Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Edit Your Life: Your Expectations of Natural Hair

I have been natural for the better part of 8 years. I remember standing in the tiny bathroom of my apartment, staring in the mirror, armed with a pair of scissors and a powerful sense that I was changing my life. I snipped away at my shoulder length processed locks, leaving only about an inch and a half of unprocessed coil. I haven't looked back since.

Sure it was hard at times. I have broken more combs, screwed up more twist outs, and spent a literal fortune on the right products. But it was something I had to be invested in. I was invested in loving my natural texture in order to better love myself. I have no regrets.

The Natural Hair experience really is a journey that is about more than hair. It is about self acceptance and self love. Considering the history of Black Hair in the United States; going from something that was considered dirty and even outlawed at one point to now having our styles appropriated by the same culture that once thought of it as grotesque (here's looking at you Kardashians and Jenners) is quite extraordinary, just like the African American experience in general.  But, for those like me, who make the transition to natural life, we rarely regret it.

But this experience is not universal. The article, posted on Fashionista entitled "Why I finally Broke Up With The Natural Hair Community." shared the writer, Mary Anderson's sentiments on going natural and going back.

My synopsis: She and every woman in her family were addicted to the creamy crack, she goes natural, but didn't have the time to research (i.e. learn) how to care for her natural hair, she got discouraged when she discovered that she didn't possess the coil pattern other naturalists had (and blames it on the community in Instagram) for not embracing her hair, and so she went back to the creamy crack.

Going natural takes investment:
I don't expect everyone's experience to be the same when transitioning from processed to natural. Just like every natural hair texture is not the same, I don't expect every journey to be the same. But I do think that you have to be prepared to make the investment. Anderson admits "I slowly realized that I didn't know, nor did I have the patience to suddenly relearn, how to style and care for my new hair..." This is simply put the wrong attitude. Just as with anything, you have to learn it.

Getting to know your natural hair is like getting to know a person. Can you imagine if you went out on a first date and the guy sits down, looks you in the face, and says flippantly "I really don't have time to get to know you but I want you to be easier than my last relationship." If you're anything like me, you would get up from the table and leave that punk there. Well, that's how, in essence, Anderson treated her hair. Saying you don't have the time to learn how to do your own hair is an low key insult to how you are born. It says that you don't have time to learn how to love how you were born to be and born to look, and that the only way you can be beautiful is though the aid of chemical, that at the end of the day are horrible for you.

Speaking of those...

Going natural is not an easier alternative to processed hair, but it is healthier:
Anderson tells of her horrible experience about a bad relaxer experience, saying "... in the summer of 2014, after a bad relaxer gave me third-degree burns across the back of my neck, I knew it was time to start over." I am sorry, but any chemical that can do that much damage doesn't belong anywhere near my skin. I don't care how unruly my hair is.

We have been so conditioned to poisoning out hair with relaxers and burning it out of our scalps with constant straightening that it is only natural (pun intended) that we have to learn how to care for the hair that grows from our scalp in the exact way it grows. It takes discovery, investment, and time, but as opposed to at best, the constant caustic maintenance that relaxers require or at worst, painful injury sustained by incorrect application, I think most of us can deal with the coil discovery and healthy happy scalps.

Going natural requires a good community:

I don't think my natural journey would have been as easy or exciting if I didn't have support. My own boyfriend, who supports everything I do, was not really feeling the change from heat straightening to natural, come to find out, it wasn't the texture but the length (he just likes longer hair, no matter the texture.) But I had plenty of friends (and even some followers) giving me lots of love and plenty of tips. We live in the best place and time to go and grow natural. Anderson even admits this, saying "Today, there are far more products, resources and tutorials available for Black women who choose to embrace their natural hair texture than my mother's generation ever had. There are countless natural hair influencers and websites targeted toward understanding natural hair. That's progress."

But Anderson also says "From Instagram memes calling certain naturals 'bad' for having tighter curls, to constantly being encouraged to stretch my coils so that they'd appear longer, it seemed that all around me, my kind of natural hair wasn't as desired or embraced." I am not sure what "natural" community the author was following during her mini natural adventure, but I am certain that it wasn't any of the beautiful profiles that I follow, like NaturalHairDaily BlitheAndBrown, CurlsWithLove, CandyCoatedCurls or CrownHunt, that encourage all kinds of hair love and celebrate the range in diversity of natural hair. Even hair  boxes and brands such as CurlsCourtesyOf, Jane Carter, and DarkAndLovely embrace the diversity and beauty of the many textures of the natural hair experience.  Facts are there is overwhelming support for naturals.

So to blame the natural community for something Anderson didn't want bad enough to begin with is very unfair. She should have just kept her choice on her own preferences, not crucify the entire community due to something she didn't really even devote enough time or effort to try.

What it boils down to is that the natural experience is like anything: if you're willing to put the work in, you will get results. If you're willing to learn your own pattern and not try to look like anyone else's, you will make something lovely. But if you are too lazy, apathetic, or conditioned to a certain look (even if that look is poisoning you) you won't make it.

Anderson ends up going back to the creamy crack. And that's her prerogative. I hope she realizes that and takes responsibility for that and comes to realize that instead of placing blame on a whole community for her own choice.