December 5, 2015

My Big Chop Experience

Sixth grade was/is such an awkward time because you're damn sure not an adult, you're not quite a teen but you're not a child either. You don't want to wear ponytails and barrettes yet you're too young for "grown styles" as my daddy would say. When I was in 6th grade the hottest hair style was a roller wrap. It sounds simple but I was so jealous that all the cool girls had their hair sleek, straight, and cut to perfection, while I was still wearing Shirley Temple curls. I practically begged my mama to straighten my hair and give me a roller wrap. Eventually she reluctantly gave in. Now I have always had relaxed hair, but I was never allowed to have it all hanging nor flat ironed, only curls, ponytails or half up styles. My mama bought a flat iron and some products and attempted to make me look like those cool girls at school. The evening she straightened my hair an episode of the TV show 'Girlfriends' happened to be on. After about 15 minutes she pointed to the TV with a rattail comb and said, "Your hair is gonna be like Joan's [Tracee Ellis Ross], it won't get straight for nothing, never has!". Although I thought Joan was gorgeous and I loved her big poofy hair, I wanted my hair to look like Maya's, Toni's, and Lynn's. Straight and sleek with a little curl here and there, like cool girls at school. I thought I was doomed. Who knew nearly 13 years later I would give almost anything to have hair like Joan!

On November 30, 2015 I big chopped and became fully natural. My last relaxer was on June 20, 2014, just a few days shy of my 23rd birthday. My plan was to transition for two years before big chopping. I never had a doubt about transitioning for my natural hair journey. Some ladies dislike the idea of transitioning and choose to big chop asap. I've had long hair my entire life and just imagining myself with not only short hair but a tiny 'fro scared me. Transitioning was also the best for me because I needed to learn my hair. Before deciding to go natural I started a healthy hair journey regimen to get a feel for my hair. 

It's somewhat embarrassing but I'm going to be transparent. My mom took care of my hair until I was 20 years old. I know, I know most girls start doing their own hair in like middle school, but not me. As a college sophomore, I still sat on the floor and let my mom comb, straighten, and/or curl my hair. However, I did wash my own hair, I should get points for that! No? Ok. Anyway, since my mom handled all of my hair affairs, I seriously knew nothing about my hair. After my mom passed away, I was forced to tend to my own locks. The quick and easy solution was to take a weekly trip to the salon. Although the visits weren't expensive they definitely added up and it only made me avoid the inevitable task of dealing with my own hair. My visits to the salon slowly went from 2-3 times per month to once a month and finally once every few months for relaxers only. 

I started learning how to use a curling iron and ponytails/buns became my friends. I used a lot of heat in my hair to keep my hair straight and what I considered 'cute' at the time. I'm sure my hair was damaged but my hair stylist was a magician who could even make damaged hair look amazing. Also when I would go to the salon I would get protective styles, such as goddess braids so my hair really grew a lot despite my mishandling. 

Even though I started only going to the salon once every 2-3 months, I was tired of getting relaxers. I have always hated relaxers, they are truly torturing especially since I have eczema in my scalp. I have cried several times during the relaxer process, it was terrible. It was anything BUT 'relaxing'. I started going on long relaxer stretches (18 weeks was my longest stretch), which decreased my salon trips even more, but also gave my stylist a headache because I didn't know how to care for my new natural roots, it would be matted and tangled by the time my stretch was over. After my 23rd birthday and during another relaxer stretch, and after watching several Youtube videos, I decided to go all the way. How hard could it be? 

The first 3 months of my transition was a breeze, I just cared for it how I always did. Between 4-6 months I wanted to try twistouts and braidouts but my hair was still too straight to really hold them well. I decreased my heat usage a lot but still straightened my hair once a month. By February 2015, I learned how to do beautiful roller sets and since then it has been my go-to style. Between February 2015 and November 2015 I have straightened my hair twice. 

I was really trying to push for two years even though I was very tired of dealing with the two textures. The shedding was ridiculously rampant and all in all it was annoying and repetitive. A couple of my friends encouraged me to big chop a few weeks back, but I just kept saying I wasn't ready. I still had about 3 inches of relaxed hair, and I wanted to keep my length. Looking back on it, keeping those dead ends was a mistake! However, I'm glad I big chopped on my own time, when I was ready to. 

I started cutting purely on a whim and mostly out of frustration. My wash days are usually either Saturday or Sunday but I avoided my hair all weekend because every time I thought about doing something to it, I got frustrated and tired just thinking about it. I arrived home late on Sunday, it was close to midnight and I was not about to start the long draining process of washing my hair, so I just decided to cut it. I grabbed my hair shears, went into the bathroom, sat in front of the mirror and started snipping the relaxed ends at the front of my head. At first it felt like a sigh of relief, then suddenly less than half way through the chop I put the scissors down and looked at my natural hair, my 'fro. WHAT THE HELL WAS I DOING?! I couldn't believe I was actually doing it. I tilted my head and did a few poses in the mirror and realized that I looked really cute. I was still in awe that I was cutting my hair, but it made me feel a little better that it didn't look bad on me at all. I kept cutting and noticed that it wasn't as short as I thought it would be and I started feeling...Happy. After all of my relaxed ends were off I could not stop smiling! I was happy and my adrenaline was going at full speed. I think the best part about going natural was actually seeing myself. I know that sounds so cliché but it truly made me realize something. People tell me all the time how much I look like my mama and sometimes I see it but a lot of the time I don't. After I cut my permed ends off I saw her, I saw my mama in me. I see now that we are practically twins and I couldn't be more proud to look like the most beautiful woman in the world.

After I calmed down, took a few pictures, and texted a couple friends, reality settled in. I had no idea how to style it, but I knew I didn't want to just wear it as it was. My hair is 90% 4C and at the back there's a small 3C patch, about 10%. I can't give length measurements since I haven't measured it but if I had to guess I would say in it's stretched state it's about 5 inches long. I did a twist and curl as I would always do on my transitioning hair and went to bed. It didn't turn out that well but that was fine. When I went to work, a couple of my co-workers said they couldn't even tell that I big chopped, I'm still not sure if that's good or bad.

Now let's be honest here, I struggle to even consider myself a 'natural', because I feel like I'm still the same. During this whole transition I thought being natural would be like jumping the broom, trading my old life for a new beginning. In a sense it is a new beginning, I feel as if I have new hair and I'm excited to play with it and experiment, but I'm still the exact same person. I know it sounds silly to think you're going to miraculously change once you cut your hair, but if you haven't transitioned maybe you can't empathize. I feel like natural haired women are wiser or something...The holders of all hair wisdom. I'm not 'hair-wise', I have NO idea what I'm doing. It's only been four days, maybe my body doesn't know it's a naturalista yet?

All in all, I am happy with my big chop. Big chopping means different things to different people. For some it's just a haircut and for others it's letting go of all the traditions and beliefs about [black] hair, embracing your own self and breaking away from those old traditions/beliefs. In my family, long hair is very much treasured but not to the extent where my family would disown me for cutting my hair. I think the hardest part for me will be styling. My twist out failed, my braid out was ok for a day, and my puffs are cute enough. I'll be watching Youtube for more inspiration...

...Oh and about the annoyance that is Youtube let me tell y'all something...No, wait, I'll save that for another blog!

:)