Photographed by Lani Trock.
Last summer, natural coiffs were seen on women everywhere. From Solange to the girl next door, everyone could lay claim to wearing their natural hair. It was a club I hadn’t been a member of for 22 years, and when I opted in, it felt good. But, deep down the decision was driving me insane.
I’ve always straightened my kinky hair with chemicals. Every six to eight weeks, I would unapologetically transform my Z-shaped curls into bone-straight strands. I thought nothing of this ritual until I took a trip to Carol’s Daughter’s Mirror Salon in Harlem. After a quick consultation, the hairstylist asked if I’d ever considered embracing my natural texture. First thought: Heck, no! But, she insisted it would be healthier and even offered complimentary hair treatments if I documented my transition. “Besides,” she said, “you can still have straight hair without the harsh chemicals.” How could I refuse?
So, I started the process — which really meant that I stopped relaxing. I was the last member of my sorority GroupMe to join #TeamNatural, and when I made the announcement, my notifications were buzzing with red hearts and supportive messages. Saying I was no longer chemically treating my hair made me feel like I was joining a squad I felt entitled to, a crew I embraced but felt so distant from for far too long. I dove into watching YouTube videos for natural sistas, and I became obsessed with touching my three inches of new growth. I morphed into a hair-care product junkie overnight. My naturalpalooza world was set ablaze.
Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
However, slowly but surely, small tasks turned into big ordeals. For instance, washing my hair was the ultimate chore. What would normally take 45 minutes was now a two-hour session.
Then there was the judgment from the natural-hair community. “Oh you’re a straight natural,” they quipped. “Just wear it curly or wear a braid out. Why be natural and still straighten your hair?” And, I could never do enough for my newly brittle hair because there was always some new home remedy that would fill-in-the-blank my hair better. I couldn’t keep up with all the organic products, and baking soda rinses made me gag!
I was overwhelmed, and I wanted out, but stuck with it until the end of the summer. Five months were enough. Right before Labor Day, I relaxed my tresses and I was finally free. Now to be clear, I don’t subscribe to the idea that straight hair is the only kind of beautiful. But, I hate giving extra time and energy to look beautiful, only to be uncertain about whether my hard work will pay off. And, straightening kinky hair in the thick of the summer heat is not a game I wanted to play.
My conclusion: Wearing natural hair is beautiful, just not for me. I’m still gorgeous with or without my curls, so why deny myself what makes me happy? And frankly, why is it that others approve of me eating foods with a laundry list of preservatives, but as soon as I chemically treat my hair, it’s a massive issue? Everyone wasn’t accepting of my decision, but in all honestly, I haven’t gone back to the “dark side”, I simply realized just because something is ubiquitous, doesn’t mean it's for me. And, there’s nothing unnatural about that.
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