Nearly a year and half ago, my natural hair journey began. As life goes, the plan to go natural was unexpected and was not part of my immediate plan. I was in the company of a natural beauty and could not keep my eyes off of her lovely locks. They were gorgeous and flowed unlike any I’d seen before. I asked the name of her stylist and she graciously shared.
Not long after, I sat eagerly for a natural hair consultation with Rashida aka ShidaNatural at Kinhairitage Salon. Never before had any stylist take one hour and forty-five minutes to discuss my personal hair regime. During my session with Rashida, I learned more about hair care than I’ve learned in my lifetime. Cool! Up to this point and before going natural, I was ignorant to the world of natural hair.
When I saw a woman sporting natural hair, I had no idea that their decision to go natural was just as conscious as my decision to use chemicals on my hair. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. I wasn’t totally naïve and understood that the choice to wear dreads (dreadlocks) is a conscious decision. But I’m just talking about the typical (if there is such), afro, twists and what I perceived to be textured styles.
Since I started this journey I’ve learned so much and would like to share 10 lessons that I’ve learned.
1. I learned to appreciate the natural beauty in everything, not just hair. While shopping during the holiday season, I observed a handsome elderly man, who had to be at least 80. I took note of his skin–flawless, smooth, with a rich chocolate tone. I longed for my camera to photograph him. His face wore wrinkles, but I saw beauty in them. Immediate below his aging brown eyes were a thick and even series of wrinkles. They reminded me of the ripples in a body of water that flows after it is disturbed by a small stone. “Awesome!” I thought. I really wanted to take his picture. Later I’m going to invest in a better camera and I am going to take it every place I go.
2. Transitioning from chemically treated hair is a journey! The process is called a journey for a reason. Imagine yourself taking a long road trip across the country. You would use a map for the journey; however, you experience many uncertainties along the way. Wrong turns, flat tires, over heated engines, and a sudden desire to turn back. Duh Tanya! That’s why it’s called a journey. I‘ve experienced all of those and then some. At the end of a journey, to which I have not yet arrived, you would probably experience a rewarding feeling of accomplishment. Pictures, videos, and long-lasting memories capture the journey. The lessons will last a lifetime. So will the memories of my journey.
3. Appreciate the unpredictability of natural hair and the unpredictability in life. My hair has a mind of its own. I can twist it the same every night, yet in the morning, the curls move in whatever direction they decide to go. I am a planner and appreciate an organized and chaos free life. However, in life, we cannot predict or control everything, so I am learning to have fun with it. When I’m driving my car and a slow-moving car gets ahead of me, I now appreciate the fact that the car is there for a reason. Perhaps it is not meant for me to be further along down the road. Especially when I’m in a hurry… slow down. Like in meditation inhale, hold, and slowly exhale. The slow-moving vehicle in front of me could be saving my life. I get it!
4. I’ve learned to read labels; not just hair care products, but food labels, cleaning products, clothing that I buy, and more. Chemicals are not friendly to my hair. Neither are they any good for my body, my home, or the environment. I am eating cleaner than ever, but still have ways to go. Eating clean basically means avoiding processed foods. I’m working on purchasing chemical free house hold cleaning products, which is a challenge. Bleach is my go to for everything. I love its clean fresh scent and its ability to effectively disinfect. However, it’s so bad for the environment so I’m looking for an effective alternative. If you have suggestions, please share.
5. I’ve learned to give enormous thanks to my mom for the childhood lessons on gardening. At home, we grew collard greens, hot peppers, green peppers, corn, okra, tomatoes, green beans, cabbage, and a few other items. I enjoyed helping my mom prep the soil, plant the seeds, keep up the garden, pick the foods, cook it, and finally freeze it for later. I never thought 30 years later, I would be planning my garden. I’ve convinced hubby to trade-off a small section of his beautifully landscaped yard for a gardening space. I’m siked! I’d better make sure to growing something that he loves because he is serious about his plush, manicured, weed –free lawn.
