Part 1: What you whine for is what you get
Going from relaxed to natural for me was probably inevitable given my personality. I say that because I didn’t initially go natural to make any statements or celebrate my ‘blackness’. I initially went natural because I got darn tired of the process of ‘getting my head did’.
Chi’le I remember my mama would wash my hair on Saturday afternoons and let it dry. Then on Sunday, when my hair was all super dry –and feeling like a scouring pad from that dryness — she would oil it with some grease and hit it with that scorching straightening comb so it would be laid for Monday.
By middle school, though, I was tired of this old routine. I saw all my little friends one by one getting their hair ‘permed’ (read: relaxed) and they bragged about not having to deal with the heat… and the pulling… and the occasional burned ear. I wanted that to be me. I wanted to have super, super bone straight hair like my friends. And I begged, and whined… and pleaded…. and whined again.
Lucky for me at the time, almost all the people on my mama’s side know how to do hair (except for my mama. Go figure.) I had at least 2 relatives with shops I could actually go to in order to get my hair done… or who would actually come to my house and apply relaxer to my hair.
Its been a WHILE since that time so I’m a little fuzzy on the small details. What I do remember is being at my house and looking at this box with this gorgeous, smiling african american sista on it. And she had IT: that bone straight hair. Not a kukabub in sight!! That’s what I wanted… and I had relatives who would hook me up… for a small fee of course (ain’t that somethin’? should always been free daggonit!)
I remember being excited! (Silly me). I was happy because now I had IT: that bone straight hair. Yeah, I went to show off and take my place among my friends. At the time, I had no idea what that creamy stuff was doing to my hair.
In my ignorance, I had no idea relaxers change the basic structure of the hair shaft itself. In other words, this ain’t like temporarily straightening it with heat to make it ‘look’ straight. Chemicals are used to thoroughly and permanently alter it.
Aside from using the correct strength (mild, medium, super), you had to understand how to care for that now super-fragile hair; learn the right types of conditioners and shampoos to use with it; learn how often to get it redone; learn which hair styling aids to use for it; etc, etc, etc.
And like so many other black girls and women afraid of being called ‘nappy headed’, I did what I had to do. I learned it.
Flash forward to around 2001 (jeez…. it may have been 2000. Ah does this always happen when you hit your 30s?!) What I do remember is looking in the mirror at my thin hair with new growth coming in at the roots, and my ‘perm brown’ colored, split ends. And I was not the one with the cash to run to the beauty parlor unless it was just that time to get my hair done.
Just thinking about going to the beauty parlor made me roll my eyes: having to call for an appointment and hoping she would be there on a day/time I could get to shop…
…And coming early for my “appointment” only to have to wait 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an 1hour and a half until ‘she’ finished with her current group of clients which seemed themselves to be obviously double booked: one in the chair, one at the shampoo bowl, 2 under dryers, and yet another who had come to the shop 30 minutes before me, still waiting to get into her chair…
…And having to sit there long enough until the ‘perm’ had a chance to work despite whatever discomfort I may have been feeling.
…And having that type of situation repeat itself over time with various hair stylists.
Why was I doing this?
Going from straight to natural had nothing, initially, to do with making a statement. Nor did it initially have anything to do with ‘finding my roots’ or being proud of natural black hair (initially). I simply got sick and ding-dang tired of putting up with the process of ‘gittin my head did’. That’s how we say it down here yall.
From that point on, I started to research about how to deal with caring for my hair myself. After hearing some horror stories, I was too big of a chicken to try to put in my own relaxer. So that was out.
The process sort of happened. As I continued to figure out what I wanted to do, my new growth started to grow more and more. I liked the way it felt and how it looked. I talked to a couple of people about what they did to their hair.
One lady said she would get her stylist to do bantu knots on her wet hair then sit under the dryer, then remove them when dry. She had shorter, curly hair that was too cute.
I wanted to try that out…although I never got the hang of bantu knots. And I certainly wasn’t going to go back to the beauty shop `wait…wait…wait` situation to let a stylist do it. Whatever I did, I thought at the time, it HAD to be something I could control: the frequency, the time, the products, etc.
What did I do from there?
Part 2: Transitioning? You mean like ‘uppa room’ transitioning!?