I was at war with my hair for most of my early life, determined to have it capitulate to my will. My hair fought me every step of the way, especially when I resorted to chemical weapons, which I applied with extreme prejudice and a good dose of naivety. I won a few battles, but I lost many more.
Eventually, I became tired of the struggle and called a truce. I learned to work with my hair rather than against it. I now treat it civilly and support its efforts to flourish. We have developed a beautiful working friendship (interrupted by an occasional misunderstanding), and the results have been fantastic.
Mother Knows Best
I didn’t have extremely long hair as a child, but I wasn’t bald either. Somewhere in between. Apparently, my mom had a hard time dealing with my hair in its natural state, so she applied a popular “kiddie” relaxer before the age of six. My hair promptly fell out. Not a good look on a six-year old.
Mom waited for it to grow back and tried again with another brand of relaxer. I guess she figured it wasn’t the harsh chemicals that were the problem and that switching brands would have a different result. Of course, that's like switching your brand of cigarettes and believing... never mind, I digress.
I had relaxer in my hair for the next few years with only a few problems. Unfortunately, in 8th Grade after getting a treatment, it broke off again -- not at the roots this time, but in the middle of the hair shafts.
Without many options, I got a short cut and started over with more relaxer. At this point, I didn't actually know many girls (or women) with natural hair, so I just assumed that relaxers were a way of life for an African American girl, the only way to manage and take care of your hair.
Despite the breakage and chemical burns, my hair looked pretty healthy throughout high school, though it never grew past shoulder length. So, I continued to keep up with my relaxer, with touch-ups every 6-12 weeks or so.
It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to keep my hair relaxed until college, where I met some girls who actually stopped getting relaxer treatments. A few had even been natural for their entire lives (gasp!). You mean, there were other options?
While it's never easy to break old habits, my decision to stop relaxing my hair was helped along by the economics of my situation. Relaxer treatments can get really expensive, and I wasn't exactly a rich student. So, basically, I found myself skipping my chemical touch-ups in favor of basic necessities -- like food.
Without my regular beauty parlor treatments, I realized that I had no clue what I was doing when it came to styling and taking care of my own hair. So I armed myself with as much natural hair care knowledge I could absorb through blogs, websites and books. I finally did the Big Chop, lost the remainder of my relaxed hair and started my natural hair care journey with a 3-½ inch afro. What a relief!
Precious Morgan is a 20-something, naturally curly mother, baker, blogger and hair care enthusiast. She spends her time running after a toddler, writing short fiction, brushing up on hair care tips and trying and creating new natural hair products. You can find her blog, "Long Hair, Red Bottoms" at http://lhrbottoms.tumblr.com/