6. I’ve learned that YouTube is useful for more than watching comical videos. I never imagined that I would be making products for my hair. Thank you Naptural85! This is huge surprise. Thanks to YouTube and a huge community of naturals who share their knowledge with viewers. I’ve learned to make products for my hair and ways to maintain healthy hair. It’s actually fun and my hair is thriving! I’ve also learned that there is virtually a YouTube video out there to show you how to do just about anything that you want to learn.
7. I’ve learned that there is a large community of Caucasian men who are very much attracted to sistas with natural hair. Contrary to inaccurate media reports, there is a population of Caucasian men who are fascinated, attracted to, and are turned on by women who wear their hair natural. They are not all attracted to fair skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. I am no longer amazed by the reactions, but I was initially surprised at the responses.
One day while in a hurry and buzzing through the grocery store, I almost ran over this tall, pepper haired and distinguished Italian “looking” male. Inches from his chest, I looked up and apologized prophetically. He greeted with me with a huge warm smile, and said, “Oh no, it’s truly my pleasure!” Lol! He was so damn smooth, I was actually a tad bit embarrassed. I’ve had a few of these experiences and I will argue that it is definitely my hair. Why? Because when my hair was permed, I rarely received the warm and suave greetings, intense stares, and comments that I receive now. Lol! It’s an observation… I’m just saying.
8. My journey of transitioning from chemically treated to natural has taken me from feeling incredibly confident to insecure and uncertain. I’ll explain. Before transitioning, I was comfortable with my desired hair style and never gave second thought to what others thought. At the start of my natural journey, I was very uncertain if my hair was “right,” and how other naturals viewed it. Sounds crazy right? I wondered if my hair was viewed as a specimen that needed intervention. Were other naturals laughing at me? Did they see what I was trying to accomplish, but felt that I was falling short? Those were my ridiculous, insecure, and unfounded fears.
I’ve received nothing but support from the natural hair community. I no longer have these fears and they should not have existed from the start. But I know that fear is a natural part of human behavior. I have and continue to receive compliments from all sorts of folks. What surprised me most? Women have asked me for advice! I am NOT an expert. I just work hard to learn how to work with my God-given grade of hair and to find a regime that is working for me.
9. I’ve learned to appreciate my natural hair and to stop wondering and wishing why I didn’t inherit my dad’s hair. My hard-working dad was West Indian and Portuguese. His hair was fine and straight. He could not have worn an afro if his life depended on it.
As a little girl, I would sit on his lap and gently rub my hands over his head, enjoying the feel of his soft, smooth hair. He seemed to enjoy it as well. I admired the fineness and lack of frizz without the use of any products. I wondered daily, why I needed heat and grease to lay my hair down and he didn’t. At that time, I believed that he had “good hair.” When I met his mother, I wondered even more, what the heck happened to my hair? His genetics are strong; both my brother, my nephew, and I inherited every other physical characteristic of his, except for his hair. We got his physique, his lanky arms, thin legs, and even his veiny long skinny toes—in a headless line up, you know we are family. But not his hair—I’m over it.
10. Finally I’ve learned to appreciate my natural unaltered God-given hair. I realize that my hair is healthier without the chemical. Some hair textures can withstand the chemical process, but mine cannot. For years, I allowed my hair to be permed. After a fresh perm, I committed to a bi-weekly wash, condition, and blow out or a wrap. Slowly but surely, I’d slack off resulting in the predictable breakage.
I now understand that perms are not for everyone. I also under that natural is not for everyone. To each its own and just because I’ve transitioned, I don’t expect or persuade others to do so. If you ask me about or tell me that you’re thinking about going natural, I will share what I know, but I won’t tell you that you NEED to do it. Nor do I judge anyone who chose chemicals. I admire all healthy and well-groomed hair.
- Natural Chica: How Mae’s Public Natural Hair Transition Inspires and Helps Women With Their Journey (grindandthrive.com)
- Natural Hair: Reviewing 2011:: Pictures (enjoyingthejourneys.com)