Then & Now…Changes
So, yeah. I actually had relaxers once. I grew up (literally) in my grandmother’s beauty salon. She didn’t do relaxers, but she did a LOT of coloring, straightening, press & curls…I loved my Shirley Temple curls. Easter Sunday, I was fly.
I never disliked my natural hair. I was constantly told in various settings (school, work, etc) that natural hair (and let’s be real, we’re talking about NAPPY hair,) just wasn’t going to be popular, or this man liked it less than my long straight tresses, or this job really liked to promote a corporate code of dress. I started to get sick of it around 2003, and I think I needed to get away from my marriage at the time to feel completely good about the transition. The black and white pic above is shortly after I’d finally finished gradually cutting the relaxer out. Talk about scared at the time!
I hear so many of the same sentiments I remember saying to myself at the time: am I going to be “as” pretty, will I know what to do with it, will my head be humongous, etc, etc…but in the end, it just didn’t matter. When it was all said and done, if someone thought I was less attractive with natural hair, basically, YOU just got less attractive to ME. If a job thought my hair was inappropriate, I reconsidered my position (or decided to assert my absolute RIGHT to do what I want with my hair and still maintain a professional appearance. PLUS, my hair has NOTHING to do with my ability to do a job). And finally, I started to really learn how beautiful, how fly, how versatile, and how freeing natural hair is…and I just could never go back, I think. It’s what works for ME. Yet that does not mean it is what should work for everyone, nor does my having natural hair mean I judge those who do not.
Yes, we need to be proud of who we are. We need to know who we are, and where we come from. We certainly need to never internalize the racial oppression that exists to such a degree that we seek to emulate the appearance of another race in a bid for acceptance. I just don’t think these points are the basis for why ALL sisters rock a relaxer or straight hair. I think some are simply more comfortable, find themselves more beautiful, have decided a certain life path where they do not feel they CAN assert their right to do as they choose in a professional setting (and yes, that’s a reality even if it DOES very much need to change!). Is that comfort or self-assessment perhaps based on some of what we’ve internalized? I’m sure sometimes that’s the case.
The point? I CAN’T JUDGE YOU for the choices you make about YOU. All I can do is DO ME, and hope that the love and appreciation I show towards my sisters for their beauty communicates a simple thought: all I can do is show you who I am. I would rather inspire you than to tear you down. Who am I to knock your journey? We are sisters, and mirrors of one another; we must love each other in a world that often refuses to love us for just being who we are.