I stated in my first “chapter” that I should have written and published it six weeks after I actually did. That’s because my determination to begin this journey started within a week after getting my last perm. The flesh is so strong once it’s been satisfied; in other words, it’s easy to sit with bouncin’ and behavin’ hair and talk about going natural, getting to know and love what’s under the relaxed hair, etc. Now approaching the time that I would normally visit the salon, my overwhelming thought regarding my hair is, can I do this? I should be more specific: do I really want to do this? As I embrace just a few of the realities of something that seems so simple–allowing my hair to remain in its virgin state as it grows–I realize what a major change this is.
In educating myself regarding tips for taking care of my new hair, it occurred to me that I will need to fire my stylist. With a different writing style, this would be the moment when I say, “OMG!!!”
My stylists, Velvet, then Vivian, and then Sharon, are far more to me than just ladies that “do” my hair.
I met Velvet when she was a student at Visible Changes University. She kept me looking good for $10 a week while completing the work toward her license–so good, in fact, that I left the studio when she did. I followed her to her home, getting my hair done over her sink. I followed her through a tumultuous relationship with her boyfriend, who later became her husband. I followed her through a teenage son being taken by CPS when he’d become too rebellious for her to manage as a single parent. I followed her through her own coming to Jesus Christ, realizing that life was too much to manage on her own. In fact, the only reason I quit following her was because she was always late, which meant I was always late. When everyone else had arrived for my first baby shower except me, I figured it was time to move on and find someone with more professionalism. But it bothered me to leave Velvet, and I still remember her and wonder what she’s doing now.
You know how the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart? Viv’s heart was full of Jerry Springer (smile). Smart and sassy, she always had a story about something going on in her life that you knew couldn’t have been true, but she told it with such flare until you’d listen in amazement anyway. I suppose if I’d been a more mature Christian at the time, the right response would have been to talk to her and pray for her far more frequently, but I just enjoyed her. I loved the comfort of her chair, and the way her Memphis charm left me feeling as if I’d been with Ophrah Winfrey before she was elevated to first-name-only status. I enjoyed her so much until I still tried to frequent her shop after we moved an hour away, but it just became too much time away with two very small children at home.
Sharon is something special. Saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost, she preached all day from her chair and I never felt robbed when giving her my “offering.” She was so encouraging to others and so pleasant, I never knew that she left the salon cleaning heads only to go home and clean adult diapers. Her countenance never showed the people around her with failing health. Recently,when I mentioned in Facebook that I was leaving my stylist, one commenter said, “Oh, no, stay with her. We ladies always need pampering.” One one hand, it makes sense, but pampering costs, and like most of us during these times, I’m looking to save where I can.
These women represent far more to me than just their abilities to whip my coif into shape; each of them deposited something into my life. Velvet’s determination to get to God, no matter the odds, Viv’s southern charm and undeniable class and beauty, and Sharon’s countenance in the face of trial have all become a part of me. And though their friendships each had/ have a season, each stays on my mind and in my prayers.
The other reality of this transition is having to focus even more on ingredients: what goes in me, and what goes on me, or rather, on my hair. I’ve been a water drinker most of my adult life, and anyone who’s gotten a relaxer knows how critical a hydrated scalp is to avoid the pain of a burning chemical in your head. Now I’ve also increased my intake of spinach (thank God that I can eat it raw), and broccoli, and I’m really investing a lot of time (another reality of this transition) regarding what makes hair glow and what makes hair grow. I do not want this hair journey to become an idol, but I’m becoming more and more aware of how much I don’t know. It’s funny. I talk to my adult students about how to determine what internet information is credible and reliable; these are lessons that I’m now having to marinate upon in an entirely new way. The blessing is that all of the blogs and YouTube videos I’ve stumbled upon in this area are the workmanship of gifted sisters who seek to educate as much as to inspire. I’ve spent considerable time on tightlycurly.com, and specifically, her attention to various ingredients in hair products. I never paid much attention to the backs of shampoo and conditioner bottles until a couple of years ago when I read about sulfates in shampoos. It was then that I switched both the girls and myself to a “no-poo” wash, and the difference in softness and manageability of our hair has been amazing.
I found out that the chlorides in my conditioner weren’t a bad thing as I thought they might be. But then, there it was: sodium hydroxide. The same sodium hydroxide that I walked away from in choosing to no longer chemically straighten my hair. The same sodium hydroxide that I watched devour a soda can in a matter of hours. Had I been thinking, I should have known that there was something behind the “straight” capabilities of Pantene’s Curly to Straight series. In yet anoher stint on the internet, I found a number of thoughts along those of this post from a thoughtful blogger, which gave me some relief. Still, I can’t help but wonder if using a little bit of sodium hydroxide in a conditioner is sorta like being a little bit pregnant. At the least, it might be one way to keep my hair from breaking too badly as the new hair grows in. Yet, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed that my new growth, which looks like a slightly more wavy version of my permed hair, might not be the hair that I’ll have long-term. The answer to the question of what is my “real” hair is still a mystery.
I’ll stop for now. Next month’s chapter? Styles, and finding one that is me. I’ve already got lots to say.