I can not remember a time when I was NOT relaxed. That's all I knew, everyone in elementary school was relaxed, my mom was relaxed, my friends, my aunts, my grandmother. I never realized that it was okay to not have straight hair. I didn't know the difference between "good hair" or "bad hair", and I honestly believed that it was just what black people did, what we had to do. I thought it was the only way we could do our hair; that the occasional burning, the slight scabbing, temporary bald patches.... I though that was just WHAT WE HAD TO DO.....
I'd never known the kinks and coils that were at my base, outside of what seemed to be there after 2 - 3 months of wearing braids. My hair dresser (who I'd visit every six to nine weeks for a touch-up, for as long as I can remember) would even scold me if I'd waited too long to get a perm, because my roots were SOO thick. I didn't know what that meant, I just knew they were poofy, and looked strange compared to the straight hair hanging after it.
I was like this my entire time in grade schooling.... Relaxers.
High school, when I'd began taking care of my hair, It began to grow thinner... I'd straighten it, "bump" it, everything.... I honestly had no idea what I was doing. My hair started shedding, breaking off... it never again grew past my shoulders... it was a mess.
(that's me, on the right)
By my senior year, my hairdresser suggested having a track or two glued in, to make my hair look "fuller".
and so, I did....
I had tracks. just one or two rows glued into my hair. it looked great! My hair looked great! it looked fuller, and longer (still not past my shoulders), healthier. but that was just the track. I didn't suffer any damage from them (thankfully).
Around Spring 2009, I got my first "bad" burn from a perm (there are no pics)..... My hair dresser had left me in the hands of someone else, I'd called for them to rinse it out, she'd made it just in time, but she missed a good portion of the nape of my neck. when I finally got her to fix it, some of the relaxer was still there; my denseness and tolerant attitude assumed that "she knows what she's doing... maybe it's suppose to be there? NO..... In the end, even after she re-rinsed.... Some hair fell out...... the nape of my neck scabbed up, hurt and burned for days... and eventually grew back....
July of 2010 was my last relaxer... I'd gone to my hairdresser, on the usual time... It was so busy that Saturday morning, but I went in anyway. the usual steps were taken, and I was sat down at the sink. It happened faster than usual, within three minutes, the front of my head was burning. I decided that it was too soon... so I waited another minute and a half before trying to catch her attention. (mistake no. 1) I called out and explained, as calmly as possible, that it burned.... She was busy with another client, and asked that I waited a few more minutes. I waited two. and called out again.... "I'll be right with you" (mistake no. 2)
I should have done something then and there... but instead, I decided to be polite and wait... three to five minutes? I don't remember how long... but my head was on fire.... I sat there clawing my nails into the arms of the chair, crossing my legs back and forth, trying to smile, trying not to cry. screaming to my self, with my failed attempts of distraction, magazines and speaking with other clients.
It was hell.
Finally she came over, and quickly rinsed me off. the burning of my scalp being rinsed hurt more than the actual relaxer. It was so hard not to cry, I'm sure a few tears escaped.
No matter how much she rinsed, the pain didn't go away...
Once I got home, I noticed... the front right section of my hair was thin. parting it, it looked as if I was balding. (so much hair is still missing) It was then, that I vowed to never get another perm.
I didn't know what else to do, so I stayed in braids an entire year; arguing with my mother about my refusal to get a perm. Not knowing what else there was to do... I didn't know what "going natural" was.... The only things I knew were:
I was NEVER getting another perm....
These strange curls were suddenly growing from my scalp.
I was happy
I wasn't going to do that harmful thing to myself again. I was refusing to lose the rest of my hair over man's standard of "beauty" After several arguments, my mother cut off all of my permed hair and sent me to a natural hair salon.
I've been relaxer free nearly 3 years (this July) and 100% natural 2 years (this September) I still vow to never get a relaxer. to never use a relaxer on my future children. Whenever I attempt to part the right side of my head, I am reminded of that promise. I still pray that it all grows back.
I can never part my hair too far on the right side... and I truly envy those who have gone through the 0"-2" BC TWA hair stage; badly as I wish to, it's one of the things I am truly afraid to do, because of my relaxer "battle scar".
Aside from the "battle scar" my natural hair has given me new confidence.... and I've actually come to love myself more with it, than with straight hair.