I didn't know my natural hair texture until I was 24 years old.
Although my story feels distinctly personal, I suspect it resonates with curly-haired friends everywhere.
I was born with a head of hair that seemed to grow in width as I grew in height. By pre-school, my parents (read: mom) had learned to tame my thick hair and I sported two, long braids down my back. Every wash day was the same: wash, blow dry, braid; wash, blow dry, braid. At that age, there wasn't much choice in other styles. I was too impatient to sit and let my mother fully style my hair, and too energetic to maintain a cute curly look without it becoming knotted.
Even if I had the patience and agreed not to tangle my own hair, I remember the disdain that other people had for my hair from first grade; it wasn't like their own, so it was something to be laughed at- but that's a different story altogether. And so, our routine continued, my mom spending Sunday nights tending to my sensitive scalp as one of many of her many acts of love.
As I neared the end of elementary school and looked toward middle school, I knew what I wanted: a chemical relaxer to permanently straighten my hair (a perm). My hair was long and I knew I could be a glamorous 10 year old, entering the fifth grade with a sleek, straight look. After some pleading, I got my wish: a perm! I was elated, and, continued to be thrilled with my straight, long hair for the majority of my life. No, I couldn't tell you what my hair looked like full, down, and without the relaxer, but I could tell you that I looked damn good with it in.
Eventually, I began to feel something nagging me that I couldn't quite describe. I felt beautiful in my skin, but not authentic with my hair. For all that I preached about the empowerment of women and that of women of color, I didn't know if I was practicing those words myself. Perhaps it was moving to San Francisco and seeing women with all different styles, or growing tired of finding people who could give me relaxers when I traveled, or becoming more comfortable with myself. Whatever it was, I suddenly needed to know my own hair texture.
On July 24, 2015 I cut off about 14 inches of my relaxed hair and found out that not only do I have some curls, I have extremely curly hair. Kinks, curls, spirals, and twists popped up all over my head as soon as I set my roots free from the weight of my straightened hair. I must admit, I felt a twinge of guilt seeing these curls come up- the curls that have been attempting to grow out my whole life, until I straightened them away.
I love this new addition to my life and my immediate identifier: the girl with the curls. I can't act as if I don't have frustrations with my curls; there is, after all, a reason that I straightened it all those years. However, I've never had a second thought: doing the "big chop" was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself.
Published by Lauren Rutherford