Happy to Be Nappy

27 Jul 2005

Most females are preoccupied with their hair—Should I cut it?  Should I colour it?  Should I grow it out?  Whatever the dilemma is, we spend an obscene amount of time trying to make the best possible decision.

I am no exception. I truly believe that my obsession began when I noticed that my hair was different from my classmates. I wished that I had long straight hair that bounced in the air like theirs.  Unfortunately, my hair did not do that. It was always tightly fashioned into tiny braids which did not create the movement that I so desired. I wanted to secretly drink a magic potion that would instantly make my hair long and silky.

Believe me, I am embarrassed to admit that, but it was the truth.

My wish was somewhat granted when I turned 13 and my mother decided that it was time to perm (chemically straighten) my hair.  I was elated!  I couldn’t wait to run my fingers though my hair and not get stuck in my braids.

Just moments after my hair was straightened, I found myself perched in front of a mirror admiring my new ‘do. I couldn’t believe that the process was over and I had manageable hair.  I shook my hair and watched it dance in the air. Yes, I did take the transformation a little too far, but I was happy! Not only did I love the new me, I was complimented by one of the most popular boys in my class. I felt beautiful.

But who would have thought that the one thing that I wanted so badly would have caused me so much pain?

After years of chemically straightening my hair, I noticed that my hair was becoming weak and brittle.  It no longer looked healthy and it was starting to fall out.  It was getting so bad that my hairstylist would continually ask me what I was doing to cause the breakage.  Holding back the tears I would say, “ I’m not doing anything different .”

After months of dealing with the breakage, I knew what I had to do.  I needed to stop torturing my follicles with chemicals and give it some much-needed rest.  I thought of braiding my hair and letting it rejuvenate itself.  I made the final decision when I saw clumps of hair in my hand after I gently ran my fingers through my hair.  I always considered braiding my hair, but after that scary episode, I knew that it was the best possible solution.

The transition from chemically processed hair to chemical-free hair was quite easy at first.  My hair was carefully braided with the aid of extensions, and the maintenance was practically non-existent. I washed it regularly and put products in it to keep my scalp looking healthy.  I felt reborn!  No more chemicals and no more fear of breakage.  The only problem that I had was finding someone to braid my hair at a moments notice.

Braids made me feel and look great!  As my natural hair grew, I felt better and better.  I loved that it was natural and that I could see the kinks and curls in my hair.  I fell in love with the texture. Natural hairstyles were in fashion for so long, I almost felt ashamed for waiting so long.

Even though I was transforming into an all-natural gal, I still held onto my straightened hair. For some reason I wanted it to break naturally instead of me chopping it off. So you could imagine how traumatized I was when I eventually made the appointment to cut off the straightened hair and be fully natural.

It wasn’t something that I wanted to do, but there was no reason for me to hold on to it. I wasn’t going to put chemicals in my hair ever again, so I might as well get rid of it.  So in a blink of an eye, the old me was gone and the new me emerged unscathed. I was a little sad. As I sat in the stylist’s chair, I remembered the rush I used to feel after getting my hair permed.  How straight and nice it looked.  As much as I like the new me, I felt like I was wandering into the unknown. True, I did have natural hair before I was 13 years old, but as a child I could always count on my mom to comb my nappy hair.  Now, I had to learn how to tame my nappy hair.

I was a little reluctant at first to let my Lenny Kravitz-ish afro take centre stage, so I continued to braid my hair. Since you already know that I am a hair-obsessed girl, you know that I had some fun with the braids.  I experimented with every style imaginable. My favourite being funky cornrows.

Having done the braid thing for a while, I felt the need to truly let my natural hair have the spotlight. I was ready.  With the insistence of a friend who twists her hair, I decided that I would twist my hair for a change.  I did it and I liked it. My friends however, loved it!  It looked nice in a ponytail, under a funky hat, and wrapped in a scarf.  I found a million ways to wear my hair.

The best part of this back to basics hair decision is that it seems that most women are adopting this look. In some circles, it is almost impossible to see a sista with straightened hair. Not that there is anything wrong with it!  It is also very cool to see men and women of different races sportin’ their hair in braids, cornrows and dreads.

I do know that if my hair wasn’t damaged that I would still most likely straighten my hair. So, in a weird way, it was a mixed blessing because I love that I was able to return to my roots, so to speak, and discover that I love every single nap and kink on my head.

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