A couple months ago I did one of the bravest things I’ve ever done — I shaved off all my hair. I called the woman who had been lovingly wrestling with my damaged, broken tresses and asked her to cut off all her hard work. She agreed slowly in an incredulous voice that I tried to ignore.
One night I was Pinteresting when I came across a natural hair website called Black Girls with Long Hair . As a black [singlepic id=683 w=320 h=240 float=left]girl with short, relaxed hair, and a reformed weave-o-holic, the name annoyed me. Where was the love for black girls with short hair outside of Halle Berry? I clicked the pin and was directed to a beautiful girl with vivacious coils and a smooth, sparkly grin. Her hair was held high on her head with a beautiful colored scarf: tiny ringlets poking out from underneath. She had beautiful, even skin and her hair was, as promised, very long. My hair didn’t brush my shoulders. I was instantly jealous.
For a short time I clicked through profiles of black and biracial girls who were so-called “naturals.” By naturals I mean they were doing something American society believes to be revolutionary; they were letting their hair grow out while not altering its natural texture. No relaxers, no perms, no flat irons or pressing combs, just natural, kinky, coarse, curly, thick, coily, beautiful hair.
I was turned off right away from these natural girls – their wild hair rubbing itself in my face. Yet, I wondered what it would be like if I let my relaxer grow out and set my rough, nappy hair free. I had never been that exposed or pure since I was kid. I was never completely exposed to society. I became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of natural hair and I quickly closed the tab. I pushed the girls with the honest confidence to the back of my brain.
Before I did my “big chop,” I always had this very creepy impulse to make my hair something, anything, that it wasn’t. I wanted it straight and long and shiny. I wanted to be beautiful in the same way the Victoria’s Secret models were with glossy, luxurious “white girl hair.” After a time, I found that beauty inside a boxed relaxer. I wanted a lot of things I didn’t really have. I wanted silky, straight hair, rounder hips and a smaller waist. Unfortunately only of one those things was readily available and I plunged in head first.
The days that followed my first conscious exposure to hair freedom were a noisy internal blur of ridicule with a dash of insecurity. The seed had been planted and I didn’t last a week until I was converted to the “natural” side. I couldn’t get the idea that beauty in Black culture isn’t reduced to straight, sleek edges and bouncy, long kink-free tresses out of my mind. The years I spent flattening my hair between 400 degree ceramic plates and slathering it with chemicals were all wasted in ugly hope.
Shaving my hair didn’t result in an overnight confidence boost, but it did free me from the self-hatred that was feeding on my own insecurities. Without my hair I was able to put value into the real parts of myself that actually matter. My short crop hasn’t made me skinnier or smarter, but it has made me relinquish my unfair judgements of alternative beauty in the world and of myself. For that I have gained more true beauty in my heart than anyone could ever obtain on the outside.