It seems every time you read a post about a black woman “going natural” after years of relaxing her hair, the writing is normally a glowing, OMG-this-is-the-best-decision-ever, wish-I-woulda-done-it-sooner review.
Well, it’s been almost 11 months since I decided to stop getting relaxers in January and let me speak for all of those who agree and say: THIS. SUCKS.
If I didn’t have this obsessive need to finish what I’ve started and an inability to let things like time, energy and money go to waste without getting something out it (both a virtue and a vice), then I would get a relaxer tonight.
To be fair, this hellish transition is probably made all the worse because I refused to do the Big Chop and instead opted to grow my relaxer out and trim the ends gradually.
I don’t regret that choice. I will relax my hair again before I’d ever consider putting the scissors to the better portion of my tresses. Short hair is not for me and promises that “it will grow back” from anyone other than GOD himself go in one ear and out the other!
Full disclosure: my reasons were purely vain when I decided to go relaxer-free. (I hate saying “natural” because many “natural” girls are anything but. Listen, if you have weave in your hair or if your hair is colored or altered in any way un-naturally then you are not “natural”, but I digress…).
After Chris Rock released “Good Hair”, it seemed everyone started talking about going perm-free. Ignoring the hype, I was still adamantly against it for a solid two years: Why would I stop relaxing my hair? I thought. My hair will be swinging from the root in my casket. I had heard all of the horror stories about relaxers from the ridiculous “they melt your brain OMG!” to the valid “you don’t have any style versatility”. I’d heard some reasons such as people wanting to buck against the trend and reject the Eurocentric standard of beauty (because straight hair is a “Whites only” thing? O_O). But it was my hair stylist who convinced me with these words: “If you stop getting relaxers, your hair will grow.” She promised I could still wear my hair bone straight and, though the process would take longer, I could do it without having to cut my hair.
What she neglected to tell me is that most hair salons (herself included) charge extra to style natural hair – even if you only have a little bit of new growth. That’s ludicrous! The amount of time and energy to get my hair washed, dried and straightened is the same, so why am I paying extra just because I don’t have a relaxer?
Something else to consider when deciding to quit relaxers is exercise.
This black girl runs. Every morning. And no matter what I do, my roots get sweated out. This used to be no problem when I had a relaxer. I would leave my wrapped hair tied in a scarf, blowdry it while paying particular attention to the middle, then take off the scarf and comb my hair down. Now? My roots are SO puffy it is virtually impossible to get them dry that way and if it does get dry, it is STILL thick and poofy.
But keeping my ever-growing, unrelaxed roots straight when working out every day is a losing battle.
So I ask myself, poufy stomach or poufy hair? Poufy hair.
But, with a a relaxer, I was able to easily have flat abs and flat hair.
The other day, these persistent thoughts led to me staring into the mirror, frustrated with my hair and asking myself what was stopping me from booking a relaxer hair appointment with my nearest salon.
Why am I doing this? I asked myself.
For my hair to grow longer, I reminded myself.
But who can tell how long my hair is if it poufy every day? I mused.
I have found some different style alternatives, some I’d never considered before going relaxer-free:
Headband <— Easy
Weave <—- CRAZY expensive
Hat <—All tied up
Wild and crazy <—This is the most fun
Part of me wants to finish this thing out just to see what happens. I’ve gotten this far and if I turn back now, I will never go down this road again.
I probably just need to quit crying and tough it out…if only to say I did it. I can always go back to a relaxer after this process is over.
I hope I can at least tell other women with a similar grade and length of hair as mine who are active and considering quitting relaxers for vanity’s purposes to first consider, consider, consider!…and then consider some more! Now, if you want to stop getting relaxers because you have damaged hair, hate wearing your hair straight, haven’t broken a sweat in a decade, don’t mind shelling out a small fortune at the salon, are willing to chop off your hair, are being overcome by curiosity, or just want to get back to your “African roots” then by all means go for it.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re like me and just want your hair to get to its fullest potential length-wise then I’m not saying you shouldn’t go for it. I just want you to know what you’re getting yourself into.
It’s not always easy. It’s not always fun. It will not transition overnight. You won’t know what to do with your hair some days. You’re going to feel like crying and you may even find yourself roaming in the boxed relaxer section of your local Walmart even though you don’t know the first thing about putting a relaxer in your own head. You’ll think to yourself it’s got to be easier than THIS.
And maybe you won’t. Maybe you will join the legions of women who are apparently loving the process and haven’t looked back. I am not that woman. I look back often.
This transition is not for everyone. The verdict is still out if it’s for me.
I’ll keep you posted.