So...you all know I am natural.
For those who don't know what that means, being natural means that I have stopped chemically processing my hair. I've been natural for about 8 years now.
However, as of November of last year, I stopped straightening my hair for several different reasons, but the overwhelming one is that I wanted to get to know my hair.
After processing it for so long, then straightening it constantly, it occurred to me that, despite random stints with the fro, I hadn't really got to know my hair.
I took some time to really get to know my hair, figure out my hair, and (spoiler alert) fall in love with my hair.
I began to notice some similarities between the going natural process and the dating process. The phases of dating and courtship can all be applied to a black woman's discovery and ultimately her decision to stick with her natural hair.
After a brief observation phase, you make the decision to go on that first date. You've seen this person around and gotten the down low on their situation (you're too grown to walk into anything unchecked). The great first date is followed by a sequence of even better dates. You guys make the decision to see only each other. You're officially together and it feels great. Each moment is butterfly-stomach filled and dizzying. You are in the honeymoon phase.
And that's what happened to me. I was surrounded by so many gorgeous naturals sporting full manes of coils, spirals of curls, and some of the funkiest styles I'd ever seen.
After my "big chop" (cutting off all of the processed hair) 8 years ago, I was so excited.
I actually cut my hair myself. I remember standing in front of the mirror of my closet sized bathroom, scissors in hand with at least 4 inches of "new growth" (hair growth since the last time the hair was processed) and I cut every over-processed lock from my own head proudly. A thick layer of healthy coils remained. I was officially natural.
Stage 2: It's that awkward phase where you're not sure of what this is or what to do with it.
People now knew that you two were together. The honeymoon had now melted away and it was time to actually think about this relationship in a more serious way.
Following the big chop, I had my "Oh Crap" moment. Not like "oh crap what have I done." but more like "oh crap, now what do I do with it."
I resorted to every braid, cornrow, and twisted style imaginable. I was determined to not only grow out, but protect every centimeter of hair I could. I measured down to the millimeters, babied every coil, and took pride in being natural.
But then, just as we have the tendacy of doing in our relationships, I got lazy. I stopped caring for my hair as lovingly as I first did.
Stage 3: Things have gotten too big and wild not to be addressed.
Things that used to be so cute are not cute anymore. The relationship is filled We need to talk. There's just some stuff I don't like and we need to address it now. You notice how much you two begin to fight as opposed to how happy other couples look. It's a distressing, but much needed time.
Some months of major growth combined with laziness created a slew of problems.
Lopsided fros, twist outs that didn't take, and the shrinkage, hiding how much my hair had grown in combination with seeing some super fly naturals whose hair always cooperated and whose curls were always poppin made me seriously doubt my decision to go without straightening my hair.
I remember having to snip out my first fairy knot. My hard won coils had interlocked themselves around each other so tightly, it created a knot of unimaginable fortitude. And unlike when I first proudly did my big chop, I snipped out this knot, only a minuscule fraction of the hair I cut from my head 8 years ago, with tears in my eyes. Then I discovered a second. And a third. I became frustrated and disillusioned.
But I wanted to stay true to my commitment. I was going to figure my own hair out. It was part of me. And by quitting on my coils, I felt like I would be quitting on myself. And I couldn't do that.
Then something happened.
Stage 4: You're fully committed
You've moved from being in love with the idea of your significant other to being in love with who they actually are. It's a more realistic, and more importantly, a more sustaining point in your relationship.
And that's where I am currently. Gone are the days when I'm obsessing over trying to make my coils like so and so. I appreciate my texture for what it is, uniquely mine.
Of course, there are still challenging days, when styles won't set the way I plan, when I find the stray knot or two, when it doesn't go the way I planned.
But even (and especially) in those moments, I remember how far I've come, how much I've grown, and tie one a cute headscarf and face the day.