I think it’s safe to say that I’ve shared a lot about my experiences since starting this blog. I’ve shared experiences on waxing, breastfeeding, insecurities, marriage, homeschooling and more. I’ve never truly described in detail my journey with natural hair. After growing my locs out for 11 years, I recently had to cut them down quite a bit, and it sparked a lot of emotions.
Hair is a very serious topic when it comes to the black community. Black men take their hairlines and beards VERY seriously. When it comes to black women and our hair?! It’s a completely different dimension. We carefully choose our stylists, products and styles. Our hair is versatile and includes many textures and lengths. Simply put… we just DON’T. PLAY. GAMES when it comes to our hair. Although hair can be gone in a second… although our confidence is supposed to come from within… our hair can make or break us.
For me, it all started back in the Winter of 1989 when my mother gave birth to me… I’m just kidding! I won’t take you back that far, but I will start with my sophomore year of high school. I absolutely loved getting a relaxer! I looked forward to my 6-8 week mark in order to get a touch up and style. Some of my high school friends may remember me calling it the “swoosh-swoosh” after I received my treatment because of how it used to sway back and forth when I turned my head. After a while I stopped looking forward to hair salon visits because a trim always turned into a hair cut. Then all of a sudden, major breakage happened. We assumed it was because of the stylist, so my mother switched me to her hairstylist. Because of the amount of damage that had been done, I received my first, true hair cut. Majority of my hair was cut to about mid-ear level, while the back was short and tapered. I was not happy about no longer being able to wear a ponytail. But it eventually grew on me.
Overtime, my hair began to grow back slowly, but shortly. Then it happened again. Major breakage. But this time it was worse. I woke up one morning with hair as low as an Amber Rose cut on the left and backside of my head. The hair wasn’t in my scarf, wasn’t on my pillow, and wasn’t in my brush or comb. Still to this day, I couldn’t tell you where my hair went, but it changed my life forever. My mother consoled me and quickly made an appointment with the dermatologist. He told us that the chemicals from the relaxer were just too strong for my hair to handle. My stylist was so helpful. We began adding weaves to my hair so that it could cover the damaged parts until it grew out again. Eventually we cut off the remaining damaged hair, and she referred me to one of her close friends who specialized in natural hair.
I didn’t reach out to her right away. I made a lot of visits to the African Hair Braiding Gallery first. It was the summer time, and since I had no idea what I would be doing with my hair, I decided to protect it with braids. During that time, I began to research locs. This was during the Lil’ Wayne era, and I found myself not liking the idea. It seemed like more men were rocking locs, and they were being worn very basic in my opinion. There was a lack of care, and I was not a fan. I didn’t want to commit to a style that I believed to be more permanent and not know what to do with them. Once I dug deeper and found beautiful women wearing locs of all sizes, lengths, colors and styles, I made the decision to loc.
In August of 2008, I began my loc journey. It took a ton of confidence to rock my “baby locs,” but I did it. These days, individuals are able to get the instant loc’d look with permanent and faux loc extensions. Some also wear wigs and braids over their locs while they are waiting for them to grow a certain length. While I think it’s super creative and inventive, I think starting that way takes away from the experience of having a true loc journey experience. Being able to watch your locs form and grow. Being able to get your first ponytail and then style. It’s an experience I’m glad I got to have. I experienced all of this from my sophomore to senior year in college. None of my friends wore their natural hair. Everyone still wore braids, weaves and relaxers. I went to Penn State, which is a predominantly white university, so within our maybe 4% black community on campus I can only remember one other loc’d female. I honestly felt like a unicorn. It was a good and bad thing. I was different, which meant I didn’t look like everyone else. But I didn’t look like everyone else! So I went back and forth between being confident and a little insecure.
Two pregnancies and several ups and downs later, I’d been loc’d for a total of 11 years. I was finally at “butt-crack” length and super proud of it. However; due to postpartum hair loss and a lot of stress from life, my hair was severely damaged at the roots. Locs were super thin, dropping out of my head like flies, and more. Goes to show you… Things can look great on the outside, but be absolutely terrible on the inside. I wore head wraps nonstop to cover the thinning and spacing in between my locs. So my buns were still very full and tall from the length, and they also still hung long past my waist when worn down. No one could tell. I was so embarrassed, I refused to go to the hair salon until I felt like I had enough new growth to grip and add into my existing locs.
After 11 months of hiding, I finally scurried up the courage to book an appointment. My actual loctician was booked for the next two months, so I tried someone new. I’m not a fan of change, but I’d been following this business just as long as I had been getting my hair done by my loctician. I felt comfortable with trying them out. The shampoo assistant reassured me that regardless of what would happen during my appointment, I wouldn’t walk out looking the way I did coming in. And she was right.
I was informed that my hair was way too long and heavy for my hair to continue to grow healthy. There was too much strain on the current state of my roots, and they would need to cut it. They asked me if I was ok with that, and my response was “I came here with high hopes that you all would be able to restore my hair to a healthy state. If that means it needs to be cut, then by all means, please do what you need to do.” I almost got carried away and said, “Well if we’re cutting, thing let’s go drastic and go for a bob!” Glad I didn’t though lol. I would have been in tears! In that moment, I was super confident with the cut. It didn’t mean too much because I had loss so many locs, cutting them would be no biggie.
I was wrong. While my head felt much lighter, it really hit me when I looked in the mirror at home. I was shocked at how much shorter it was than my previous length. I honestly loved people saying “Oh my goodness, your locs are so beautiful and long!” although I knew there was damage. I had always wanted to see how long my hair could grow. I was actually obsessed with it. I didn’t want to post pictures because I was still growing accustomed to the new me. I was still figuring her out. You would think it wasn’t a big deal because clearly I’ve been this length before! Way before my hair grew to the length it did before I cut it. My hair had become my comfort zone. “Oh you’re having a major breakout?” It’s ok, my hair looks good and long.” Girl look at this mom pouch?!” “It’s ok, my hair is longer than anyone who may try to judge me for it!” Terrible, I know. I was using insecurities to make me confident.
I’ve now realized that all of the length that was cut off was dead weight. A whole bunch of poor self care, disappointment, past hurt, insecurities, and stress. It would have been ignorant of me to hold onto things that were straining and damaging my roots. My foundation. It was much deeper than hair.
To some, this post is highly dramatic and extra. For me, it’s therapeutic. I thought I’d rid myself of all my insecure thoughts. I did with my weight, but not my hair. But now I have!