by Aaliyah Roulhac
Growing up I was socially conditioned to view beauty as what I saw in the magazines or on television- like most people. I believed that being beautiful meant having long, straight hair, or straight, white teeth or a flat stomach and big breasts. My mother and other family members made it a point to always buy me black barbie dolls so that I’d be playing with figures that reminded me of myself. While this was a great gesture, it still didn’t change the way I felt about a certain area of my appearance- my hair.
When I was a little girl I viewed my natural hair in a way that was a LOT different than how I view it today. My unprocessed mane was rough and coiled when wet, soaked up water like a sponge, was anything but a pleasure to comb through, and- what annoyed me the most- was incredibly puffy. As a child, I wanted that hair that my Latina friends had- the stuff that waved up when wet and flowed down my back when dry. Unfortunately for me (as I naively thought) this was not the hair that I had inherited.
I lived for the days when my aunt, who has been my beautician my entire life, would press out (using a curling iron) my hair on special occasions. My cousins and I were not allowed to get perms until my aunt felt that we were of age, so before that time, press and curls were my only chance to be beautiful like those girls on television.
When I was old enough to get my first perm, I was ecstatic! Gone was the ever-present corn rows or afro-puff ponytail styles that I alternated with frequently and now I had silky, straight hair.
For a while I was on cloud nine and before I knew it, I was getting touch ups and doobies- a style that involves a wash, condition, roller set and an hour-long sit under the piping hot dryer- on a regular basis.
That went well for a while until my hair began to shed and break off in large amounts when ever I would forget to reprocess my hair. One thing that I learned about putting chemicals in your hair, is the damage that it does once you stop putting chemicals in your hair. The purpose of a perm, for most black people that is, is to chemically break down your hair’s structure so that it can be manipulated into a state that may be easier to manage. When I learned that sodium hydroxide, a chemical that has so many industrial uses and is also used to unclog drains, can be found in many hair relaxers that scared me and made me want to step away from the chemicals. I no longer wanted to risk the health of my hair, and potentially myself, to be what some might consider beautiful. I no longer wanted to break down any part of my own structure to be easier to manage.
I often hear some women who still get their hair processed, talk down on this current trend of natural hair, as if it is something wrong.
“Now all of a sudden everybody wants to be natural.” “Oh now everybody thinks it’s cute to get an afro.” Sometimes I even hear “she should not have gone natural, that look is not for her.”
Statements like the latter really throw me off because how can wearing your hair in it’s natural state, in a form that you have been blessed with, not be for you? It just doesn’t get any more custom than that. While some people may find this piece to be irrelevant and feel like “it’s just hair”, I strongly disagree.
While to you it may be just hair, to me and many others it was a deciding factor of whether we chose to accept ourselves or not. For me, going natural meant that I finally accepted my full natural self as someone who was beautiful and was good enough. No longer do I hide behind weaves, or perms, or hot combs to feel temporarily pretty. I am not by any means saying that if one wears these styles that they are hiding, because one of the beautiful things of being a woman of color is the versatility that our hair allows.
I still wear weaves when I feel like it, but I also realize that I am the same person, who has the same worth once I remove those tracks. If you are that girl, who is so afraid to rock her own hair, then this post is for you. You are beautiful beyond measure and no piece of make up, item of jewelry, perm, or bundle will make you any better than what you created you to be. Going natural is way more than a trend of a hair style- it is a trend of a new lifestyle, a trend of self-acceptance and a trend of self-love.