A little bit of a different post this week, but natural hair, or hair care in general, is a topic I want to bring to this blog more in the next few weeks. Social distancing has brought an unexpected side effect for me– a chance to fully embrace my natural hair. I’m used to keeping my locs carefully tucked away under box braids and Marley twists, but with hair stores closed and nowhere to go, my hair is finally getting its first real break since summer.
The moment I learned how to do my own protective styles, I believed I could never go back. When I wore it to school, the compliments flooded in, “It looks so good!” And finally, when I said I had to take it out, some of my white friends just told me to keep it in. “You look so much better like this!” That, by the way, is never a compliment. Even if they say it themselves, I try to always avoid telling my friends with curly hair that their hair is better straight, for example. You never know when you’re just building someone’s insecurities. Comments about which way my hair looked “better” have caused me to not want to wear my hair natural ever again.
I like to tell myself I wear my hair in box braids because it’s more convenient. That’s partially true– box braids mean no weekly twist-outs that are part of a two-hour process. Hair often feels like a (metaphorical) weight on my shoulders, no matter what I do it never looks right to me. But when I have my braids in, I feel myself become a different person. More confident, more willing to pose for pictures and go to new places. The hair on my head no longer makes me self-conscious, it simply makes me feel older, prettier, and happier.
Of course, I try to remind myself of the good of my natural hair. But nevertheless, no matter what I preach to myself in the mirror, I find myself experiencing regret every time I begin to cut off the first box braid after two long months. The disappointment after the first wash, when my hair still feels long and manageable, to the resentment when it dries and forces me to spend hours relocking new growth. Now that I wear braids so often with so few breaks, I can feel my locs becoming thinner. The first day back to school with natural hair, I usually wear a hood. Again, I tell myself it keeps my hair out of my face, but in reality, I really just don’t want people looking at it.
Yet there are small moments when I realize the hair I have is exactly the hair I need it to be: noticing how long my hair has gotten, doing a perfect twist out that leaves my hair in even curls. During this time as well, I have an abundance of time to play with my hair, to try new styles, to let myself be okay with a little bit of frizziness. Growing up, I loved my hair because of how it bonded me with my family– especially my mom. Though my hair has undoubtedly shaped who I grew up today I wish I could wholeheartedly appreciate my hair as much as I did when I was younger.
So, I challenge myself, and any other person who relates to what I’ve said, to fully embrace their hair right now. Teach yourself new hairstyles, new ways to maintain your hair in general. When we (hopefully) emerge from social distancing soon, we’ll feel like new people– ready for ourselves and our hair to show up unapologetically.