” I would never go natural” were the exact words that rolled off my tongue when my friend Shekenna asked me to go natural with her. I thought to myself she must be crazy. And if thinking it wasn’t enough, I said it! I told her, ” I would never leave my relaxer. Have you lost your mind?”
I had been a part of the perm community for over 24 years. My aunt was a hairstylists, so I grew up in a hair salon. You could find me every Saturday flipping through the Dudley hair books, grabbing towels for customers, and keeping an inventory of all of the hair products. A perm was all I knew. I had no desire to join her on her natural hair journey…well, at least I thought I didn’t.
After Shekenna asked me to join her on her natural hair journey, it seemed like the idea never left my head. I began noticing natural hair ads everywhere. The idea of going natural had started playing over and over in my mind.
I started looking at my edges differently when they curled up in between relaxers. When I was home alone, I would play in the mirror and imagine what I would look like if I had natural hair. I’d make tight ponytails and take pictures just to see if I’d still be cute. Between you and I, my biggest fear was being cute after going natural. Shallow right? Hush.
In my spare time, I’d ask myself a series of questions about the idea of going natural. What would my family say? Would guys still consider me if my hair was kinky? I wonder if my hair would curl up and bounce like the girls in the magazines?
Sometimes I would shake my head to brush off the thoughts of going natural. At other times I would run away with the possibilities of having curls and coils. I would lay around thinking about what my head shape would be like. Did I have a hidden lump under my skull? Would a big chop make my forehead look big? You name it, I thought about it. Those ideas played around in my head like a three-ring circus. Thanks, Shekenna.
It was about three months into my next relaxer when I seriously considered the idea of going natural. To get the best advice I figured I’d talk to the hair guru…my stylist. I’d been going to her for four years, and I trusted her with my hair. Everyone knows that when you find a good beautician, you stick with them like glue. I asked her what she thought about me going natural. I mean, after all, she would be the one doing my hair right? Wrong!
She thought it would be a great idea for me to discover my curls. But in the next breath, she politely told me that I would need to find a new stylist who could manage my hair. I quickly turned around in her chair and shouted out a huge “WHAT?” I was in disbelief. We were girlfriends. We were supposed to stick together; tight like glue.
She told me that there was no way she could do my natural hair because my permed hair was a lot as is. The thing is that I had thick hair and my natural hair would be even more abundant. At that moment, I thought to myself great. If I go natural, then I will lose my stylist. Was I ready to do that? Needless to say, we eventually broke up. I stopped getting perms to see what my true hair texture would look be like.
Counting The Cost
I missed my hairstylist for many reasons. Mainly because I had gone six months without getting a perm and my hair was looking crazy. There was a real distinction between my permed hair and my natural hair. It was evident that I didn’t know what I was doing. A part of me wanted to throw in the towel and forget the idea of going natural. I was doing everything I could to make it through the “transitioning” phase. I used tons of gel to smooth out my kinks. I went to the Dominican salon frequently to get my hair blown out just to achieve that permed look. I got braids on and off, but I was still fed up with my hair.
I finally got to the point of frustration. I knew I couldn’t call Shekenna because I’d have to eat my words, so I called my aunt back home for advice. She listened to me have my little pity party for about five minutes before she told me what to do. She walked me through the process of growing my natural hair and explained to me that at the rate I’d like to see results, the best thing for me to do would be to cut my hair off. Cut my hair off? All of it? Yes ma’am.
The barbershop is usually a place for the boys to hang out, but this particular barbershop had a beauty salon attached to it. I would often walk past the barbershop and see the barbers doing their thing. I was mostly scoping out who, if anyone, was going to cut my hair. I watched their skill sets day in and day out until I finally chose my barber, Rick the Razor.
The first time I took a number and waited; I think I waited too long. I waited long enough for him to call my number and reconsider chopping my hair off that day. As soon as the barber was ready for me, I found an excuse to leave. I told him I would be back but I never returned. The next time I walked into the barbershop, I actually sat in the chair. I knew for sure that this time I was ready. I was wrong. I politely apologized and dashed out the door.
The third time was a charm. By this point, I had talked myself into doing it. I was determined that day to change my life. I woke up early, scrolled through a few natural hair images, and had a pep talk with myself. I had straightened out my hair one last time with a flat iron because I knew this would be it. I pressed it so straight until those metal plates began to sizzle. I didn’t care how crispy my hair was. I knew it was going down today, so it really didn’t matter.
At 12:01 pm on October 21st, 2011, I reentered the barbershop. The barber looked at me in disbelief when I stepped in the door; as if to say not you again. When my number was called, I sat down and secured my hips in the chair. I told myself, “YOU BETTER NOT MOVE”. And I didn’t. Rick asked me,
” What are we doing for you today?”. I hesitated. I don’t think either one of us was ready because we had never gotten this far before. I took a deep breath and instructed him to cut it all off. I put my earphones in my ears and blasted India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” as the electric clippers revved up.
He tilted my head to the right and shaved off the hair on the left side of my head. The moment he did it, I caught the attention of every man and woman in the salon. The guys had their mouths wide open as the women ran to my aid. All of the beauticians asked me what was I doing? They panicked and asked me multiple times if this was what I wanted to do. One stylist even told me that she could fix this. This? Fix it? It was too late. I looked down at the floor where my hair laid. I gave Rick a hard stare and told him to continue to cut it all off. He took his time and sculpted my cut as if I were his masterpiece. He spun me around, stopped, stared, and cut some more until he was satisfied.
I remember when he handed me the mirror as if it were yesterday. I looked at myself from all angles. I felt beautiful. I had a perfectly shaped head that sparkled under the dim lights of the salon. At that moment I realized that my hair was just an accessory to who I was.In no shape or form did it define me. Rick was impressed by his work, and the men in the babershop were too. My new haircut gave me a sense of confidence and purpose. I was proud of my big chop.
I wasn’t sure how I would break the news to my friend Shekenna. I knew eventually I would have to take back my “I would never” and apologize to her about the idea of going natural. It was all good though.I knew the excitement of both of us going through this natural hair journey together would bring a smile to her face.
P.S. Shekenna loved the fact that I went natural. Til this day, she never let’s me live the idea of it down.