I have always had a difficult relationship with my hair. I’ve gone through a bit of a ‘hair-volution’ of sorts through my life.
My hair has always been fairly thin and hard to grow out. I remember as a young child, going to the hairdresser for the first time, and it being the highlight of LIFE. I was finally in the chair getting my HAIR done. I was a GROWN up…at four years old! I loved the experience so much that at one point, I wanted to be JUST like her…
So I took a pair of scissors and lopped off a section of my hair…right in the front….where EVERYONE could see.
It was braids for me at that point until my hair grew back. All my hair styles that I can remember from my early childhood basically involved braids until maybe grade 3 when I got my first relaxer and roller set. I thought I looked GREAT and my hair was so bouncy and shiny (due to the amount of setting lotion and Blu-magic pomade in my hair). I was the one ‘whipping my hair’ before Willow Smith even knew about it. I was ALL ready to go to school and show off my new ‘do. What I wasn’t ready for was being teased by the other kids, who wondered why my hair looked like ‘springs.’ It’s kind of hard to be cute during gym class when the whole bench is laughing at you.
Not exactly, the red carpet treatment I was looking for.
For a long time after that, I went through the black girl cycle of braids and relaxers for many years. My hair would grow but then break right off again, so I could never get my hair to grow past my shoulders no matter how hard I tried. I was envious of all the girls who had long hair. I was one of those girls who would put the towel around their head in a desperate game of ‘pretend’. Braids were an easy fix…a few hours in the chair and I had long hair that I could manipulate into styles that I could only dream of with my own hair.
Now fast forward to the mid- 90s and my pre-teen self. I remember seeing more and more women not only actually rocking their natural hair but embracing it- from Lauryn Hill rocking her locks at the height of her ‘mis-education’ on the cover of <<insert any magazine here>> , to Jill Scott stepping on the scene with her fro-almighty, then on to Traci Ellis Ross’ hair on ‘Girlfriends’, which made me drool with envy from week to week.
I told myself that natural hair would never work for me because my own texture was something that I should avoid at all costs. It felt ‘ugly’ and ‘unkempt’ and I never even questioned that I had to keep it covered or change it every 4-6 weeks. I couldn’t POSSIBLY grow out my hair and just leave it be. It was great for the rich and famous who could do whatever they wanted to do but how could I walk outside like that? It would look ghetto and people would think I was a ruffian or a ‘rasta’ and someone who didn’t care about how they looked. I would be judged by everyone on the street and most importantly, in my teenage mind, boys wouldn’t like me. So it was a no go. Period.
So, as a compromise between what I wanted and what I thought possible, I eventually moved from relaxers to texturizers. Ironically, I switched because I liked the ‘natural look’ of the curls on my head that the chemical process provided me. Besides, the texturizer couldn’t be nearly as bad for my hair as a relaxer because it only ‘loosened’ my curl instead of straightening my hair.
The things (read: lies) we tell ourselves…
But still, this ‘natural hair’ movement that I thought was just another throwback fad kept on growing….and so did my interest.
My sister and I saw and more people wearing their fros and it just seemed so liberating. What made it even better, more and more people were accepting it. Imagine! No more regular appointments at the hair salon that lasted for hours. No more home relaxers in the kitchen where you would hold out as long as possible against the ‘burn’ so you could get the best results, then tear off to the bathroom so you wouldn’t burn your scalp. No more roller sets, and wrapping your hair at night, and sitting under the dryer, and hot combs, and hand dryers to get that straight look. No more greasy pomades, setting lotions, and frizz control serums. Best of all, no more running from any kind of moisture because HEAVEN FORBID, you get your hair wet after you’ve spent all the time getting it straight. Whew child!
But still…I just couldn’t take that plunge. In part, because of my residual feelings about my ‘ugly’ hair, but also because I wasn’t sure if my head shape was a hot mess and would look horrific after a big C.
So I did what any little sister would do.
I fully encouraged my older sister to take the plunge first so that she could be my guinea pig.
And she came back after her big chop and looked so HAPPY! Rockin’ the big earrings and short hair seemed to be such a weight off her shoulders (literally)!
Finally, after a few months, I decided to take the plunge myself. Really at this point, what did I have to lose? It was hair. If I didn’t like it, it would grow back and I could get right back to texturizing my hair until my heart’s content. So I made an appointment with the barber to do my big chop in October of 2009.
I got all ready for my appointment and all excited about taking this HUGE amount of control over something as simple as my hair and got ready to CHOP IT OFF…
Only I went to the shop and my barber didn’t show.
It was at that point, that I knew that I really wanted to cut my hair because the wave of disappointment that washed over me was palpable. I felt so let down by the no-show that I knew that I was ultimately making the right decision to cut off my hair and be on my natural way.
So the very next week, I went to the shop and he pulled out the razor and before I could second guess myself again, ZOOM! Off came my hair and with it, my self doubt.
I must say that after my big chop, I could NOT keep my hands OFF my head. I was in LOVE with my ‘hair’. I kept inviting everyone to ‘touch it’, and walked around with a huge smile on my face. The texture was something that I had never experienced before and it had taken 27 years before I appreciated what was growing directly out of my head.
I considered my hair between 4f and 4g on the chart below.
I remember when Chris Rock’s docu-comedy ‘Good Hair’ came out, the line that stuck with me the most was from Traci Thoms when she said “I always think it’s interesting that to keep my hair the same texture as it grows out of my head, is looked at as revolutionary.”
