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Hair Story: A tale of two textures

10 months

10 months

 

Few weeks after my last relaxer

Few weeks after my last relaxer

My Big Chop

My Big Chop

10 months

10 months

This Sunday, October 26th, marks an entire year since I’ve been natural.I hope it’s not too long. My main goal however is to talk about my natural hair journey: why I did it how I did it. I might just make a series of commemorative posts to celebrate making it an entire year with my kaya.

Let’s start from the very beginning. I had natural hair until I was 10 years old. I relaxed my hair on April 1st 2006, I had relatively long hair and it was… special. I remember every other Saturday I would go to the hair dresser to have my hair washed, de-tangled, blow-dried and twisted and leave completely drained emotionally and physically. I absolutely detested having my hair blow-dried. Regardless of how de-tengled my hairdresser got my hair, it somehow managed to get entangled within the five minutes it took me to get from the wash station to the styling chair. I’m sure my hairdresser tried her best to be as gentle as she could, but in my eyes I was just waiting for the day that she’d be blow drying my hair and my neck would just snap. It was so knotty that my hairdresser had to take a break between blow drying and styling.My aunt would joke about how my hair reminded her of wool x_x. I don’t know how to explain it but it hurt so much I could feel it in my feet.

I remember wanting to cry but I couldn’t because all these grown women were there under the driers watching me get tortured.

“Janet just fling likkle cream in her hair!” they would say to my hairdresser and my mother would say ” If it was up to me I would but daddy says no.”

So for ten years I sat through the hauling and pulling anxiously awaiting the day I could be “freed”. To my ten year old brain, I didn’t relax my hair because I was ashamed of my kinks, I just saw relaxed hair as the only way I could escape the Saturday hair struggle. I also wanted to see how long my hair would be if it were straightened(smh). That and the fact that everyone in my class (and family come to think of it) had relaxed hair and they would make these cute hairstyles and I was confined to two strand twists.

So I relaxed my hair the day after I completed my GSAT exams (Jamaican high school placement exams). For a couple years it was good and I really can’t pinpoint an exact time that I knew I wanted a change but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with joining my schools drumming ensemble in 2010. I started liking the feeling of my new growth  and started hating how bald I looked for the first few weeks after I relaxed my hair. I started Googling things like “how to go natural” and “how to transition”. I made three attempts to go natural between 2010 and 2013. My attempt in 2013 lasted a good 4 months and I was doing a damn good job until my mother walked into my room and sighed. The conversation that followed went a little like this:

Mom: You know honey, your graduation is coming up.

Me: Yea?

Mom: But darling your hair, you have to be fabulous. How are you going to style all those roots?

Me: I could get canerows (cornrows), I really don’t care

Mom: Nooooooo! Where did I fail as a mother?

Me: Fine, but three weeks before so I don’t look bald

Granted that’s the sugar coated version but the fact of the matter is I caved… again… for the third time and I was fit to be tied. I mean that was the longest I had ever gotten in my transition attempts… and I failed. After my very last relaxer I looked in the mirror and I felt the anger boiling. I LOOKED BALD! AGAIN! That’s when I made up my mind to be more serious about my next attempt.

Nothing happens before its time I guess. I was nowhere near ready to answer the questions and bull you get for going natural as a high school student. My last relaxer was May 25th or something like that, braided my hair on August 15th to show my mom I was serious. On August 19th I boarded a plane and left my beautiful island home to embark on my college journey. I had braids for a little over a month then I got annoyed by it all so I pulled them out. I had a curly two textured bird’s nest atop my head.

All my life I went to the hairdresser to get my hair done and now I was left to tackle the devil’s spawn on my own. I purchased a hot comb and tried to tame the beast but I had no clue what was too hot and what was not hot enough and looking in the sink I could see my hair was breaking and the panic set in. For about a week I lived in beanies, just de-tangling the straightened ends and steering wide of the roots. Luckily my family visited for family weekend (October 17-19) and my mom came armed with combs and hair products. She sat with me de-tangled from the roots to the ends and made twists. I went an entire week without having to deal with my hair and I could breath again.

