A little while ago, I got into a discussion about how natural the natural hair movement truly is. Now, before I get dragged let me just say this is not a criticism of any kind, but just a few reflections on my own natural hair journey and some of the
not so nice things I have learnt about myself and my hair along the way.
I first went natural-ish in 2009, after a terrible experience with a blonde hair dye on relaxed hair (rookie mistake). I decided to wait a few weeks for some new growth then chop all my relaxed ends off and get back on the creamy crack. It wasn’t until 2012 that I seriously considered going natural and I transitioned for about a year and a half, then did my big chop around early 2014. Based on those rough dates, I’ve been relaxer-free for about four years now.
My hair is what they call hard maShona type. It’s 4c, super coily, dry and brittle. It’s very painful to work with and my scalp is very easily irritated. Because of all that, I’ve always chosen wigs as my go-to protective style. The rest of the time, my hair is under a sew-in, or in braids and for maybe one or two months out of a year, my natural hair is ‘out’.When I did have it out in the past, it was typically blown out, or stretched somehow using methods like African threading, aka mabhanzi or a twist out. Earlier this year, I noticed that I very rarely have my hair in its purely natural, unstretched, unmanipulated state because
the knots would probably do more harm than good, but frankly, I don’t like how my hair looks when it’s just mufushwa not stretched out. There, I said it.
I know I’m not alone on this. Shrinkage is a good excuse, but the truth is my hair was never meant to hang. It was always meant to coil up and out, never down and flowing.There is the tangling and the knots to contend with constantly, but if I am going to embrace my natural hair in its intended natural state, I’ve got to see it more often. It has to be more than than just a few weeks in a year, otherwise the long, hanging, straight concept will forever be embedded in my mind and I will always expect even my defiant, coily, stand-up hair to fall to the same standard.
I know what I have to do, but I’m just not there yet. Every protective style, be it a wig or braids does just that; it hangs. I’ve even come to shy away from a simple puff (my puff is huge btw) when I go to work because it’s just ‘too much’ for a professional setting, which begs the question; where is a combed out, fluffed out Afro appropriate?
It’s not all bad though, I’ve made a lot of positive steps too. This year I have seen my hair out for longer than I ever have in previous years and that is definitely helping me to understand what my hair likes, what works and what does not in terms of styles, products and how I care for it in general. I feel more confident without extensions and don’t immediately think to wear a weave or a wig for special occasions, my hair is beautiful and versatile, just as it is. I’m back on the weave train this weekend, but it’s nice to know that what’s underneath is just as lovely and I’m not hiding it, just protecting it for a while.