Recently, I’ve noticed an explosion in black women opting to ‘go natural’. And by going natural, they mean no longer utilizing chemicals to relax the natural curl pattern out of their hair. But my definition of ‘going natural’ is a little more rigid. It means no chemicals, flat irons or any other method of straightening the hair. Stanch? Admittedly so. But how can you truly call your hair au naturale if you still have a hankering to look like Farrah Fawcett?
It is for this reason that I say going natural is not a trend; it is a state of mind. It is a declaration; a commitment. It is not for the faint of heart – the wishy-washy. It is for people who are bold enough to go against the grain of society and challenge the warped American standard of beauty. When you really go natural, you find that it is much deeper than hair. It is about you and the whole being that you are. (Other real natural women know of what I am speaking).
While natural hair is the ONLY choice for me, there are some people who are still straddling the fence. Some women actually make ‘the big chop’ (cutting off all traces of relaxer) only to realize that they were not as committed to the process as they thought. So, before you go cut off all your hair, lemme help you determine if you are really ready to go natural.
You are NOT ready to go natural if:
1. You still want straight hair. Seems obvious, right? But it isn’t. We, as black women, are very creative with our hair. One day we want it long, then short. Straight; then cornrows. We see our hair as a form of expression; some even see it as art. So, it’s only natural that when you see all the beautiful sistahs rocking their nappy hair, you want to rock it to. But then again, next week, you may want your straight hair again. Well, in that case, going natural is not for you.
Real natural hair is not a trend; it is a lifestyle. With natural hair, you can change your style, but you can NOT change the texture. So, if you hair isn’t naturally straight and you decide to straighten it, (even if you don’t use chemicals), YOU ARE NOT NATURAL. If you still want to switch back and forth between kinky and straight, you are not ready to go natural.
2. You want to skip the ‘ugly duckling’ stage. During this current explosion of natural hair, I am noticing an increase in locked hair. Dreadlocks. Dreads. Locs. Whatever you want to call them. When going through the locking process, there is a stage often referred to as ‘the ugly duckling stage’. This is usually the second stage of the process… somewhere between the initial coiling and mature locs. During the ugly duckling stage, you may have little deadlock ‘buds’ that look frizzy and unkempt.
Most people think the ugly duckling stage got its name because the hair actually looks ugly; it does not look neat, smooth and straight like you and others may be accustomed to seeing it. But the ugly duckling stage is called such, not because of how your hair looks, but because of how it makes you feel. Black women often define ourselves by our hair. So when our hair is ugly, we feel ugly.
When locking your hair, the ugly duckling stage plays a bona fid role in the process. It breaks you and your skewed image of beauty down. It forces you to accept your hair the way it is. It forces you to see the real beauty within yourself, not in your hair. So, once you emerge from that MENTAL ugly duckling stage, you can see yourself the way that you truly are; a beautiful black swan… the way you have been all along.
If you mask the ugly duckling stage by wearing wigs, weaves and other disguises, then you are skipping an integral stage in your natural re-beautification process. Instant dreads are a no-no. If you want your hair to look like mine, you have to be willing to put in the time; go through what I went through. This includes the ugly duckling stage. If you aren’t willing to be broken down in order to be built back up, you are not ready to go natural.
3. You are still offended when someone calls you nappy-headed. Remember when you were growing up, there was no worse insult than being called nappy-headed. If someone called you black, you got mad. If they talked about your mama, you fought. But if they called you nappy-headed, you just wanted to die. Remember that? I certainly do.
That word nappy had such a strong negative connotation. At the least, it meant your hair wasn’t straight. At the most, it meant you were not pretty. You were not desirable. For some people, nappy still has that same negative meaning. But today, nappy means something completely different to me. It means that I am unique; it means that I am beautiful; I am real. When others call me nappy-headed, I don’t know what they are saying, but what I am hearing is: “Sistah, you are doing your own thang; you don’t need straight hair to validate you. You don’t subscribe to the impossible/ridiculous American standard of beauty. You are setting your own standard.”
Nappy, to me, is a deep sense of self-awareness. It is an inner beauty that gives me an extra pep in my step, more strut in my walk, more attitude in my primped lip; more batting in my eyes; and more ‘bam’ in my smile. It means complete and total self-acceptance, right down to my nappy roots. It is the ultimate compliment. So, if you still get angry when someone calls you nappy-headed, then you are not ready to go natural.
How did you do? Did you pass with flying colors or fail miserably? If you passed, meet me at the natural hair salon at noon. If you failed, give it some time. You’ll get there!