Apr 25, 2012

I feel like I've told this story a million times but I'll repeat it again.  I haven't relaxed my hair since 2008.  I never really planned to go natural.  I was doing a 6 months stretch (stretching is when you space out your relaxer re-touch applications, instead of doing it every 4-6 weeks like some stylists recommend, you wait eight weeks or longer to apply your next re-touch.  The theory is that it reduces breakage by allowing more hair growth and preventing overlapping.  I used to stretch for 16 weeks at a time and personally it worked for me. Although if you attempt to do this, please keep your hair moisturized at the line of demarcation.) and when the six months was  up I was too busy to properly prepare my hair for a re-touch.

Before I knew it, I had been nine months without a relaxer and my hair wasn't complaining.  So I decided to see how long it would go.  At 18 months post relaxer, I figured what the heck, I guess I'm going natural.  I went to a salon and asked the stylist to trim 3 inches from the bottom.  She suggested that I just big chop because transitioning takes a lot of work.  I declined. My face is way too round for a twa (teeny weeny afro).

Anyway over the next couple of years, I continued to trim off relaxed ends every 3 months until they were gone.  When my hair was relaxed, I'd always hear women with natural hair talking about the versatility.  I didn't get it but once I was natural I did and I loved it.  Curly to straight and vice versa just wasn't as much work. I perfected the roller set and all seemed right with the world.

I learned a lot about my hair, like the fact that it is not all one texture and most women's hair isn't.  I call it the dirty little secret that naturals keep.  I can't tell you how many women email me as they are transitioning and discover that there has several different textures and they are freaking out about it.  I also found out why I never had the fro baby picture that most Black people have. My hair isn't curly, it's wavy, which I think looks amazing but causes 2 big problems: it's always frizzy after just a couple of hours of wearing it down and it tangles within itself and detangling is a headache literally.
So with all this love I have for my natural hair, what's the problem?  The last time I had a Brazilian blowout, my hair touched the top of my hips.  It is long, it is thick, I am in heaven and hell at the same time.  With my five day a week workouts, I MUST wash my hair at least twice a week (I know some you are going to bring up the fact that I have told you about cleaning your scalp with Seabreeze or another astringent but at this point that doesn't help me anymore, my hair holds the smell of the sweat and I cannot stand it) and it takes way too long to dry.  A few months ago, I washed it on a Friday night, put it into 2 braids just to see how long it would take to air dry and by Sunday evening, I still had damp roots. And there is no way I can go to work with wet hair for 2 days or wearing  braids for 2 days.

Now I know some people will talk about bucking the system etc but I have a shoe habit, a mortgage and a healthy appetite.  Until you all buy more of my hair products or books, I work for the man and that is just the way it is.  Wigs and weaves are not an option for me because I really just don't like them and I didn't put all this effort into growing my hair just so I could hide it...Nope, ain't doing it.  And as far as I am concerned 2 other things are not an option, one is cutting my hair (the 10 year old girl in me always wanted Diana Ross hair without realizing that Diana was wearing wigs, but now I have Diana Ross hair and she is not going to let me give it up) and going back to bone straight hair (no knock to the sisters who like it bone straight but I just love how thick my hair is right now and bone straight takes away some of that thickness).

So I devised a plan I could live with.  I was going back to texlaxing (for those of you who don't frequent the hair blogs texlaxing is a made up term.  The theory is that you can leave a relaxer on for a minimum amount of time and you loosen the curl pattern of your hair without making your hair completely straight.  In reality, it's really just an under processed relaxer treatment.) and that way I could cut down on the detangling process and the air drying time.  Sp I enlisted a friend to help and decided that we would divide my hair into 4 sections.  Relax each section separately, leaving the relaxer in for five minutes (bone straight is 15-18 minutes for me) on each section before rinsing it out.  ( let me add in 2 caveats: Relaxers are a chemical and as with most chemicals they really should be applied by a professional, like a hair stylist.  Also, I am not sure that most stylists recommend texlaxing AND I am NOT a licensed stylist.  I'm just a girl who is fascinated with hair and while I have done tons of research, I am not formally educated and my opinions are my own.)

So I drove twenty minutes out of the way to go to a Black owned beauty supply store (I am not a hypocrite) bought the huge tub of relaxer that stylists use on several clients knowing that I was probably going to need about 70% of it for this one application, picked out some more rollers and stood in line.   I'm all set to go until I get the tap on the shoulder.  Dread set in immediately, I felt a knot tightening in my stomach as soon as I turned in the direction of the hand because I knew what was coming next.  "My sister," she said with the most earnest expression, "Your natural hair is beautiful.  Please don't do that."

I know people mean well, I do, and I get it, many naturals are just so proud of being natural it breaks their hearts to think one might leave the fold.  And on the other side, I have had many (especially older Black people) tell me, your hair would be so pretty if you got it done (and by done they mean straightened). So what I have learned over the last four years is the only person I can really worry about pleasing with my hair is me.  So I thanked her for her concern and purchased the relaxer.  When I got home, I called my partner in crime to decide when we would get down to business and discovered that she had gotten cold feet.

It would seem that her sister has decided to big chop and has accused me of influencing her to do it.  Now for the record, I am a fan of women wearing their hair however they choose, natural or straight doesn't matter to me.  I want Black women to learn that we have great hair if we learn how to care for it.  We have no need to be ashamed of our hair and no reason to hide it.  We can have long hair if we want it.  That's my message not that you have to wear it one way or another but I do love my natural hair and I get excited about it and apparently, I am too persuasive for my own good.

So here I am feeling like I have been forced into the role of poster child for natural hair.  And it really got me to thinking.  My advice to her sister was genuine, my affection for my natural hair is too, so maybe there are some other options I should consider before I find myself in another 4 year transition because once you relax it you can't go back.  So I have an appointment with a natural hair care practitioner to see what my options are for workout/ hair drying balance.  Telling ya'll right now though, if the words cut or wig leave her mouth, it's a wrap.  I'll keep you updated

1 comment:

  1. Guess this is just the week for you and I to agree. Do whatcha gotta do. Our individual routines and preferences do not always have to translate into becoming champions for a cause. Several women can tolerate relaxers just fine. Or they make some modifications as you have done because they need to to make life just a little bit easier.

    I haven't had a relaxer in about 13 years now. Don't know why I had one to begin with. Actually I do know why. Just wish I had better guidance because I just simply didn't need it. I've worn my hair longer and shorter without a relaxer. I had a pretty serious workout regimen but I didn't sweat alot and I just kept my hair wrapped with a scarf while I worked out. A few years ago, that changed for me. I guess my sweat glands decided to make up for lost time. I could no longer wear my hair wrapped while working out. Now it is to a point that I just have to modify my workout routine. The more intense cardio I do when I am about to wash my hair which is only weekly. Other times I do things that are still challenging like weights, pilates, and the bike but hair is not adversely affected.

    So that is one suggestion I have to offer for anyone that struggles with working out and maintaining their hairstyle.