Struggling naturals in a “relaxed” world


Cartoon by Ruth McManus

High school is a time for transformation, and mine came in the form of my hair.

My family was never fond of a lot of change at once, but they never went overboard with the disrespect. Then September 2017 rolled around.

I went through the house all week routinely stating, “I getting my haircut Saturday, guys,” to which my mom would reply, “Yeah, okay.”

The rest of the week crept by slower than a snail stuck in molasses. Finally, Saturday had arrived.
I went to John Amico’s, a great salon, and asked for a wash and straightening with a cut.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. But then I sat down after the wash and saw my curly hair go straight at the ends, and knew I’d be happier after this.

I sat there for two hours watching my hair fall while listening to the snipping of the shears until the lady was finished.

She spun me to star at the mirror, and I didn’t know how to feel. It took me a while to adjust, but after a few minutes, I felt liberated and happier than I had in a few years.

When I got in the car grinning from ear to ear after finally getting my haircut, the first thing I heard was “Why would you let them cut your hair? It’s so short now.”

This experience proved itself to be both liberating and eye-opening to the true societal perception of natural things.

Apparently, they only accept that loose and flowy type of curl pattern as presentable and always cute. Because, you know, that’s the only curl pattern people have.

There are loose curls and tight ones. Shrinkage, kinks and coils. The hair may be natural, but it’s not all going to look the same.

The things I’ve heard within the last two months are damaging to not only confidence, but also self-reflection.

How is someone going to love their natural self if they constantly hear “I’m just saying, you look better with straight hair.”

It’s not the place of family or society to tell someone that their natural hair, or any hair for that matter, is not acceptable. Allow them to enjoy their decisions and simply encourage them to continue being their own person.

“Never let people tell you how you’re supposed to look” was always taught to me, but the same people who taught me this were the ones trying to condemn me.

I’ve had people close to me express their disdain for my decision.

You all know the people who get upset when you say you want to cut your hair. “Do you understand how happy I’d be to have your hair,” they’d say.

To my surprise, these were the same people saying, “Your hair looks so cute. Look at you making big girl decisions.”

But the game changer for me was when I got hit with that line that infuriated me the most: “You chose the wrong time in your life to make such a drastic change.”

Because prime time for a haircut isn’t when you’re going through your transition stage of life in your teen years. That’s what our pal mid-life crisis is for. Definitely.

I cannot and will not allow people to tell me how to express myself. I should be the one deciding whether I wear my hair straight or curly or wavy or whatever I want.

The stigma and slight disrespect that comes with natural hair is astounding and, honestly, impossible to comprehend until you’re thrown into the situation.

To all you transitioners, don’t be discouraged by naysayers. You’ve got an entire community ready to back you.