Saturday, February 12, 2011

The other side of being natural... when you want to turn back

Frequently, I find that others seem to be living in some type of blissful denial of some of life's realities. For instance, the organization I work for is known for telling people that the second half of the year (you know, the one that comes after the break when you got to go back to your real life and your friends and family and eat real food because you weren't broke when you were at home with moms and the pop) is hard, and granted, this is true. However, when I became cognizant of the fact that a lot of stuff about work blows, I found a number of people telling me that my discontent was a direct result of it being the second half of the year, and that everything would get better.

Well, that's not necessarily true. Stuff blows, and everything is better, simply because I give myself permission to acknowledge the blow-factor. Some things blew before break, so just because it's after Christmas, doesn't mean that's why I'm upset.

One of my least favorite things is when people respond to discontent by telling the disgruntled one that "[they'll] miss ______________ when it's gone." Um, what if I don't? Sometimes, people aren't taking things for granted; they simply aren't happy.

I started pondering the idea of changing my hair before break. It's reached a point where something's gotta give. According to my mother, even when I was a child, my hair was frizzy and prone to tangling. And this is when it was relaxed. Now it's natural, and though I have dealt with the frizziness, the tangle-factor is ridiculous. I pretty much would have to detangle my hair every couple of days in order for it to not tangle. My tight, corkscrew curls do not stand out on their own. They don't define themselves much. They must be shy. They like holding on to each other and basking in each other's shadows. The only time they really stand out is when I do a wash and go. But that's not an easy everyday option. Plus, when I wash and go, my hair shrinks like Rick Moranis in the 80s. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're too young. Do some research, and get back to me.)

So, I started thinking about what I was going to do. I got caught up in the idea of locking (again), and this time actually did some research, and chatted up some folks. At the end of the day, I decided this wasn't an option for me at the moment. What I imagined to be low maintenance (locs) is actually pretty damn high maintenance, and I would have to cut some of my hair off in order to start them the way I wanted to. (Palm rolling.) So, I let that thought go. And then, I thought of the *dun dun dun* creamy crack. I actually envisioned going to buy a box. And after a few days of pondering that, I let the thought go back to wherever it came from.

Now, a few months later, I'm back there in my mind, envisioning what it would be like to have straight hair after two years away.

Honestly, I miss having straight hair. I miss being able to run my fingers through my hair. I miss ponytails. I don't want to spend an entire day twisting my hair anymore. I don't want to spend hours detangling my hair. Quite frankly, it's just hair, right?

Not so much. I feel like it's just hair only applies to those whom are leaving the relaxed land behind for the world of natural. But why doesn't it apply for the other way around?

In my mind, if it's just hair, then I should be able to buzz it, wear it natural, wear it relaxed, wear it texturized, wear it twisted, wear it loc'ed--I should be able to do whatever I want, without fear of reproach. But, for Black women, it's really not just hair. It's not. The fact that I'm even giving it this much thought illustrates the fact that it's not just hair.

The natural thing has gotten to be too much for me. The well-intentioned self-love can be a bit isolating. In thinking back on my time as a natural, I realize I've been trying to convince others (namely, my mother and sister), that being natural is the best way to be, rather than accepting them and whatever they want to do with their hair. Hell, the only reason I went natural is because I got bored and I was lazy, and didn't want to have to perm my hair myself. So I waited a month... and waited another month... and another... and decided I was going natural.

I had relaxed hair my entire life. When my hair was relaxed, I never felt like it comprised such a part of my identity as my natural hair does. My hair was simply my hair. But with my natural hair, I feel like it has become as big of a personality as I am. For a time, it was cool. (Of course, there weren't many "I'll remember you by your hair"/positive things when my hair was natural and short... but once the fro became much larger than my head, people started talking. [And it didn't involve ignorant negroes aka one former jump off calling me a "little African boy." Hence, former jump off. Told you the short natural hair didn't get too many positive things said.]) But now, it leaves me feeling boxed in. The other day, a man I conversed with at a gas station said he would remember me as "the lady with the big hair." I thought it nice at the time, but now, it bothers me. I really am not my hair.

Just because I have natural hair does not mean I'm deep. It doesn't mean I listen to Erykah Badu and wear patchouli. It doesn't mean that I'm a hippie. It doesn't mean that I'm an intellectual. It doesn't mean anything except that I have natural hair. In fact, I was deep with straight hair, and I was an intellectual with straight hair. I listened to Erykah with straight hair, and the first time I got my nose pierced, I had straight hair.

Just because I want my straight hair back doesn't mean I practice self-hate. It doesn't mean I want to be "white," and may I take this second to point out the fact that all white people don't have straight hair, and don't get me started on why taking on an assumed characteristic of another race is considered to be the end of the world. (By the way... when Black people say other Black people are trying to be "white" by straightening their hair, why don't they say Black people are trying to be "Asian" instead? Is it because that will never be as offensive as a perceived assimilation into the characteristics of the race that oppressed us?)

I'm on a rant here, because this has been bothering me, but mostly because I realize that I fell right into the trap. There's nothing wrong with embracing natural hair... but it's not the end all or be all. Why does going natural have to be a lifetime commitment? I don't think I'll ever make a lifetime commitment to something as transient as my hairstyle.

Why does going natural bring about an assumption of intellect, or depth?

Why don't we focus on healthy hair, regardless of whether it's natural or relaxed or texturized?

My decision on my hair isn't finalized yet, only because nothing is final until it's done. So, I won't say I'm for sure going to relax it, until I do, but I will say this: wherever my hair journey goes from this moment on, I'm going to work on unlatching my mind from my hair follicles. No one should have to debate with themselves on the "correctness" of what one wants to do to one's hair. It's just hair, and it does grow back.

I am a human, and I am entitled to change, and to change my mind.

Regardless, I am Malorie, and don't remember me as the lady with the big hair, or the lady with the twists, or the lady with the straight hair. Because as sure as the sun and moon, I get bored, and the next time you see me, I might not be the lady with the hair you remember. Don't remember my hair, remember me. Even if the hair changes, the essence of me stays the same.


Miss Avanti J said...

I loved this post, especially after seeing the pics of the new hair today on Fb (which looks gorgeous btw).

I love my natural hair, but I always hated when people questioned why it was natural; I think I kind of disappointed them by saying I was just always this way and when I got old enough to do something about it, I just didn't.

I love when a person can embrace their choices, whether they want to go natural or perm or loc or whatever. I love using a flat iron on my hair and running my fingers through the smoothness, but on the other hand, for me, being natural is easier, straightening is way too much maintenance, so I defaulted to what I know best.

People should stop making assumptions about black women and their hair choice, because truly it is simply a choice and really does not define or even disclose an inch of their character.

Miss Malorie said...

Thank you for your awesome commentary. Absolutely spot on. I had someone tell me yesterday that they thought my hair was pretty, but that hair is like identity, and so they felt betrayed that I was no longer natural. (Said with a bit of jest, but in every joke is truth.)

I went natural by sheer accident and laziness, and no one is saying I won't do it again. But I want to do it because I simply want to, not because I feel some type of pressure to do so. Me embracing my many different hair options should be the true thing that is celebrated, like you said. Oftentimes, people create something where there is nothing--I do love the natural hair sites (hell, they helped me go natural in the first place), but I find too often that people create problems when there really aren't any. Sometimes, a person is simply natural or relaxed because they are, not because they are on some quest for enlightenment or because they hate themselves. And people need to realize it. I'm glad I did.

Unless otherwise indicated, all words here are property of Miss Malorie Registered & Protected