There was a point in my life where I wanted to completely shave my head.
It was about fourth grade when the idea popped up in my head, as that year was the year of revelations (Mom’s “diapers” are actually called pads.) I was so tired with my thick hair that eternally existed in braids and twists. I received compliments on them, sure, but I wanted to free my hair and actually be able to run my fingers through it. I wanted to run and feel my hair bounce with each step, or experience the wind twisting and knotting my hair into crazy and abstract shapes and tangles. Let’s be clear: I did not want my hair straight. That wasn’t the point. I wanted my hair free, frizz and all.
My mom was adamant on continuing to style my hair in braids, mostly because she didn’t have much experience with natural, product-free hair herself. I, of course, wanted to rebel and threatened to shave my head. It became a long-running joke in my family.
It wasn’t until the seventh grade that I mustered up the courage to finally go to school with unbraided hair. I styled my hair in a low ponytail and lightly ran a comb through it. It looked amazing to me: the thickness made my hair seem like a frizzy pillow of fluff and every time I moved my head, the sunlight would seep into each strand and turn it lighter towards the ends. My mom was not as awed as I was, but nonetheless allowed me to leave the house.
My friends at school were initially shocked, but totally supportive. There was one girl, though, that asked me a question I still cannot get over.
“Did you not have enough time in the morning to style your hair? It looks kind of messy.”
Boom. I did not know how to answer her and settled on mutely nodding my head and walking away. That question began a cycle of what I like to call the death years, mostly because I killed my hair multiple times in an attempt to fit into one of society’s brutal standards, “presentable” hair.
First it was the bun. I wore my hair in a bun daily for about three years, effectively damaging all my baby hairs. It was the worst addiction because the style was breaking my hair but was simple and hassle-free.
Then my hair reached a point of no return and I got it cut for the first time in my life. This began the straightening phase, which lasted approximately six months. Heat completely obliterated my hair, especially since I wasn’t using any heat protectant serums or sprays.
Haircut number two signified the start of my “natural” phase. In this period, I washed my hair everyday, believing that water was my magic cure to solving all my hair-related woes. After every wash, my hair was curly and defined, and heavy with product after product to keep it that way. The constant washing resulted in dehydrated, brittle hair. I went in for another cut.
At this point, I am utterly lost. I hate my hair, I hate myself for not being able to take care of it. Why couldn’t my hair be manageable like so many other people’s? Why couldn’t I just brush my hair and walk out the door just like everyone else?
I was scared, I realized. I was scared that my real hair, frizzy, thick and wild, was not as beautiful and cool as I thought it to be. I was scared that my hair would prevent people from taking me seriously and would have everyone questioning if I even cared about the state of my hair. I wanted so badly to believe that I didn’t care what others thought of me or my appearance, but then I would have been lying to myself.
And now? I like to think that my hair and I have both evolved, growing and changing each day that passes. Do not get me wrong, I still am scared. But through social media, and celebrities such as Solange and Zendaya rocking their natural hair in public, I grow less terrified and more sure of the fact that I control my own perspective on my hair. If I think that my hair is amazing and uniquely me, just as my seventh grade-self thought, then it is. Yes, my hair is just as stubborn as me and sometimes refuses to do what I want it to, but that’s fine. My hair is not unprofessional or unkempt. No questions. No outside opinions.
Nowadays, I occasionally joke that I will shave my head and that is what we call progress.