“Soft natural crimpy, and bouncy beautiful brown hair. Strong rooted long hair. Fluid, wavy when combed.” -Ratonji Mosley.
My mom never relaxed my hair, but it took me until 2017 to wear my natural hair texture in public and within the office. Like many African-American women, I was conditioned to keep my hair neat, orderly and kept together. If my hair wasn’t in a weave, I mostly wore it in a low coiffed bun. I grew up learning and dancing classical ballet and recently discovered the profound effect it has had on my views of what’s socially acceptable as it relates to my hair. After all these years, the bun style is still my go-to if I’m not wearing my protective styles (braids or a sew-in weave).
Now, I’m asking myself, “Why are you so uncomfortable wearing your natural curls or hair straightened?” I’m coming to learn that it’s a larger question that I don’t have the answer but realize this behavior is deeply rooted in lack of confidence with my natural appearance and the need to control my environment, including my hair. My bun is ever out of place, my baby-hairs are gelled down to perfection and my edges are full and slayed. Since my first ballet class at three years old, I’ve been focused on attaining perfection throughout all aspects of my life, and my hair fell victim to that standard. I never thought of my hair having her own identity but as an extension of myself and persona. I’m learning that my hair has her own journey, whether she feels comfortable free and out in a fro, tightly coiled curls, bone straight in a weave or in plait braids, she is her own being.
For the first time in a while, I finally feel comfortable wearing my natural hair in the workplace. However, there are still some embedded conditions preventing me from truly wearing my natural hair in the office that I have issues breaking away from, like sporting my curl. Upon graduating college, I entered the world of corporate public relations, marketing and social media and did not see women who looked like me. Not having representation in the workplace led me to want to alter my natural appearance to conform and fit in. I once wore my hair curly to the office and it was a topic of discussion for the whole day. I felt like I had to constantly explain my hair and its texture.
Fast forward to September 2018, I wore plaited braids for the first time. Growing up, I occasionally wore cornrows but never braids that included extensions with braiding hair. I didn’t really understand the concept and it wasn’t an option for me. I loved my first set of braids. The style granted me immense freedom and confidence. I saw a different side of myself, a side that didn’t lead with the concept of perfection. Since last year, I’ve experimented with new braided styles and felt more comfortable wearing them within the workplace, I’ve expanded my point of view and discovered the many different sides of myself. I’m still working through what my hair journey looks like, owning my blackness, and feeling comfortable and loved within my own skin.