PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTOGRAPHED BY RYAN FRANCISCO
Like most naturals, I had come to accept that there is no “figuring it out”. It all depends on what you identify as it. Before returning natural in February 2011, I grew a strong interest in hair care. I spent countless hours on forums learning about various techniques and products that would help me maintain strong and moisturized relaxed hair. After a year of taking care of my relaxed hair and seeing results, I became drawn to natural hair. By the time I big chopped in February 2011, I was pretty well versed on how to care for my tresses. The Eco Styler and Cantu were on standby while my friend was doing my big chop in my dorm room, but as soft and moisturized as my hair was, I still did not have it figured out.
After many failed attempts to get my 3c/4a TWA to hang like a cascading wash and go, I started doing flat-twist outs. I had it mastered to the point that the untrained eye thought it was either a weave or my natural curl pattern. At times I was conflicted between flattery and offense. I either thought that 1) I was that good and 2) annoyed that people thought “black hair” was incapable of growing (retain length). I always corrected and informed people that it was a style and not my natural curl pattern in order to open their minds to the versatility of natural hair. Sad to say, I faithfully wore flat-twist outs for two years.
If I ever did a wash and go it was immediately converted into a puff. I spent hours watching YouTube videos trying to master the shingling method. I tried the modified Denman brush, which shredded my hair to pieces, and I bought countless custards, gels, and puddings to achieve the ultimate defined wash and go. With more failed attempts, I continued to sacrifice time with my friends in order to allot more time to flat twisting my hair. During my last semester of undergrad my schedule was congested with exams, papers, an internship, job seeking, and exercising fours days a week. This was getting ridiculous. I could not allow my grades to suffer, not prepare for interviews, and neglect exercise in order to attain it. The flat-twist out was no longer becoming conducive to my lifestyle.
As I was vacillating over what would be my new style, I kept dismissing the wash and go as an option and then it dawned on me. It was not until after being natural for three years that I realized I was self-conscious about my wash and go. I was willing to accept my natural hair in any aesthetic (flat-twist outs, twist outs, up do’s, puffs, etc.) but not the wash and go. I tried to blame it on ssk’s and tangles but I was getting them anyways! There was no about of butter or oil that could prevent my curls from becoming intertwine. It was at this moment that I began exploring the fact that I had not accepted the full nature of my hair. Although some naturals discourage others from going outside of their comfort zone, I challenge myself and others to ask themselves why aren’t you comfortable?
I understand wanting to master a style, I am not discrediting that, but when you start to make a goal an absolute expectation that your life, mood, and confidence evolve around then you create a crutch. For you it may not be shrinkage; it may be slick edges, non-frizzy up do’s, or twist outs that do not lose definition the second you open the front door. It was not until I explored the wash and go that I realized I have it. I have always had it figured out. I know how to cleanse, deep condition, and moisturize my hair. That is the it. My hair is healthy! By clinging so strongly to only certain aesthetics, I was unable to accept the full beauty of my natural texture.
I always wondered why I had an affinity to the women being profiled on UrbanBushBabes and K is for Kinky even though the majority of them do not have the most polished and defined manes. What is it that makes them so beautiful and cool? They do not care! It is easy to see a disheveled afro and think, “I cannot pull that off” but it is the confidence that you are seeing. You may be thinking to yourself, “Well if I do not feel confident, I will not look confident” and that is exactly where I want you to arrive! Confidence should never have a crutch. It should never be contingent on anything that is fleeting. Confidence should come from the assurance that you feel within yourself. Everyday I discover how immeasurable beauty is and so I encourage you to dismantle those standards and expectations that you have either accepted or created and allow yourself to arrive at the it that you are so anxiously seeking.