"The Woman Behind the Braids"
2 years ago
2 years ago
My family identifies me as the “one in the family who always
wants to try new, and sometimes weird, things.” When I was a child, I saw a
documentary about birds and people. I somehow convinced myself that I could
talk to birds. In middle school, I became a vegetarian after my then 6th
grade teacher shared his horrid stories on animal cruelty. That only lasted
about a week. So when I saw a picture of Beyoncé’ Knowles in an edition of Vibe
magazine, with golden brown, blowed- out “natural hair”, full of curls… I
identified natural hair with that image. I was thirteen years old, and I ran to
the bathroom to attempt to “wash the perm out of my hair” so that mine could
resemble hers. You see, back then, we didn’t have the natural hair tools like
blogs that now help natural-hair-gonnabees. So that image of my favorite artist
at the time told me that natural hair was spirals of curls, equipped with
bounciness, softness, waves, and oh…NO NAPS! To me, anything other than that
was not natural and was not as beautiful. Needless to say, I found out that her
hair wasn’t her hair, but in fact a wig. Yet, that image still stuck with me.
During high school, I began to wear micro-braids. They were convenient and overall very cute. This became my go to style until I graduated. I carried this style with me to college & refused to try anything new. On top of all that, I started an awful regimen of getting a perm before I got my hair braided, so that my braids would last longer. As I took my braids out for the umpteenth time, I noticed how thin my hair was becoming. A braid or two too many had fallen out from my hairline, leaving bald-spots. I was livid with myself for damaging my hair so much. So, the summer of 2009, I made the decision to discontinue wearing braids until the fall. I then decided to stop getting perms, thus, sparking my decision to go natural. I began watching YouTube videos on how to take care of natural hair and researched in search sites as well. I was so excited that my second attempt at going natural was going to be backed by so many other naturals around the world!
But when school started again in the fall, I put those braids right back in! No, I didn't get any more perms, but I went back into hiding…too afraid that my hair in its natural form would not be good enough. I felt so pretty in my braids, that I felt like once I took them out and showcased them in public: I would be unattractive.
A year later, I was chilling with a group of girlfriends, who are all natural, and one said to me, “GIRL, when you gonna stop hidin’ behind your braids?” I was so upset, felt insulted, and I wanted to yell at her. Not because of her audacity, but because she was telling the truth. I nodded and assured her that I would stop rocking the braids when I was good and ready.
Before I knew it, a year later, summer crept up on me again. I tossed the braids, and rocked my natural hair. It was so comfortable for me to rock the hair at home and around family, yet so difficult to rock it at my university. So when I returned to school that fall, with my natural hair in full effect, I was surprised at my own confidence! I rocked my fro with my head held up high, and threw the deuces at media’s conception on what hair…natural hair…should look like. My fro is nappy, kinky, coily, wavy, soft, sometimes-bouncy, and curly all at the same time. I threw my braids away and that image of Beyoncé’s store-bought tresses away. I replaced it with my newfound love of me!