Growing up, I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with my self image. I was unnaturally thin, had perfect teeth, and the benefit of a mother who believed in dermatological care at the first sign of puberty. I even won several pageants (not the kind where you have to sell tickets to win but real beauty pageants). My college roommate and one of our friends would eagerly tell you stories of me giving soliloquies about how hard it is being so beautiful. Come to think of it, I was embarrassingly self centered and completely stuck on my looks. Although I would hate for anyone else to describe the young me this way, looking back I was kind of shallow.
As self-confident as I was, I bought into the media’s idea of beauty. Being an African-American woman, I embraced my nappy hair and yearned to wear it as such but was afraid to let my hair down because it would be an afro. Cringe. And, being light-skinned it just didn’t make much sense to walk around nappy-headed.
So, I kept my hair permed, weaved, and wigged. I did just about anything to hide the b’s in my kitchen—for my non African descendant readers b’s or bb’s are the tight curls that plague the back of a black girls neck. Not having a good grade of hair and the kind of hair that grows rather quickly made it quite difficult to keep my coifs straightened. I got tired of it.
Late 1998, one of my best friends went to Jamaica and came back without a relaxer and most of her hair. While there she had some spiritual transition and did the big chop—she was done with the creamy crack. While some of our friends thought she had gone crazy (she is a Tyra Banks pre-weight gain type) I secretly envied her courage to be exactly who God created. A beautiful, fair complexioned black girl with a curly mane.
Getting married made the idea of transitioning to the natural me even more difficult. What man wants to wake up every day to an afro? Such a masculine look I thought. Then, I gained weight which meant I would have to find a way to keep my permed hair from sweating out while I exercised daily. I tried braids but then one braider braided my edges so tight that I lost them when I took the braids out.
I went back to my permed, weaved, and wigged look.
Finally, I decided that I was good enough just as I was created—light skinned and nappy headed. Fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14). So, I made the transition doing my own big chop in February 2011 after abandoning relaxers the previous year.
Now, close to three years in I absolutely have no regrets about the change. Getting rid of the relaxer has been freeing in so many ways. Beyond knowing that I’m pretty (yes, I look good) for the first time in my life I feel sexy and feminine living under the hair that grows from my scalp.
Have you abandoned relaxers? How’d it make you feel?