It may well be, that for me, 2015 is a year of renewal, if only I would let it. In typical Monet fashion, I’ve put off some major decisions until they’ve become minor crisis. Every morning, I’ve been looking in the mirror and telling myself to “Choose now and live with the consequences”. I started the year by making a long list of things I’d like to accomplish, not necessarily this year, but in life. And when that list was done, I made another list, this one of regrets, true regrets, those things I wake up still thinking about five, six, seven years later. And once I’d completed the regrets list, I really dug into them by asking myself “Why did I do that?” And what all of those bad decisions came down to was my terrible habit of being indecisive.
All this to say, I need to cut off my hair*. I know that it needs to happen and yet, instead of doing what needs to be done, I have been walking around like a horror story. All last year, I kept my hair in braids, hoping that my natural hair would grow out enough that I wouldn’t have to go almost bald. Now that the braids are out, my hair is in a terrible in-between state — half straight, half textured, all bird’s nest. It’s a wonder my boyfriend even has sex with me (thank goodness he’s not as shallow as his gf). And it’s not like I don’t have access to salons or experts who could help me with the transition, as it’s called. Since we moved to Portland, I’ve been pointed to several such professionals. I even contacted a few, made appointments and then didn’t show up.
Why? I wasn’t sure. I’m a vain person. I like to look my best. But there was a bigger fear. And once I accepted that I was being indecisive, I allowed myself to address why I didn’t want to cut my hair. I had an inkling when I went to visit one of my oldest friends in Seattle before Christmas. This is a woman who has known me since high school and has seen me, and my body, transition through life for over ten years. When she saw me for the first time in a few months, I could see her looking at my hair. I’d put it into Senegalese twists, which caused my usually shoulder length hair to be shorter and tighter to my head. I’d put a slouchy black hat over the whole thing, leaving a few twists out in the front. It was a look I’d never sported before. And as I saw my best friend looking at my head, I instantly became defensive and she hadn’t even said anything.
I was defensive because, except the few times my hair was in braided extensions, I have always had straightened hair, and nothing could be worse to a black woman with straightened hair than to be seen with the natural texture growing (otherwise known as new growth) at the roots of her hair. So even though it had been a year since I’d last put the relaxing chemical in my hair, I was still living under the pressures of straight hair. I knew my hair was presentable, but my own natural hair appeared fuzzy to me. My friend expressed delight with seeing my hair style and we moved on to more important things, like wine. But a few days later, she looked at me and said, “I’m still getting used to your hair.”
And that was when I recognized the crux of my indecision. I still see myself as a woman with straight hair. That’s who I’ve been my whole life. What would it mean and who would I be with natural hair? It’s the kind of decision that shouldn’t be so outwardly focused and yet it is for black women. Chris Rock’s movie, “Good Hair” does a great job portraying the struggle that black women have with their hair, and how society has dictated for us what is good or bad hair. Intellectually, I can understand that I perceived my straightened hair as better than the hair that grew healthy and bountiful from my own head, but the act of rejecting that way of thinking by starting over is scary. Will I still be attractive to my boyfriend? Will I still be considered for a job? Will white people be more likely to perceive me as an angry black woman? Hell, will I even be able to style my own hair, since I never learned to do it? All questions that should have nothing to do with my decision, but do.
I have to decide. I can’t go on with my hair the way it is, pulled back in a half-assed ponytail. But I don’t know if I’m brave enough to start over, to learn again, to accept myself the way I am down to the roots.
* Since I was little, my hair has been relaxed, meaning my naturally textured hair has been straightened through a process that requires harsh chemicals. It also required a trip to a stylist every 4-6 weeks. In order to maintain the straightness of my hair, I avoided water and sweating heavily which would, in layman’s terms, reverse the relaxation process. At night, I would wrap my hair by parting it down the back, then combing the hair in a circle around my head, securing it with bobby pins and covering it with a scarf. If I didn’t wrap my hair, all manner of ills befell me. In order to be completely natural and free those restraints, I need to cut off the relaxed portions of my hair, which would be most of it.