you stay within the confines of your company’s corporate policies."
At any rate, now that I've done the BC (or "big chop" for those not in the know), I feel absolutely liberated and free! Not that I was so "oppressed" but more like I'm free to discover and appreciate what my natural, unchemically-treated hair can do. More importantly, I've stopped trying to make my hair do something it wasn't created to do. By the way, I'm not one of those "born-again naturals" who decide to throw shade at every relaxed head she sees. Quite the contrary, I'm with Solange Knowles - it's all about finding what works for you and your lifestyle. Ultimately, "good hair" is healthy hair. And in the hands of the right beautician, relaxed hair can be quite healthy. I am just excited about no longer limiting my activities so as not to "mess up" my hair. (So, I will basically have to find a new excuse not to work out.)
Who knows? Maybe I'm just succombing to the latest fad in black hair styling
. At any rate, these days I'm more like this
[caption id="attachment_2225" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Me after the Big Chop"]
Cue the India.Arie
. . . .