Welcome to My Curly Mane!
I started this blog to help inspire others and share stories about naturally curly hair, spirituality, and life’s journey … as well as to quit boring my non curly victims family members and friends with the joys and challenges of having naturally curly hair!
Today, it is not unusual to see a lot more curlies embracing their natural textures. Thank you! By embracing your natural mane, cosmetic companies and other curlies are taking notice and creating products suited for our hair. Halleloo!
You may be wondering what has driven me to write about my hair (of all topics!). As I always say, there’s just so much more to it than just hair.
Here goes my (slightly long) hair story:
For me, it’s been a bit of a bumpy journey before I’ve gotten to this state of fully embracing my hair… again. As a child, my hair routine was driven by my mother, who like most Jamaican mothers, would sit me between her legs as she slowly plaited up my hair each night. This consisted of meticulously sectioning off my hair and oiling my scalp with a generous amount of oils like the infamous Blue Magic. In the morning, the plaits were freed, brushed out, and re-plaited into pigtails. My hair was washed each Sunday like clockwork. This routine seemed to work, as my hair grew quite long, although I couldn’t tell since I always had lots of shrinkage and had never straightened it. I just knew that when it was tugged on, it was much longer than in its usual, shrunken state.
Sixth grade ushered in what I like to call “the rite of black girl passage,” as the majority of girls in my school started straightening their hair. Out with the “coarse, nappy” hair and in with straight, “mature” look. I remember drooling over my friends’ fresh presses and perms and praying (Are You There God? It’s me and my afro.) that my mother would also let me relax my hair. Oh, how my girlfriends’ silky, kink free hair swung with each head toss. They had what I wanted—movement and length. I begged, pleaded with my mother to also let me join the masses, but she refused, insisting that I didn’t need it.
It took a lot of persistence and promises (I swore I would polish the furniture more often!) until one day, when she finally gave in and took me to the hair dresser. This time, instead of sitting for hours on a Saturday watching my mom and sister perm their hair, I was finally getting my hair pressed! It took all day (and endless complaints by the hairdresser about my coarse hair) to wash, deep condition, blow out, and hot comb my hair. Still, I felt that it was all worth the wait, as I finally had straight hair!
It was long (past shoulder length) and bone straight. I don’t know how I didn’t get whip lash from the amount of times I swung my hair about. The icing on the cake–everyone in school loved it too! All my girlfriends oohed and aaahed. I finally had it—acceptance. I looked just like everyone else … until three days later when my hair reverted due to the heat and lack of information on sustaining the style. It was the last time my hair would meet a pressing comb for a long while. My mother didn’t like the look or the fact that it “shrunk up” my hair. I was devastated. Why oh why was this woman doing this to me? Of course, at the time I didn’t know that her infinite wisdom would also apply to my hair.
By high school, I started to take over the hair plaiting and scalp oiling role. In those early years, my hair styling consisted of a single pigtail with a bang that I rolled up each night (accompanied by the plaits). The bang, as puffy and off-centered as it looked, was essential for hiding my forehead (teenage issues). By my junior year, I started to experiment with braid outs. I found that my hair actually didn’t fall out when leaving it loose (crazy natural hair myths), although it did occasionally fro out due to lack of information on holding products. Braid-outs gave me a little more versatility and little more acceptance of my hair.
College was a turning point. Freshman year, I snuck around my roommate’s schedule before plaiting up my hair at night. It just seemed too much to explain to her why my hair didn’t behave like her stick straight tresses. In hindsight I would have taken greater pride in my hair and seized the opportunity to enlighten her, but these are the things you learn as you grow.
As college hours kicked in, my hair routine just wasn’t working for me anymore. There was also a new development. One day, I stepped out the shower and took a hard look at my hair in the mirror and noticed something new—my hair was curly! It wasn’t just curly. It was springy, kinky, and wavy all in one. I never really paused before plaiting to really analyze my natural texture. I knew I liked my hair in the shower (and took loooong baths to play in it), but I never knew how to capture that look on land.
If college is for experimentation, I passed with honors. I tried washing and going fully natural, sans products—fail. Trial and error taught me that my hair likes conditioner. Left that in. A half Dominican, half Puerto Rican hall mate with envious curls took one look at my hair and suggested that I use black gel. Wha-la! Black gel transformed my life. It ushered in the era of my signature afro curly pigtails, with slicked down hairline. Everyone on campus knew my piggies (yay!). It even garnered a following, with a few ladies rocking pigtails and one girl inspired to go natural. I was overjoyed. I had finally began embracing my natural tresses. It unfortunately took other people’s acceptance before I began to think kindly of my hair, but at least I began embracing my uniqueness.
The experimentation continued, and my piggies were self-bleached and died all shades of the rainbow—red being my go-to color. That was until one day, my hair threw in the towel. I stepped into the shower, picked up my brush to detangle my hair, and watched as chucks of hair easily slid off my head and into the brush! A few other hairs plopped into the drain! I was shocked and devastated. Looking back, I applaud my hair for not peeling out, given the fact that I bleached and colored it on a monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) basis.
A combination of the need for hair rehab and entry into the working world led me to dye my hair blackest black monthly (was still hooked on coloring) and press/flat iron it on a weekly basis. The combination hid the damage and allowed me to re-grow my hair to mid-back length … It also led me down the path of straightening addiction. How did I go from loving my curly mane to weekly blow frying and daily burnings, including one incident in which I literally burned off my hair with a hot comb due to an overheated oven?? I got so used to the look and feel of straight hair (and the approval it brought me by co-workers) that I began to resent my natural hair. Any sign of puffiness was met by my flat iron. Years of excessive heat combined with a bad highlighting job took its toll, and eventually my hair threw in the towel again and started breaking.
That year, in 2008, I noticed more and more curlies in the subway. Once spotted, I would stare at each and every one of their hair, analyzing the look, texture, color, and movement. You name it. I wished my hair looked like theirs … wait my hair had once looked like theirs! I wondered if I could get my old hair back again. Curiosity led me to hair boards, blogs, and videos. I cut my damaged hair from armpit length (when straightened) to shoulder length (about ear length natural). I also went fully natural and didn’t straighten my hair for a year. This drew a lot of questions and back-handed compliments by those who more than hinted that I looked better with straight hair, looked like a boy (ouch!), or questioned my “afro-centric look.” I wasn’t intending to make a statement. I just wanted my hair back! However, it did allow me to question the power and image of natural hair vs. straight hair and how this affects self-esteem and the way people treat of you.
By looking within and finding self-acceptance (life lessons), I eventually learned to turn down the volume of others and started listening more to my hair, not the heads of others. Instead of just slapping products on my hair and believing in miracles, I paid attention to what works for me, like more conditioning and less heat. My hair has been thriving (much healthier = more manageable). I still straighten it, but this is balanced by times spent all naturale. I’ve also learned that every head of hair not only looks different, but it may also react differently to products and techniques. You’ve truly got to listen to your curly mane and yours alone. Relish in your own comfort zone and not the lane people place you in. Learn to embrace yourself, your hair, and your journey. You hear that? … It’s your hair speaking!
This is my hair story, and I’m sticking to it!
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