Gender & Identity, Life

An open letter to my natural hair

My natural hair journey and my voyage to self love.

While growing up, I was appalled by your nature. At the sight of you, I’d quickly plug in my straightener to iron out whichever kinks dared to show their face. Every month and a half I’d sit under my aunties fingers as she’d apply a relaxer or the “creamy crack” to my scalp. Even when it began to burn I’d push myself to sit and take it just a little longer because I knew it would be worth it. Afterward, I’d run my hands through my silky straight strands and bask in its glory. My hands would skip over the scabs and burns on my scalp and my eyes would block out my straggly, dead, split ends because my hair was shiny and straight and that’s all that mattered.

When I moved away from home to go to college and I no longer had my aunt to relax my hair I thought, “What will I do now?” I didn’t trust anyone with my “precious” locks and despite my skill in braids, twists, and ponytails, there was no way I was trusting myself with powerful chemicals. I’d seen the process done and experienced it for years of my life, but it just wasn’t something I could do. As the months went by and I viciously straightened my roots in hope for a miracle, the natural movement began to rise around me.  YouTube gurus emerged with tales of coconut oil, and my friend with the most gorgeous hair I’d ever seen kept encouraging me to go natural.

You, my beautiful hair, had been a major part of my self-confidence for as long as I can remember. I may not have been the skinniest, or the prettiest girl growing up, but I always had great hair. There was no way in hell I was just going to cut off my hair and be…bald. I’d rather be dead.

A year went by of desperate blow drying and straightening when I realized that I was transitioning. I’d wash my hair and get a glimpse of my curl pattern and you were kind of cute. I began to binge watch natural hair gurus like crazy, naptural85, journeytowaistlength, jewejewebee, naturalneiicey, and jaemajette to name a few. I’d look at their routines and copy their techniques and each month I’d chop a little more of the straight ends off. My best friend was my cheerleader. She would send me so much information and then one day she also decided to big chop, and then I had a friend to go through this journey with. My hair definitely looked crazy during this journey, but it wasn’t so bad because I lived in a white town, they barely could tell the difference.

Two years had now passed, and I began to experience another hurdle. With each new growth, I began to love you less. I noticed that your pattern was kinkier than the girls on YouTube and Instagram. You were short and hard to manage. My wash and goes didn’t go as easy as there’s seemed to and braid outs and twists out barely lasted a day before the humidity got to them. And you were costing my college pockets a fortune. But we were too far into this now, so I kept going. All the girls said patience was the key, so I decided to be patient with you and I’m so glad I did.

This has been an almost five-year journey and one of the greatest experiences of my young adult life. My beautiful natural hair, I love you more than words can describe. I no longer groan at the process of taking care of you because it is the most relaxing part of my week. You are my therapy and self-care. Each time another black girl compliments you or asks me my routine I’m filled with glee because one day she will get to feel what I do now.  You are big, defiant, and unruly, a true reflection of me. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of being a queen, but with you, as my crown, I can think no less of myself.