I started chemically straightening my hair in 5th grade. I can remember begging my mom to do it. I grew up in the white suburbs outside of Atlanta, and I really wanted to my hair to hang like everyone else.
I wanted that pony tail that blew in the wind.
Up until that point, I wore my hair in braids everyday except for special occasions when my mom would flat iron my hair.
It took me years to get my hair to look just the way I wanted. Many women who relax their hair complain that the chemicals give them paper thin hair. My mane is super thick so the thinning actually took out just the right amount of volume.
During college, I toyed with the idea of cutting my hair off and wearing it curly several times. But the problem was that I wasn't sure what to do with it after I cut it, so it just didn't seem like a feasible option for me. One night during my senior year, I mentioned wanting to cut my hair off while I was out on a date. My date told me that I needed to do it and that I had till the end of the week to make it happen. I couldn't do it so I never returned any of his phone calls.
My sister actually ended up telling me about the Kinky Curl product line a few months after I gave birth to our oldest son. She was using them, and her hair looked nice so I decided to give it a go (neither of us actually use those hair products anymore). So from that point on I stopped relaxing my hair.
About a year later, when I was seriously pregnant with our second son, I decided to chop off all my straightened ends. In the natural hair community, we call this a big chop-- and it was a HUGE chop. Let me just give you a little piece of advice. NEVER cut your hair super short when you're pregnant.
It was not cute. I don't have the kind of face you need to rock a short style and being 6 months pregnant did not help matters. Plus, I wasn't quite sure how to style it, so it took me a long while to figure out how to make it look decent.
Going natural for me wasn't about making a statement about my heritage or cultural identity. I didn't do it to feel more empowered as a black woman. I did it because it seemed more practical and less expensive than continuing to relax my hair every few months.
I was also just plain curious.
It had been years since I'd seen my curls, and I'd always been under the impression that my hair was going to be crazy and unmanageable if I kept it curly. That wasn't the case.
For some reason, I felt particularly inspired one night and with my husband's encouragement, I cut it all off. I'm a cautious person, so cutting my hair was a big deal. Of all the nights I could've chosen to do it, I cut it the night before we were going to Mississippi for my husband's cousin's wedding.
Not only would I be the only black girl at the wedding, I was rockin' a little 80's she-mullet fro and a ginormous baby belly -- gotta love awkward social situations.
No one wanted to be rude, so no one mentioned it.
Little did I know that there was a huge natural hair movement taking place within the black community. Youtube is filled with curly haired girls who happily told me how to take care of my newly acquired curls. My very favorite vlogger is
. Check out her youtube channels for hair, fashion, beauty and lifestyle tips. I also frequented
for hair inspiration and tips. These women kept me going when I wanted to throw in the towel.
Though it was a bit dramatic, I don't regret my decision to big chop at all. I will admit that in the beginning I felt pretty unattractive.
My new look took a lot of getting used to, but as my hair grew out I learned to do more with it.
Straight hair made me look more traditionally feminine and put together. For me, the curly hair is more wild, untamed, and edgy.
I've already stated I didn't set out on this journey with the expectation of being empowered in any way, but I was in the sense that I became more comfortable in my own skin. I was born with this hair, and learning how to take care of it feels like learning to be more of who I was created to be.
It has been a blast and with three boys three years old and under, I honestly don't spend as much time as I'd like to on my hair. I'm still learning how to take care of it. Just like everyone else, some days I'm in love with it, and some days I could do without it.