I’ve always been in search of “easy” hair. The never-ending search for the kind of hair elusive to most black women, the kind that behaves and looks great, has been ingrained in all of us from the minute we understood ourselves as little black girls and boys. I even big chopped my own hair in an effort to grow an ever-growing, perfectly messy, but never out of place, mop of curls that doesn’t actually exist. Instead, six years later I’m up at midnight writing about how much work natural hair is to procrastinate actually taking proper car of my own natural hair. This hair may be natural, but it certainly isn’t easy.
Back in 2012 I was just looking for a solution to a decade of unhealthy hair. I’d spent most of high school and college hiding behind micro-braids so tight I had bald spots along my hairline, visible reminders of a decade of poor choices. I felt like I had tried everything from sew-ins to a pixie cut to no avail. My hair was dry and brittle, unwilling to grow no matter what I did. The choice to big chop wasn’t hard because I literally had nothing to lose. My hair couldn’t look any worse than it did.
The feeling of freedom that came after ridding myself of a consistent source of frustration and despair for most of my adult life was exhilarating. I’d been chained to this relaxed, tortured mess and was finally able to breathe. And breathe I did. My slow-growing hair took several years before it needed, or was long enough, to handle anything more than a basic wash-and-go. To be able to wash, condition, and moisturize my hair and then walk out the door was freeing. To love the way my hair looked, to see it healthy everyday with so little effort – priceless. Then my hair grew.
Don’t get me wrong, my hair is still healthy and beautiful (for the most part), but it’s ridiculously temperamental. The majority of my hair is a 4A texture, if you believe in that sort of thing, and the tiny, tight spirals demand very specific care. The longer it gets (today it’s hovering around shoulder length) the more care it needs. Morning, noon, and night I consider any number of things which could potentially derail a good hair day. What’s the most recent weather prediction? How long will I be in public? When do I want to wake-up/go to sleep? Will I be the only black person in the room? These are all questions I need to work through before deciding what needs to be done to my hair. It’s like a second job (or third, in my case).
Lulu, as I’ve taken to calling my hair on the days it seems impossible to wrangle into one of my preferred styles, has added so much additional work to my life that she deserves her own name, if not outright demands one. In going natural I gave up the one thing I most value – control. Now my hair, so suddenly full of personality, runs the show. It’s almost like we’re in a relationship. For hair that can be big and loose, small and tight, AND long and flat in the same day, I have to be attentive to its needs, adjust my schedule as necessary, and be open to sudden changes and derailed plans.
Good hair days require compromise and creativity, two terms with which I haven’t always had the best relationship. And I must admit that Lulu and I are still working through a few things. But the biggest lesson I learned in my natural hair journey was that removing chemical products from my hair regimen did not simplify my life or the regimen itself. It didn’t make my hair any easier to maintain, and in fact created a different set of issues. But it is healthier. It is more vibrant. I do feel a sense of recognition when I see my hair in the mirrors reflection. It is mine. And nothing about me is easy.