I decided to go natural about three years ago. It was decision I made after much deliberation. Before that I’ve been straightening or “perming” my hair since the age of 11 or 12, I can’t really remember. I just remember it was around the same time I started wearing a training bra. The training bra of course meant that I was now almost a woman, well at least according to my mom, who immediately made an appointment at her cousin’s hair salon to permanently get rid of my curls and thus make her life much easier.I was ecstatic. I could finally wear my hair like all my white friends and like the girls I saw on American tv shows growing up. I was finally going to have “good hair”. Little did I know what all it would entail. Nobody prepared me for this ish. A comfortable sleep was a thing of the past with those big ass rollers in my hair almost every night. Then there was the spontaneous swimming parties I could no longer attend if they were around Salon day. There was also no more running in the rain.
Water automatically became my kryptonite, my number one enemy, the one thing that could turn my hair from salon perfection to the licked kitten look in less than 3 seconds. And then there was of course the weekly three-hour visits to the salon for touch ups, which meant washing, sitting under a hot hair dryer, blowdrying, etc. It was just torture. I got tired of it all and so about 3 years ago (after 26 years of wearing my hair straight) I started the slow and frustrating process of transitioning to natural hair. This to much protest from my mom and close friends, who just didn’t understand why I would do this to myself. You see, where I’m from natural hair was and sometimes still is considered ugly. I grew up thinking that my own hair was just not acceptable, much like weaves, fake braids and wigs, which were all definite No No’s.
My mom thankfully has finally accepted my new hair after a year or so but some of my friends still have trouble with it and still ask me why I don’t go back to straightened or like I call it chemically treated hair. Thankfully natural beauty became quite the trend and is thus more accepted today.
In those first few weeks of transitioning followed by all natural hair I spent days watching Youtube videos on two-strand twisting, flat braiding and bantu knotting. WTF? I thought natural hair was supposed to be easier. Hundreds of dollars in products later and countless frustrating hours in front of the mirror trying to make my curls “behave” it was time to take this hair journey a bit further.
I decided to do something strange, something crazy, something so unlike me and shocking, something I never dared to do before. While in Colombia I chopped off my hair and went with a shorter do. Say whaaaaaatttt!!!?!! Yes, I did. I can tell you I felt liberated. No more hair drama. Woohoo! I did a little happy dance and then realized I had my hair cut by someone who had no f-ing clue how to cut or style natural hair.
I should have known. In my month in Bogotá I had seen exactly 22 black persons. The dude at the hotel we stayed at assured me that he was very familiar with my type of hair. Once he made the first cut (you know there’s no turning back at this point) he subtly mentioned that he actually never went to hairdressing school but had a “natural knack” for it. Not even then did I worry though. I have a very naive and unrealistic trust in my fellow humans. Besides I had showed him a picture of what I wanted. Surely he knew how to do what was required. Needless to say the results were nothing like in the picture but I was still content with what I saw in the salon mirror.
Then came day two. The morning after was complete horror. By now I have slept in my new do, all the products have stopped having their effect and I attempted fruitlessly to style my hair on my own. From then on my Panama hat became my best friend, my hair confidant. We became inseparable until my return home where I immediately sought the expertise of my hair dresser friend Miguel. After much scolding he went to work to rectify the horror on top of my head until I could finally present myself in public again.
But my short hair happiness was well, for lack of a better word…..short. The fluffy monster started growing and growing to the point where it became a complete f-ed up fro. At this point I began to resemble Umfufu, the black bitch on a zebra Eddy Murphy referred to in his standup comedy special.
I started debating whether to do faux locs to give my hair time to grow, I even posted a “Help Me” message on Facebook where persons could comment if fake braids was the way to go or not. Privately friends were giving their opinions as well. I realized I wasn’t contemplating letting my hair grow back for me but for my honky husband who still favored long hair. But he was not the one walking about with something resembling road kill on his head, now was he? Besides, shorter hair was just easier. In the little time I was wearing my hair short I grew to really love it.
Friends of mine referred me to Addicted, a salon here on the island owned by hairdresser Rachel. She is originally from Guyana, had studied hair dressing in New York and has over 20 years of experience in the business, of which some were spent perfecting the art of natural hair. I fell in love with Rachel and her salon, a trendy little place in the heart of Philipsburg.
I explained to her what I wanted and showed her the tons of photos I downloaded from Pinterest. By photo number 2 she already knew what I wanted and more importantly what my hair needed. Big Chop number 2 happened in exactly 10 minutes. The poof was gone and the fro was history. My hair started resembling something out of one of those BET shows, all sleek and nice. It took 2 hours but I stepped out of that salon full of confidence and a newly acquired knowledge of my own curls. Rachel took her time to explain to me about my three different curl patterns (this is what happens when races mix) and what to do with them, what products to use, what to avoid and how to keep myself looking “human”. My getting-ready time was cut in half. That is 45 minutes or a whole episode of The Walking Dead. No more twists and definitely no dozens of Youtube videos on how to style my natural hair. I love my curls. All three different types of them. Not to mention that this short do is just perfect for traveling.
So I dedicate this post to my hairdresser friends Miguel and Rachel. Without you this Umfufu would still be be completely clueless and naturally challenged.
Did you or a friend recently go natural? I’m anxious to know your story. Comment below.