Happy Friday Eve!
First, let me say how much I LOVE that there is a little, black girl, character on
television that is a pretend doctor and has a doctor mom. Even writing that sentence brings a big smile to my face because growing up, I didn’t see cartoon characters like that. Last week, I heard about a Doc McStuffins episode that was aired on Wednesday. On this episode, she had a patient named Curly Q. Curly Q hated her naturally curly hair and Doc McStuffins taught her how important it is to love who you are and find out what style works best for you. Doc McStuffins was right on, and I wish I had a character like her to identify with growing up. The only time I ever remember a cartoon character on TV talking about curly hair was when Francine from Arthur had a “bad hair day”.
In the end, Curly Q embraced her curly hair and found out what worked for her. I feel like that’s a part of the natural hair creed: find what works for you. I don’t know how many times I have told someone to “find the product that works best for you” or “find the style that fits you”, or my favorite “you just have to play with your hair and find out what works”. We say these things because no two heads are alike, and no two people are the same. The process seems like a lot, but it can be fun, and finding what works for you is liberating.
After hearing about the episode, I started to think about my natural hair journey. Like most little black girls, my parents would put those big “bo-bos” and barrettes in my hair. Once I got a little older, I wanted to wear my hair down. The first time I really remember wearing my hair down I was around 8 years old. I was so excited. My mom had washed, blow dried, pressed, and curled my hair. Afterwards, I looked in the mirror and couldn’t help touching my long, pretty, hair. We were headed to a baby shower and I still remember the windows being down and my hair blowing in the wind. Once we got there, people kept complementing me on my hair and I felt good! There was a girl there a little older than me and her hair was straight too. I remember feeling a sense of pride thinking our hair looked alike. I was so excited to finally wear my hair down, I jumped in every picture that was taken that day. Once the pictures were developed, and she gave them to my mom, I couldn’t wait to see them. When I finally saw the pictures I was mortified. My hair swelled at least 5 inches wide and it looked like I had been electrocuted. I couldn’t believe my mom let me walk around like that. And I couldn’t believe all those people told me my hair was cute! My mom explained to me that my hair was “thick” and it would “sweat out”, that’s why it ended up being so big. From that day, I started hating my hair.
For years after that I wore nothing but ponytails and braids. The only time I would wear my hair down is on special occasions and even then, it was in a ponytail by the end of the day. Eventually, my grandma learned to tackle my hair and would straighten it. After that, my dad found a good stylist to straighten my hair when we spent summers in California. But, when I came back to Michigan my hair was in a ponytail or braids. I could never wear my hair down and be rough little girl that I was. It would never work. Finally, when my mom and I had enough, she put a relaxer in my hair. It burned like heck but I was happy to be able to wear my hair down all the time.
Wearing a relaxer gave me a whole new identity. I felt like I could do anything and everything. I was able to play sports, join the band, do plays with those hot lights, drive a car with no AC, go to parties, get caught in the rain, and so much more. It didn’t matter because I had straight hair all the time. I eventually starting experimenting and adding color. First a reddish tint, and then light brown (aka I got the whitest blonde I could find and put it in my black hair until it turned orange). I grew to love my hair. I would cut it often, try new styles, and even learned to sew in my own tracks. What I didn’t realize was, my hair was breaking of and super unhealthy, despite my straight texture.
Then one fateful night, I put dye in my hair within a week of getting a relaxer. I can still see the chucks of orange hair in my hands. My line sister was with me and she looked horrified. Clump, after clump, after clump fell into my hands and into the sink. I felt like Annie Mae when she went to that beauty shop, only I had did this to myself. There were bald spots all over my head and I could feel my scalp. I played it off for a few days, but eventually I had to chop the back of my hair off. It was that incident that secured my spot as a “natural”.
From the moment I learned what a “twist out” was I got hooked. First I felt self-conscious because not only was my hair short, but it super curly (I felt like it was “nappy” but I have sense tried to remove that word from my vocabulary). I sported a fro-hawk as a transitional style for a while. When my hair got a little longer I started to play with different products and eventually found out what worked for me. My natural hair process is still going on, and every other month I flirt with the idea of getting a perm. But then, someone tells me they love my hair and I’m sold all over again.
Check out the episode below, and another one of my favorite “natural hair” videos.
Start at around 5:42-8:58. Unless you like Doc…no judgement here!