Having been natural for ~15 years, I often find myself being treated as something of a nappy hair ambassador by my fellow brown girls who’ve decided to embrace their kinks, coils, and curls. While I love sharing my experiences on damned near anything to damned near anyone who’ll listen, some of the questions and stories I get from ladies who are either considering transitioning to natural or who’ve recently made the transition often leave me scratching my head (yes, pun intended). Usually, I downplay my befuddlement, and try to provide as much meaningful info as I can in as supportive a manner as possible, but I often I wish I could tell them what’s really going on underneath my naps.
What I Wish I Could Tell You… But Can’t.
Your boyfriend/husband/significant other/potential suitors won’t be turned off by it.
My telling you that would require me to presume that you’re not the type who picks douchebag guys to begin with. Since I can’t assume that, I can’t assure you that some douchebag guy isn’t gonna try to make you feel like you’re less attractive or desirable without a chemical relaxer, straightening comb or weave. Yes, guys have preferences on skin color, hair styles, and body parts just like women do. And most of the times, the person that we guys and girls end up loving isn’t the person who meets all of our physical ideals – it’s the person who is worth investing time and energy into because they bring a wealth of positive, non-physical qualities to the relationship. So, if changing your hairstyle or texture is enough to send your beau into the arms of another, or to have him stop showing you affection or giving you compliments, then your relationship probably wasn’t as solid as you imagined it was anyway. Simply put, real love is hairstyle-independent.
What products will work for your hair.
I can tell you the products I like, or the products that work for my hair. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll love them too. Same goes for relaxers or hair extensions or hair products for any other hair type. The brand that someone else swears by may not be the brand you think is best. It’s a matter of trial-and-error, experience, and personal preference based on your styling habits and grooming routines. Before going natural, I used a variety of styling products based on my evolving hair needs/wants over the years, and that concept hasn’t changed for me since going natural.
(incidentally, a little shea butter, coconut oil and a really good conditioner are enough for me about 90% of the time)
How you can get your hair to look like mine.
Half the time, I never know what I’m going to do with my hair until it’s done. I try different techniques and methods, and work with it until I feel like I like what I see in the mirror. Sometimes people I pass look bemused by my style du jour, and sometimes, I get something along the lines of:
See, now… I like your natural. How do you get it to do that?
I wish I could get my hair to look like that.
I never really know how to respond to that. It actually makes me feel squirmily uncomfortable when women say that to me. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I realized why. I was in a conversation with 2 other natural-haired ladies, and one of them asked that question. The other smartly replied to the effect of… ‘the reason you go natural is because you want to wear YOUR natural hair, not someone else’s’. Wise advice, I thought. I think it’s nice to be inspired by other people’s hairstyles, but you have to make them your own. Wearing a natural hairstyle sort of implies that you’re ok with embracing your natural self, not trying to completely copy someone else’s natural self.
How you can be more comfortable with the decision to go natural.
This one baffles me. If you’re not comfortable with it, why the hell are you even considering it!? There’s no law requiring every black woman on Earth to wear her hair natural. There’s no shame in wearing your hair straight or long or any other way you want to wear it. So why are you trying so hard to convince yourself that you should do this? If the thought of wearing your hair a certain way makes you feel skittish, or scared, or irritated, or weepy, here’s an idea: stop thinking about it. Oh, I see. You can’t. Cuz being natural is what’s hot in the streets right now? Carry on, then.
What I CAN Tell You:
Hair typing is for suckas.
Of all the natural hair hype out there today, hair typing is the one that pisses me off most. In case you haven’t heard of it, hair typing is a number- and letter- based system of classifying hair curl patterns. What irks me about it is that it really serves no purpose other than to force women to try and put their hair into neat little boxes or categories, or to make them wish they had hair type 1A instead of 9F (or whatever the hell). Hair typing really doesn’t even do much good in helping you decide which hair products you can use (as this article explains, there are so many other factors that come into play). And to further confuse things, there’s so much disagreement and debate about whose hair is what type that it’s often the subject of heated debates. To me, the whole hair typing neurosis smacks of the antiquated idea of good/bad hair. And yet, all over the interwebs I still see women touting their ‘hair type’ like some type of kinky ID card. Ridiculous. In my opinion, there are really only 2 hair types – the type of hair that ‘stands up’ even when it’s wet, and the type of hair that ‘lays down’ even when it’s dry. Marinate on that for a minute.
It’s not for everyone. Nor is it for ever.
I’m not one of these natural hair Nazis that thinks that if you don’t wear your hair natural, you’re a sell-out or self-loathing (unless you ARE a sell-out or self-loathing). Hair is a matter of self-expression. If that’s not how you want to express yourself, so be it. If you want to express yourself that way now, but decide on a different form of self-expression later, go right on ‘head. I like to mix it up myself, and for that reason I have 2-3 wigs that I put into service for special occasions, or whenever I feel like totally changing my look for a day or two with very minimal effort.
It’s a relationship.
Natural hair is the kinda thing you’ll probably be into if you’re into that kinda thing. There will be good days, there will be bad days. There will headwrap days and ‘hot damn I’m smokin’’ days. You will have to learn what you can and can’t do with your hair based on the weather, your skills, or your time constraints. Your hair will let you know if you aren’t treating it or yourself right. And as a result, you’ll develop a relationship with your hair. No, that doesn’t mean you’ll go out on dates with it or make out in the corner with it, but… you may find yourself stroking it quite often and getting a great deal of pleasure out of it.