Given my personal hair evolution, I’m keenly attuned to depictions of natural hair in the popular press. I must say that Essence magazine has impressed me of late. I received the January 2012 edition (Queen Latifah looks radiant on the cover) and I was delighted to see an article by Tasha Turner entitled, “Growing out a relaxer: Caring for your strands”. The three-page spread covers everything from transition do’s to styles for the in-between stage, to hair care products. The article seems particularly helpful for people opting not to do the Big Chop.
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pardon the typing in this post. i am using my phone to post as i am in transit. i am t minus 2 days away from getting the big chop. i am experiencing a flurry of emotions and look forward to posting pics and or video of my transformation. please stay tuned and let me know your thoughts. i could really use your support because though i have been natural for over a decade this is a big step for me. thanks
To cut or not to cut off my locks? Well, I finally made a decision. I have a loc maintenance appointment tomorrow (Wednesday) and I can’t wait. I have decided to go to a new salon and I hope that it works out. It’s an early birthday gift to myself because I turn 40 on Thursday. Whew-hew! So looking forward to it! I’ve been blessed with another year of life, Hallelujah! I’m not going to let insecurity rob me of the sheer joy of that.
I think I gave myself a gift when I took the time to work through the feelings that I have about my locks and my identity. I realize that, for now, I just need a new look! When I go to the salon, I will be experimenting with a new style (thanks to Kinky Curly Island Gurl (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kinky-Curly-Island-Gurl/232006620146085?sk=wall) I won’t be cutting it into a style but will perhaps ask the stylist to craft a cute lock bob. Hmm, or maybe I’ll color it? In any event, I’m open to the possibilities. Will have to post a picture once it’s done!
Have you been thinking about doing the Big Chop? What is leading you to want to do it? If you decided not to, why?
Image found at: http://www.essence.com/images/mt/little_girl.jpg
The plot thickens. I’ve been playing in my hair for the last 48 hours to see just how much length I’ll have once I cut off my locs. I’ve been reading natural hair blogs and books. Actually, just finished reading Thank God I’m Natural by Chris-Tia E. Donaldson (I give this book a huge thumbs up; it’s a great, quick read with comprehensive content: http://thankgodimnatural.wordpress.com/book/). The book and other sources have told me that, in some cases, it’s possible to take locs down though it can cost $250 to $500 to get it done in a salon. I have never spent that much on my hair and don’t know if I’m willing to now. It helps that I LOVE a TWA and that my husband says he looks forward to it again if that’s what I want. Plus, I get to swim on a daily basis if I want to (there’s a whole different discussion about putting on a swimsuit…okay, I really have issues) HAHA.
I think it also sends a message to my children (we have an 8 year old and a 5 year old). The hilarious thing is that neither one of our children wants me to cut my hair. My son said, “MOMMY! No! No one around here has hair that short” Say what? Wow. Without putting words into his mouth, it sounds like my man is concerned that his Momma is going to look like a plucked chicken and that he will bear the brunt of being teased because of it. My daughter is even more adamant, “MOMMMMMMMMYYYY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! DON’T CUT YOUR HAIR! I LIKE IT LONG!” Double wow. Such emotion about MY hair. Is it possible that my hair has implications for their identity? Well, given the central role that parents play in identity formation it seems the answer is yes. This tells me that what we do with our hair may impact our children’s attitudes about their hair and themselves in general. Talk about responsibility.
Truth be told, we live in a lily-white neighborhood, in a lily-white town in the suburbs of a predominately white city. There are not many people of color more or less women with natural hair. I was stretching it with long dreadlocks, now I’m taking it further with a TWA. Hey kiddos, there’s no time like the present to understand the fact that I AND YOU have kinky, coily hair that differs from the hair of those around you. Yes children, we’re different in some ways and similar in other ways to those around us. Guess what, it’s all beautiful. Here’s to learning how to embrace our unique beauty and the beauty of others.
I’ve shared that, as of late, I’ve been thinking about doing the Big Chop again. This time, I’d be chopping off my dreadlocks. I love my locs and think that they are beautiful. However, I realize that I never learned to work with my natural, unlocked hair. Yes, I rocked a TWA (teeny weeny afro) and then adorned my hair in two-strand twists. However, despite the fact that my unfettered hair is thick, kinky, long and wide, I NEVER wore a fro. Why not? Well, I think I was afraid. Afraid that my big hair wouldn’t look professional. Afraid I’d lose control of my coif if I was caught in a surprise rainstorm or if the day turned out to be humid. Afraid that I’d be viewed as a militant woman who secretly sported an afro pick complete with clenched fist. Afraid that my supervisors and/or my clients wouldn’t find me relatable because my afro would make it obvious that I was not an “us” but a “them”. Afraid that the morning of a big presentation, I’d look in the mirror at my dented afro and cry because I had no idea what product to use to “tame” it. Afraid, afraid, afraid.
I’m turning 40 later on this month and I realize that part of life is confronting one’s fears. Given the freedom of an academic career plus my evolving attitude about fear and risk, I think I’m leaning toward the second Big Chop. Plus, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post there is a veritable Natural Hair Movement! Hmm, we’ll see.