It’s interesting to me too. All my life, I’ve been taught to be proud of myself and my heritage and that God made me special just the way I am. Yet, when it comes to my hair, I had to wear anything BUT my natural hair because it wasn`t good enough. That revelation gave me even more conviction to stay on my natural hair adventure even when my parents would openly ask how long I planned to keep my hair `this way` and when I was basically going to end this fad and get back on the chemical train.
It was fun watching my hair grow out and finding new ways and styles for it. The twist outs and the full on afro puffs felt so good to me that I strutted down the street like `Yeah! I`m natural…AAAAND WHAT?! ’ I started reading blogs like www.thankgodimnatural.com and actually using more natural products in my hair as well like shea butter to moisturize and apple cider vinegar clarifying rinses (which I LOVE!) It became a whole lifestyle for me and my hair loved me for it. I still did braids in the winter as a protective hair style but otherwise, I loved wearing my afro on a regular basis.
Recently, I started to feel like I needed to try something new with my hair though. I wanted to experiment and my hair, while it thrived in its natural form, still didn’t love the daily manipulation that I put it through. So I began to look for a new solution that would allow my hair to rest yet allow me to keep styling it on a minimal basis. I started looking at locs, but I wasn’t a fan of the large locs because it just wasn’t for me.
That’s when I discovered Sisterlocks.
I was looking for new styles when I came across this picture….
And it LITERALLY took my breath away. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t know WHO it was (research later revealed that the woman in the picture is a singer/artist named Tuere). All I knew is that it was gorgeous and I had to know more about it. So I started reading, and went on the official Sisterlocks website (www.sisterlocks.com) and read any and everything that I could find. One of the strongest sources that I found was this blog: http://kreyolalocks.blogspot.ca/. I love everything about this blog, the way she writes about her experiences, the products that she uses as well as the many beautiful styles that she often took pictures of. It was great to see first hand the experiences of someone who had actually been through the sisterlocking process.
Eventually, after doing LOADS of research, I decided that Sisterlocks was something but it was a matter of when and where to do them. While there were many people who promised that they could do locs that were ‘just like’ Sisterlocks, I just wasn’t comfortable trusting anyone with such a personal and permanent thing. I couldn’t find a consultant in my city, so Sisterlocks would require at minimum a road trip but I still couldn’t find anyone that I really gelled with. I decided to let it sit in the background and cross that bridge when I came to it.
Then it happened that I went on a trip to Ghana, where I’m originally from. I went to see my parents for my mother’s birthday, but while I was there, I remembered that there had been one consultant on the Sisterlocks site in Ghana named Emelia-Jane Hamidu. I was able to get in contact with her and visit her salon, Black Cotton Natural Hair and Beauty Salon in Accra. Her associates were so nice and warm and helpful that I was almost ready to sign right there, but I still needed just a minute to really make the decision. Here I was, on the cusp of trying something that I had looked into for months, but the permanent nature of the Sisterlocks and the fact that I hadn’t been PLANNING to actually do Sisterlocks in Ghana almost stopped me. What if I didn’t like it? What if it was something that looked great on other people and not me?? I had learned to love my afro. Was I ready to give it up??
The associates were lovely and let me take the night to think about it before filling up what would be my appointment time. I went home to do more research on the matter and went to Kreyola’s website to read more about her initial experience…
When, lo and behold, there on Kreyola’s page, as part of her latest blog,…was my initial inspiration picture that set me on my Sisterlocks obsession in the first place.
Well if THAT isn’t a sign from heaven above that I was on the right path, I don’t know what is!
So I took the night, and weighed the pros and cons of getting Sisterlocks:
- Killer Style
- No more braids (and subsequent hours in the chair)
- Probably better for my hair (to have a steady style)
- New Adventure for my 30th birthday
- Versatile (due to the precise nature of the hair pattern)
- My hair seems to like it (based on the few tester locs that Gina, Emelia’s associate, had put in my hair)
*These factors had two sides to the issue so cancelled each other out.
- Costs money to re-tighten at each time (but I could take a re-tightening course and maintain the locks on my own)
- Permanent Style- but if I ever wanted to change, I already know I love the close crop.
- Takes a while to thicken up, which means a lot to someone with thin hair already
- No more braids, fros or other styles
- Parents might have a conniption (surprisingly, didn’t happen)
- Not positive how it will turn out (might second guess it when it’s actually on)
As you can see, in the end, the pros greatly outnumbered the cons, so I called up Gina and booked my appointment for June 4, 2013.
The installation took about 8 hours as my hair was only about 6 inches long at the time. Considering that I have been braiding my hair my entire life, this time frame actually wasn’t all that long and I was even able to take a bit of a nap while this was going on (I can sleep anywhere if motivated enough!) I walked out of there with new hair and a new attitude. I must admit, at first I was scared. It was all so NEW and DIFFERENT and I wasn’t sure how to style it when I was so used to the puff. Plus, I have a bit of a thin spot near the crown of my head due to past braiding that was too tight so that part isn’t as full as the others. It’s now been a few weeks and I’ve started to grow into this look. I even did my first braid and band wash today (where you braid sections of the hair and tie them with a rubber band to prevent the locs from unraveling in these early stages) and I have to say that my hair feels a little fuller and has filled in a little bit. I’m excited to see where this new chapter takes me! My hair seems to love the ‘relaxed’ attention and the locs are curling all over my head because of the kinky texture of my hair.
Strangely, I feel like I’ve been ‘reunited’ with my hair..like everything I’ve been going through with my hair was meant to bring me to this point. I look forward to growing out my Sisterlocks and continuing the journey back to myself so to speak. To paraphrase India.Arie, I may not be my hair, but my hair is now definitely ME.