Thursday, September 2, 2010

The "Natural" Treatment

I got my first relaxer at age 5 when i begged for straight hair like all the other little {white} girls in school. My hair was long and soft, but immediately my mother realized that she had made a mistake. Since then, i have gone from relaxed to natural and back on an average of every 4 - 5 years. The second time the hair salon relaxed my hair without her approval when i only wanted it pressed out for a wedding, and the third time was in the 7th grade when i wanted my hair relaxed after my best friend got hers done. 

Growing up, we moved a lot, so i went to about 4 different elementary schools and a separate preschool.  Although we moved a lot, we always lived in good neighborhoods and i always went to good schools, which here in NYC meant that i was probably one out of 3 black kids in my class. I've even been the only one. It seemed that no matter where i went i was going to be the "tolken" black person, so i made light of my differences. Because my mother has always been a single parent with 2 jobs, she didn't always have time to do my hair so i spent most of my childhood in box braids and twists. The other kids in my class used to love to pull on them and watch them spring back, making those 'boingy! boingy!' sounds. I didn't mind that because i too liked the springing effect my hair had, but the other kids weren't always as nice. I got called all kinds of names including Medusa and Buckwheat. You could imagine what this can do to the self esteem of a 10 year old girl, especially one who's mother's hair has always been full, relaxed and long.  My best friend also always had a full head of hair that was always past shoulder length, so you can understand why i wanted that relaxer again when i got to the  7th grade. I had started noticing boys and thought no one would like me with natural "nappy" hair.

When i decided to go natural in high school, i had started transition to natural hair with micro braids. I wanted to grow out my natural hair because i didn't like the way my relaxed hair looked so thin and lifeless. It was healthy because my mother used to roller set my hair for me every few days, but it was being permed bone straight and my hair is much too fine for that.  I am so happy that i decided to go natural in high school because it taught me a lot about people and how superficial they can be at an early age. When my hair was relaxed, i was the "it" girl in school because i was different. I went to a predominately black high school, which i chose to go to so i could be around more of my own people, which i later learned was a mistake. 

I went to school with black kids from Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx who spoke slang and wore baggy jeans and wanted to fight all the time, and everything was new to me. I was the girl who showed up for 9th grade with a Stevie Wonder CD in her CD player and punk rock/ skater clothing. I definitely stood out for being different, but going natural was a whole other story. When i finally chopped off all my permed ends, i came back to school sporting a TWA pushed back with a headband. Girls made fun of me and guys didn't even want to talk to me or look at me anymore. I went from everybody wanting to know my name, to everybody acting like they didn't know me. I finally decided to texturize my hair just a little to help take down the frizz which also helped to define my curl pattern. When i went back to school with my curls instead of my afro, i remember one girl telling me that looked better and asking me why i hadn't been wearing my hair like that the whole time, to which my response was "I don't know." I realized that i then had become more acceptable.

I've been experiencing "the Natural treatment" my whole life.
From this i have learned so much about people, life, superficiality, and beauty images. I also now know why black women are so strong, because of all that we endure.
I am glad that i learned the lessons i did and i hope other young girls will learn to realize their hair is beautiful, no matter what anyone says.

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