When people ask me how long I’ve been natural, I usually give them the short answer- that I did my big chop in October of 2009 and just do the math from there. What I leave out is that that was actually my SECOND big chop! Yep. Some years before, I went natural and hated it!
A Little History
I got a relaxer when I was eleven years old at the request of a family friend who happened to be a hair stylist. Her kids had hair with a loose curl or wavy texture (thanks to their Puerto-Rican dad) so, being used to that texture, she had no idea what to do with my kinks as I sat in her chair. She asked me if I thought my mom would mind if I got a perm. She took my “I don’t know” as a “no” and the rest is history!
No matter how many of my friends got perms/relaxers back in the day, I was fine with my cornrowed kinks and the occasional afro puff. I never felt pressured to relax my hair. But once it was done, we just kept up with it… every six to eight weeks. The burning and scabs followed, of course, but we kept it going anyways. It had become a habit. Something I did because relaxing our hair was just… what “we” did!
My FIRST Natural Hair “Journey”
Fast forward about ten years or so. My then boyfriend (now hubby), whose grandma, sisters and mother all wore their hair in its natural hair state, would encourage me every now and then to stop relaxing my hair. I had no problem with kinky textured hair but I would have no idea what to do with it so I never really gave his comments a second thought.
But somewhere around 2002/2002, I finally bit the bullet and, after letting about an inch of new growth come in, I cut all my hair off. ALL of it!
…I absolutely HATED it!
My head was too big. My hair was too… little. To me, my facial features looked super boyish without all the hair. Ugh!
WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE?!?!?!
Despite the support and encouragement from my husband, I went and slapped a perm in my head as soon as I had the five dollars to buy one! But my hair was still super short so I turned to some very *cough* creative weave styles, box braids and even a little color until I got my length back.
So, What Was the Issue?!
It wasn’t the hair texture that was the problem, I’ve always loved seeing women with gorgeous kinky/coily hair. It was the length that wasn’t doing it for me. Not that I didn’t like short hair. I didn’t like short hair on ME! Listen, some people just can’t pull off super short hair aaannnd… I was one of ’em!
But after rocking my natural for almost seven years now, I realize that many who give up on their natural hair journey or don’t even begin is because they don’t want to wear a TWA. But the cool thing is, you don’t have to!
After that experience, I told myself that when I tried again, I’d just let my hair grow out more. Simple! A face like mine needs hair. That’s just the way it is.
So that’s exactly what I did!
transitioning with cornrows
My second time around, I let my hair grow out (transitioned, as it came to be called) for about eight months. By that time, I was SO over dealing with both straight hair and kinky new growth and HURRIEDLY cut off my relaxed ends in October of ’09. This length was much, muuuccchh better for me!
few days after 2nd big chop
I had a good amount of length that I could work with if I wanted to install some cornrows, pin up the sides or just rock the ‘fro!
Left: 1 month post-big chop (hair is slightly blown out) | Right: 6 months post-big chop (hair is in a completely shrunken state)
I felt much more confident with a little more hair on my head and gradually learned how to work with what I was born with.
April 2011, a year and a half post-big chop… got fancy and added color
Spring 2012 – chunky twist-out on a blow-out
I went about eight months before doing my big chop but there are a few inspirational naturals who transitioned for a lot longer before cutting off their relaxed ends. Laila-Jean aka FusionOfCultures transitioned for TWO years and kept up a great healthy hair care routine to help her hair thrive. If you don’t think short hair suits you, maybe you can use Laila as inspiration and do something similar.
Yes, I went natural and hated it! But seven years later, thanks to patience and proper care, I’ve got a full head of kinks that I love!
Sharing my story was all just to show you that, although I’m a confident naturalista now, I’ve been there! I know what it’s like to not particularly feel comfortable with a new look, especially really short hair. It’s perfectly okay to go back and try again later (or not) as long as you’re doing it because it’s what YOU want to do!
Don’t let anyone get down on you if you decide not to continue on your natural hair journey. But know that there ARE resources you can look to — like this site or amazing books like this and the ones below— to help you stay on track and continue to embrace the natural you. If you’re hating your natural hair right now or are having some issues, let me know! I’m here to help and encourage you. 😉