Friday October 25th I washed my hair in the twists and then combed through them and re-did them. I started to realize that maybe just maybe I could do this transition thing. I woke up the next morning wondering how my hair would look if i cut it, and how long it would be. For the entire day I wondered about my hair then curiosity got the best of me and I cut one of the twists. I played in the soft curls and decided I looked odd with just a patch of natural hair so I texted my friend and told him I was going to cut my hair.

I snipped and snipped and snipped feeling giddier with each lock that fell. It was much more fun than I thought it would be (Sidenote: anyone out there deciding to do the big chop, do it yourself and then maybe go to the hairdresser to have it shaped or whatever- I’m yet to have mine shaped. Give yourself the full experience, maybe I’m just weird but I really enjoyed cutting my hair). When I was all done I looked at myself in the mirror and laughed like a maniac, my roommate was gone for the day or maybe she would’ve done some serious judging. I ran my hand through my short do and squealed. I LOVED IT!

I sent pictures to half of my friends and skyped the other half. I got mixed reactions I guess but anger and disbelief were the most common. I sent a picture to my parents in the night because I was afraid of how they would react. Mommy said ” It’s your hair I don’t care.” (Secretly I think she was sad but she got over it quickly when she saw how cute I looked when I got home :)) Daddy was convinced I was playing a joke on them for Halloween (poor pops). My grandmother started calling me her grandson because I would call her grandpa whenever she cut her hair. My aunt and cousin were not so easily soothed, and to this day I don’t think they’ve gotten over it.

The thing is everytime someone asks me why I cut my hair I come up with some brilliant reason like “it’s easier to manage like this at school” or “I wanted locs but mommy said no so this is the next best thing” or “I’ve had relaxed hair for 7 years now I’m ready for a change”. Honestly speaking though I really don’t think I had a specific reason. I discovered I didn’t have to be confined to just twists but rather that there were a plethora of styles that could be done with natural hair. Anything would beat the ponytail I rocked everyday with my relaxed hair. I didn’t like looking bald for weeks after having my hair relaxed. I guess its also a part of accomplishing African pride. Who knows really but the fact of the matter is the only thing I miss about my relaxed hair is the feel of my ponytail brushing against my neck while drumming but given time I’ll regain my length.

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Rambling

Being in a new culture and a new environment with new people it’s only natural that I have to learn new names. This semester more than the first two I’ve come to realize how terrible I am at learning and remembering names. I think that’s because I’ve made a conscious decision to interact with more people this school year than I did last year. Last year I was trying to understand the culture to see how best I could fit in. I’ve now given up on that as I have come to realize that I am a Jamaican and we simply cannot/ do not/ shall not fit in (It’s written in the dictionary somewhere) but I digress.

I have this habit of not looking people I’ve just met in the eyes. See the problem yet? No? Well making new friends requires remembering how they look and I can’t remember how they look if I don’t look at them. Wait there’s more! The foolproof strategy I’ve come up with to remember people is to remember their shirt colour. I mean it serves me well for the day but what about when I run into them two days later in the dining hall and Mr. Blue Shirt is in an orange shirt and I can’t remember his name or worse confuse him with Mr. Red Shirt???

On the bright side I’m not a completely hopeless cause… I think. If something happens to Mr. Blue Shirt the day I meet him like we have an interesting conversation about ketchup and I can make a connection to his name then Mr. Blue Shirt becomes Brian and I’ll forever remember his name and if he’s lucky he’ll get a nickname too. Sidenote: I’m really good at nicknames :). It’s a given that if Mr. Blue Shirt is cute I’ll remember his face, maybe not his shirt colour and maybe not his name but a cute face is a cute face. I can’t be the only person that feels this way.

I’ve been rambling on and on about remembering guy names but I’m also bad at girl names x_x. I mean I went to an all girls high school at home so I’m used to talking to girls and I have had lots of practice remembering their names but I’m still pretty bad at it.

Moral of the story: If you’re reading this, and I know you and I’ve never called you by your name… it’s probably because I cannot remember what colour shirt you were wearing when I first met you and I’m truly sorry

New Name by Jah9 because it’s only fitting