My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 4: On Being Transformed

 If you want to lose weight and keep it off,  fad diets and sweat suits won’t do it; you must change the way you think about eating and exercise.

When you get serious about being debt-free, you can’t keep credit cards surrounded by a block of ice in the freezer or buried in the backyard; you must re-think the terms needs vs. wants, and liablilities vs. assets.

Ridding myself of my chemically straightened hair and allowing God’s plan A for me to manifest itself isn’t as simple, for a variety of reasons, as just going perm-free and then cutting it at some point in the future.    I have to rid myself of what others say about me and transform my thinking about what God sees as beautiful in me.

Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Then you will be able to test what is the will of God–His good, pleasing and perfect will.                                                                  Romans 12:2

In my last chapter, I talked about what Earl Graves described as the code, i.e., an unwritten set of rules that conform our appearance to that of the mainstream around us.      Soon after that, I read a very in-your-face article on  Nappturality.com entitled “Natural Hair is Professional, Are You?”

The ladies at Nappturality have an attitude.   I mean that in a good way.    Their declaration on their home page includes the following statement:

‘If you are still relaxing your hair you are welcome here, however be warned…We don’t debate the wonders of relaxing and we don’t talk about the benefits of chemical or heat straightening on Nappturality because frankly, there aren’t any benefits to using high heat or that caustic chemical. There are other ways to show your length without such damaging practices. But we all had to start our journeys somewhere…Just be aware that those of us here who are napptural are committed to being napptural and spreading the word of nappturality.  We don’t like relaxers.    And we don’t sugarcoat that fact.’

Admittedly, I’m not there yet.    I’m still looking in my rear view mirror on some days after waking up to all the uncertainties of my transitioning hair–should I have put something on it last night, how much was too much, is it time to do something else, etc.     But I get the point.    I have to change my way of thinking about what is beautiful about hair, and I have to do something that life experiences have trained me not to do: think of my natural hair as something beautiful.    After subjecting my hair to heat and later, to sodium hydroxide, beginning at about age 7, I must become increasingly comfortable with terms like ‘kinky,’ and ‘curly,’ and perhaps even ‘nappy.’     I must learn to view my God-given waviness as something other than a sign to schedule an appointment at the salon.

Where does all that negative, stinking thinking come from?   The easier question would be where doesn’t it come from.    Even on natural hair boards, it becomes quickly obvious that, even amongst the liberated, Afro-wearing (or something else like it) minority, there is something better about having longer hair.    Add to that the fact that my hairline says I’m growing older wiser, and the support simply dwindles.    It amazes me that our society considers a man with salt-and-pepper strands distinguished, but a woman is encouraged to run, not walk, for a bottle of dye.   I can remember my oldest sister–16 years my senior–giving me a hard time about my gray hairline, saying that she’d have no sisters that look older than she does.   Now, bless her heart, she has enough health challenges that a few gray strands are the least of her worries.

 There are hair classification systems out there designed to help you with understanding your hair type and what products help you take care of it.    Most notable is that of Andre Walker, former Oprah Winfrey stylist and Emmy award winner.    His descriptors for my hair type include the following:

  • wiry (correction: very wiry)
  • fragile (correction: very, very fragile)
  • fine/thin to wiry/coarse
  • lots and lots of strands densely packed together
  • known to shrink up to 75% of the actual hair length

Who’d get excited about growing a head full of that?   In his defense (not that he needs my help), his use of adjectives on other hair types isn’t much more encouraging.    I prefer to think of my ability to manage my coif  in a more empowering way, even if I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. 

Having said all of that, here is my 2-textured hair.    You can see the wavier/ curlier new growth at the scalp line, and then my chemically straightened hair attached to it.    These pictures were taken in February, so I’ll probably take more in April simply to see if there is a substantial difference.   At any rate, I don’t consider it wiryor nappy.    I’m loving it more each day, and often find myself running my fingers along the waves. 

Here’s a close-up (too close, maybe?):

It occurs to me as I draft this that I’ve put more “work-in-progress”  pictures of myself on this blog in the last three months than I’ve put on here in the last 4-1/2  years!   I’ve placed most of my transition pictures to date on Facebook, for the eyes of friends only.   I’m still experimenting with what to share and where, but as long as people are getting something out of these posts, I’ll continue to share them here.   

This was the result of my first two-stranded twist-out.

I’ve seen this style on others and I love it, but mine is definitely a rough draft.     One of the problems is that my relaxed hair is ‘thin and fine,’ a term I loathe, but that I’ve had to reckon with after an extended use of generic products years ago left a good bit of my hair in the trash can.     I am thinking that I’ll try this style once again after several months, when more of my new growth has come, and my hair should be thicker.   I will say, though, that for the 1-1/2 weeks that I wore my hair in this style, I enjoyed not having to sleep in hair rollers.   Boy, has that been an adjustment from the ponytail I once wore to bed.

These are my youngest daughter’s two-stranded twists (not taken down).    I envision that mine will look this way next year.     Funny, when I tried this style on her years ago, her hair was much shorter, and it was before I went to school, so to speak, regarding natural hair care.   The result was short, dry-looking “puffs,” and I swore off the two-stranded twist for her hair and reserved it for my older daughter, whose hair is more naturally curly.    This time as I progressed with her twists, I was shocked at how much longer her hair was,  and how well her twists stayed in place for a week (in spite of the fact that a night scarf comes off her head within 5 minutes of falling asleep).

I love how much she loves this style.   Moreso, I loved hearing her tell her Sunday School teachers when asked about it, “I’m going natural.”   Hilarious, since she’s always had her natural hair.    She picked up that phrase from hearing me say it, but I’m thrilled that she’ll never have to detoxicate from a way of thinking that lends itself to dyed, fried hair.    She already knows that God’s creation in her is beautiful.

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5 thoughts on “My Natural Hair Journey, Chapter 4: On Being Transformed

  1. Now see you make me wish we were transitioning together 🙂 We can still get through it together since I’ve only been natural for 2 months now. Even though I transitioned for almost 9 months I’m still learning everyday. Btw..my twists looked just like yours in the beginning of my journey too. After wetting my hair on a daily basis (to retwist or do bantu knot) and regular washes the two textures starting blending better after a couple of months . Your daughter’s hair is gorgeous!

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    • Thanks. Though I could really use a transition buddy so I don’t feel like such a “newbie,” I’m kind of glad there are people like you who out in front of me, but not by so much that you can’t relate. Someone gave me the nickname on Nappturality of “Freshman Napp.” I couldn’t get offended as it describes me perfectly. You’ve been an encourager, and you let me ask on the “dumb” questions. In fact, I’ll be writing soon to find out specifically how regular you mean by ‘regular’ washes.

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  2. Congrats on your hair journey! Just like homeschooling, you won’t regret it. I’ve been at it for about three years now; it still gets hard even after all this time. I see all the cute styles these youngsters are wearing and find myself reminiscing every now and again. My transition time was lonely and rough (literally). My hair is VERY “kinky”, so there was quite an abrupt shift from my new growth to my processed ends. I wore my hair in “straw curls” until I was ready to cut off my permed ends, and for a while after until I was ready to start locking up. I hope you stay encouraged! It’s SO nice not having to sleep with anything but a scarf on your head 🙂

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  3. @ dlyn1124…I’ve been natural almost 3 months now and I love not having to sleep with anything but a scarf too :). Nope I don’t miss things like hard rollers at all. LOL

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  4. I love Savannah’s hair!!! It looks so much thicker than I remember. Camille wears her hair like that from time to time. 🙂 Your natural curls are beautiful. You have locks, not kinks!!

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