Have you recently done the Big Chop? Have you been thinking about going natural but just don’t have the courage? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s encourage and inspire each other! In case you’re interested, here are a few sites that give advice about the Big Chop: http://zora-alice.com/2010/11/the-beginners-guide-to-the-big-chop-part-1/; http://naturallymemedia.com/2011/02/25/the-live-big-chop-at-fro-fashion-week/, http://naturalreviewbyl.com/tag/big-chop/. I also came across this website on dreadlocks which has some interesting links: http://www.naturalhairgrows.com/dreadlocks.html.
P.S.: I think it’s really cool that a Google search for Big Chop yielded 1,690,000 hits and tons and tons of pictures of women of color. Something is definitely afoot.
Once I got the big chop, I was LOVING my hair. I loved the way that the wind felt on my ears and neck; loved that I could wash my hair every day if I wanted and still take only 5 minutes to style it and look FLY; loved that I was learning about my hair, how much to pick it, brush it, oil it, I was discovering myself; loved that my face had taken center stage; loved that I was a visual testimony that natural hair is an option. I was proud of myself for doing what felt authentic to me despite societal pressures to conform to another notion of beauty.
However, I must admit that I still had my hang-ups. I was about to graduate and I was very concerned that my natural hair would hinder me at my new consulting job. Consulting was (is) a white, male-dominated industry. While everyone, including white men, must conform to workplace expectations about appearance, I was concerned that my hair might make me stand out as a black woman and suggest that I was unwilling to be a “team player”. After all, wasn’t it best to just do good work, keep my head down and blend in as much as possible? Wouldn’t my hair peg me as different from the get go? Rosette & Dumas (2007) wrote an insightful paper about this issue; an excerpt from page 421 of the paper sums up a key insight:
“…for minority women in general and Black women in particular, “looking the part” at work carries the additional dimension of managing attributions, expectations, and stereotypes based solely on core aspects of their identities—the immutable characteristics of race and gender.
In isolation, Black women’s preferences to straighten their hair may seem simply to be a choice of adornment; however, when coupled with all the other available “self-improvement” choices in which they sometimes engage—such as wearing colored contacts, lightening their skin, reducing the size of their lips, and decreasing the size of their noses—it is clear that the standard of beauty in the U.S. is in direct opposition to the natural features and characteristics of most Black women.”
I’ve noted that some people think this discussion about my hair journey is highly irrelevant because “hair is just hair”. However, when considered in combination with the other “beauty” choices we make, it becomes more evident that our hair is inextricably linked to how we see ourselves and how we think others value our natural beauty. If we really, really thought that our natural beauty was highly valued would we go through such extremes to change it? If people were spending millions of dollars to ADD kink to their hair, would we feel differently about our naturally kinky hair? My point is not that women shouldn’t alter the state of their hair, just that they ask WHY they are doing so rather than assuming that that is their only, or even best, “beauty” option.
 Rosette, A.R. & Dumas, T. (2007). The hair dilemma: Conform to mainstream expectations or emphasize racial identity. Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, 14, 407-421.
Equipped with a new desire to go natural, I now had to figure out what exactly I was going to do with my hair. Was I going to transition with braids, a weave? Or, was I going to just do the big chop? I am the kind of person who loves to do research, gather input and then conduct more and more research. BUT, once I make a decision, I go for it. I’d spent years thinking about my hair and now I was ready to do the big chop. One of my girlfriends in Baltimore had just done the same thing and she recommended that I go to a barber shop on Charles Street to get the deed done.
I was nervous when I sat in the chair. It’s funny, I remembered tons of women draping salon capes around me when getting my relaxers and now a young, black man was draping one around me, only this time to chop off my hair into a short natural. I was nervous that a man was cutting my hair. I did not want to look masculine. That was a big fear. I am just under six feet tall and I can range anywhere from a size 12 to a size 16. I am bigger than some dudes so the last thing I wanted was to walk out of the barber shop and be mistaken for a guy. Maybe that’s the main reason that I always wore flawless makeup and chunky jewelry during my short natural days (hmm, had I just exchanged one beauty standard for another?). So much (i.e., my self-image and my feminine pride) was tied to my hair. But, I know I’m not the only one. That is why this is such a big deal.
If I recall correctly, the barber first combed out my hair and then took scissors and cut off the bulk of it (does Locks of Love take relaxed hair? I should have thought about that then). I had my girlfriend snap a shot and I looked like Don King. Straight up. Thank God we used regular film back then because if she’d shown me the digital image I might have lost my nerve. The process didn’t take too long and before I knew it, the barber turned the chair around and I gazed at my new image. My stomach sank. Oh my GOD! What in the world had I done? I looked like a dude, a cute dude, but a dude nonetheless. Ok, maybe I didn’t look like a dude but I had NEVER seen my hair that short in my entire life. It was going to take time to adjust. I noticed that my facial features looked different, my cheekbones stood out, so did my eyes. It was pretty amazing to see how much a hair cut can transform you (I guess that’s why Tyra Banks has those makeovers on America’s Next Top Model).
I got up, paid the barber and walked out of the shop. I had no idea how my family was going to respond.