Thank God I am free! From all that hair that is… Looking at those pictures side by side, most of you can’t imagine what it took for me to embrace that courageous woman in the pink dress, and then allow myself to evolve into that confident and free woman in green. But boy let me tell you, it’s been quite an adventure!
For most of my life, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my hair. I love its thickness and bounce, but up until recently I’ve hated its coarse, often unmanageable, curls. I grew up referring to them as naps or “beebadees”, because of the curls propensity to link together and roll up into tiny knots. They were tight little suckers, and once they came together they were hell to comb out.
So tough in fact, my mom was fastidious in ensuring they never formed. A few hours every Saturday were dedicated to shampooing, conditioning, detangling, drying and pressing my hair. I must say my mother was masterful with a hot pressing comb and hair grease. She’d straighten out my naps, and make sure everything was lying flat so I could look my very best on Sunday mornings.
Such was my life for the first 15 years. Wearing my hair in its naturally curly state was never even a thought. It just wasn’t done in our circles, at least not with my hair texture. Only black people with “good hair”, meaning much looser curls that were more common among other ethnicities, wore their hair natural. If your curls were like mine, it was all about how to control them so you could go about looking well-kept and refined.
By my late teens that became much easier because Mom relented and allowed me to get a chemical relaxer. Ah…liberation from the pressing comb, and from my naps that had given me so much grief. I loved the freedom of having hair that stayed straight even when it got wet. I could finally swim with my friends and not have to worry about what my hair would look like when it dried. As long as I got a relaxer every 4-6 weeks, the beebadees stayed away.
Which worked just fine until one day my hair stylist told me my edges were thinning. He recommended that I go natural. I told him he’d lost his mind. I knew it was gaining in popularity, but my hair was too nappy for that look. If I left my hair in it’s natural state I would look like Kunta Kinte’s long-lost sister. Completely unprofessional!
But after I thought on it I decided I wasn’t really fond of going bald either. So I opted for another solution – weave. For the next 18 months I wore a sew-in, allowing my natural hair to grow, while I figured out what to do next. Ironically, all this was happening at the same time that my personal and professional life was also in transition. My hair, as it turns out, became the external manifestation of my internal transformation. The more I got to know the real me, the more my natural hair wanted to be free.
So in fall 2013, just before the one-year anniversary of Loving on Me, I chose liberation. For the first time in my life I rocked my own natural hair. It felt like I had crossed over, joining the thousands of sisters who kicked the traditional standards of beauty to the curb and courageously redefined it on our own terms.
I felt so free and fierce, sporting my big, bushy Afro. Like I was channeling my inner Pam Grier! But there was just one problem – the upkeep. Y’all I tried, but twisting my hair each night was too much for my on the go lifestyle, and the wash and go in the wintertime took too long to dry. After about a year and a half, I really wanted to cut it all off, but I hesitated because I was afraid those beebadees would once again get a little unruly. My hair was way too nappy not to have some length to weigh it down.
Isn’t that something? Liberated my hair, but left my mind enslaved! Here I am, trying to encourage others to love the “me” they were created to be, and I can’t make peace with my own hair. It’s crazy how hard it is to completely shake those negative narratives from our childhood, telling us we’re too this or too that, and move beyond the fear and self-doubt they create.
But earlier this year I decided enough is enough! Naps or not, I was cutting it all off and embracing a new way of living. I could no longer be encumbered by the hours it took to take care of long tresses. They were beautiful, but I wanted to be free to travel light and enjoy the journey. I wanted to be me – accepting the whole of who I am, and knowing it’s enough.
There is such freedom and love in that space! I can’t tell you how much happier I am, not trying to live up or down to the expectations I embraced as a child. As little a thing as it seems, cutting my hair was like lifting a boulder from my back. Because making one courageous move – defying my own long-held stereotypes – has helped me see the rest of my life in a whole different perspective.
I wish that same freedom for you too. Many of us have grown up hearing we are too this, or not enough of that. Our lips are too full, breasts too small, feet too big, or our eyes too slanted. We’re too dark or too light, not smart enough, or too smart for our own good. The list could go on and on, as our entire lives people have filled our minds with junk about who we are, and what that means for how we should live. But from this day forward I’m challenging us to throw that stinking thinking in the trash! Be confident in who we are, and be free.
We are a masterpiece! Created by God and called for His purpose. All this extra judgment we, or others, have placed on us is far too heavy to hold. It’s time to release the fear, and move forward in our calling. The only thing holding us back is our own enslaved thinking, and we have the power to change it.
Will you take courage and do it? I sure hope so because you, and what you have to contribute to this world, are worth the effort!
Sending you big hugs and love!! ❤
PS – Drop me a line in the comments sharing your courageous acts of freedom. Or better yet, post a picture of you being unapologetically you on our Facebook or Instagram page @iamlovingonme, and tag it #LovingonMe. Let’s celebrate liberation, together!