“I am not my hair”…it sounds good. It has a ring to it; I’d love to feel as though no matter what happens to my outward appearance, I feel glorious. But the truth is, I am my hair.
I am as multifaceted as its innumerable twists and coils…I am in awe of its versatility and often exasperated by its strong will.
I am my hair.
When it “misbehaved” I felt personally responsible and slightly shameful. I didn’t want to appear unruly, out of control, or exposed. Most of all, my natural hair made me feel vulnerable. I could hind behind the persona of my wigs and sew-ins; they were safe. I controlled the narrative of each and every one of my alter egos. Every detail was curated, laid, and slayed. I was in complete control - of myself, my hair, and my feelings.
Wash day was a chore...I’d been natural for years; I used keratin treatments to transition from relaxed to natural just after high school. As a longtime licensed stylist, I knew what proper hair care meant. I had the knowledge and the know-how, but didn’t have the patience or the proper haircut to style my natural curls. Years ago, the move from traditional sew-ins to closure installs meant that my natural hair was fully protected and, unbeknownst to me (or fully known, but completely irrelevant), flourishing. My deep conditioning treatments were consistent and beneficial, my roots were always touched up and toned. Whenever I did wear my hair out and about, it was swept into a big, thick bun on the top of my head. Clearly long and healthy, edges fully intact...yet ignored and forgotten about.
As time passed and I grew more into my own best “self”, my confidence grew. As cliche as it was, my inner strength fueled the woman I continued to become externally. I decided, after years of hiding anywhere but behind my hair, to make a change. Doing others’ hair is one thing - exposing your own true self, scissors in another’s hand, is quite another. I looked at photo after photo of my fellow naturalistas and grew envious of their volume, their huge hair, their innate Black. Girl. Magic. I stalked and searched high and low for a curl artist who’d understand that my afro had potential it just...needed help. I settled on cutting my hair during the weekend of AfroPunk Brooklyn; what better time, place, and space than to be surrounded by a sea of black and brown people? I finally found someone who I felt I could trust with this halfway “big chop” and made an appointment. I’d seen her, @TheMonaCut, transform hundreds of textured heads on the magical platform of content curation that is Instagram...why was I so nervous? Braids, wigs, weaves, even a scarf made from my favorite fabric...these, I could do - well and easily.
But my own hair, my truest and most bare self, was a force to be reckoned with that I must finally reckon with.
As my hair became shorter and its volume grew, I felt free. The more hair that hit the ground, the more layers that were carefully snipped and shaped...I felt seen. I felt wholly beautiful, in my own skin with my natural hair “blasting” in its glory. I realized that this is what it feels like to actually see yourself. It may not be for everybody, or not even for most people but for me, in that moment, that freedom was the exact definition of personal freedom that I needed.
I am my hair.
I am perfectly imperfect, beautifully and wonderfully made.
I am worth the work and the journey - its path is just as awe-inspiring as its destination.
From ditching Eurocentric beauty standards to embracing my personal definition of “best”...Whether undefined or perfectly twisted, I am my hair and my hair is a representation of me. Authentic in its flaws and emboldened in its unique capabilities, I am so proud. For the first time in a long time, I saw my own face in the mirror as clear as day. I noticed all the freckles on the bridge of my nose, and the way my cheeks filled up my entire face when I smiled. I noticed my father’s eyes, my mother’s nose. I was proud. I was beautiful. Not pretty in the “face beat, hair laid” kind of way, though that’s also valid. I felt pretty in the “look what GOD did” kind of way.
Cutting my hair was about more than a glorious scalp massage during my shampoo and sitting under the dryer in a salon space full of melanin magic. It was about finding myself, inside of myself. Cutting my natural hair meant embracing the same body, mind, and soul that God gave me to be great, in the way that only I could be. Cutting my hair meant that I heard the Universe and it's calling...to be true in my life’s work and purposeful in my aesthetic. It was a therapeutic experience that my heart needed - my mind just had to catch up. I still wear braids, I still switch it up with the occasional protective style, and I’ll always have a thing for hand made, custom-colored frontal wigs.
But this healing, this spiritual experience wrapped in a cloak of self-love and self-care...only my truest, most bare self could have experienced and appreciated that.