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Natural Hair Police. The Internal Politics Of Wearing Naturally Coily Hair.


I started my natural hair journey April of 2010.  So I am quickly coming upon my 2 year natural hair anniversary.  As I sport my natural coils, I’ve noticed that many other women are doing the same.  Maybe I notice curls and coils more because I have joined the ranks, but I like to think that there are *actually * more women foregoing the harsh chemicals in lieu of natural hair.


Initially I was motivated.  I devoured natural hair blogs, YouTube channels and online magazines (because that’s where the bulk of the information was located).  As is typical of human behavior, I immediately noticed that "coily" women found other *new* ways to “distinguish” themselves (a la Dr. Suess’ Sneetches with their star-bellies vs. not).  This was unexpected, yet not surprising.


Welcome to the Sorority.


Before going on with this natural hair story, I think it’s fair to clarify my position to enhance communication and add context to my experience and subsequent action.


I try my best (most of the time) to live a “healthy” life and diminish the toxic exposure in the lives of my family.  I only eat organic meat - unless I’m celebrating a life event at my favorite steak house…or on pizza...or when I travel and have no other reasonable alternative….


…well I try to eat organic meat most of the time.


I do not do cow milk.  I limit wheat gluten.  I avoid HFCS.  No trans-fat.  I cook with butter.  You get the idea.


I also use more (less toxic) deodorant and less Secret antiperspirant.  So I sweat more.  And sometimes, the deodorant doesn’t work as well as I’d like.  And I stink.  But “stink” is subjective, right?


Anyway, going natural was motivated by my desire to avoid putting relaxer on my scalp.  To cut back on my exposure to toxins.  Honestly, I loved the results of my relaxer.  And my hair did well.  I didn’t have an adverse outcome that motivated me to give up the “creamy crack.”  I am not making a statement.  I did not decide to go natural to express more ‘self-love.’ I love myself just fine.


I love myself when I wear jeans.  I love myself in cut-off shorts.  I love myself when my skin is darker chocolate in the summer.  I love myself when I ‘turn’ caramel in the winter.  I love myself in flip-flops, in the color blue, in boots and in the color lavender.


And I love myself with straight hair with a bow, and coily hair with a flower.


My outward appearance doesn’t MAKE me love myself more or less.  But rather, my love for myself is *internal* and expressed in everything I do, wear, choose and say (or at least, most of the time it is).  I do not see wearing coily hair any more self-loving than taking the time to straighten it.


My main motivation for discontinuing relaxers was for health.  And not in a health-nazi kind of way.  But rather in a “avoiding relaxer would dramatically reduce my exposure to bad chemicals so let’s give it a try” kind of way.


I’ve enjoyed my natural hair.  As a girly girl, I’ve enjoyed the entire process of focusing on my hair, learning styling techniques, and trying new things.  I love the big flowers I bought to accessorize it.  I love the way my scalp feels.


But there are things that aren’t so nice about it.  Things that I *would* change if I could.


See, it’s against the “Sorority Pledge” to admit any frustration with natural coily hair.  It’s like that by admitting that it IS indeed more difficult to ‘take care of’ natural hair is some type of an expression in self-hate.


But naturally coily hair IS more difficult than straight hair in so many ways.


When I wash my natural hair, it takes 15 minutes to comb out the kinks.  Then, finding a style that works depends on the day, weather, where I’m going and what I did yesterday.  Until just recently, I couldn’t even (really) pull it back into a pony-tail (which was my typical ‘go-to’ style).  And if I wait too long after washing to attempt a pull-back, I can forget it.  Back into the shower I go for a second try.


After my hair was styled, “messing it up” was super easy to do.  If I rested my hair on the car seat head rest…my hair would be lop-sided.  If I took a nap, or the humidity increased…my hair did a new thing.


This is not always desirable.


When I had my relaxer, I could do my hair in 10 minutes…and it would look good…no matter the weather or other aforementioned circumstances.  I could shower at night, wrap my hair up, and in the morning, let my hair down…and go.  And in doing so, I could predict with accuracy how my hair was going to look, and said style would last an expected and consistent amount of time.  It was easy.


I’ve never had a yearning to get another relaxer.  I just hoped that, as my hair grew, I could get that pony-tail action again.


Then, I started pressing/flat-ironing my hair.  Initially for length checks, trims, and a couple of “special occasions” with work – giving lectures to professional organizations and the like.  I did this because I could *predict* how my hair was going to look for the presentation when it was straightened.  I could roll it, and style it, and make it look good…and *know* it will look good.


But then, as a guilty pleasure, I started wearing it straight because I was too “lazy” to worry about it every morning.  I am too “lazy” to wake up 15 minutes earlier to take a shower in the morning, instead opting for a before bed shower.  Too “lazy” to expend the energy (and time) to comb it out every day…to only have to repeat the entire ‘ordeal’ the very next day.  Gosh, is there no reprieve?


One day, I realized that, after blow-drying and flat-ironing my hair with the iPak (not organic but the results seem to justify the relatively low toxin exposure), my hair was *softer* and looked relaxed (gasp!!).  I LOVED it.  And the more I did it, the *better* it looked, felt and grew.


As I sit here with my hair in a ‘straight’ bun high on my head, I think back to the days when my hair would dry overnight into a *carpet* of kinks and coils.  Dry and impossible.  So much so, I couldn’t even FEEL my scalp thru my think hair.  So I’d jump in the shower and spend 30 minutes working conditioner thru the back part just to get the comb to navigate.  Then after all that work, upon completion, the shrinkage would be so profound that my hair never looked as if it were actually growing.  Nevermind wearing a wash-and-go, or having it look nice after it dried.


And for me, this is part of the pleasure and ‘thrill’ of being a girl.  Long hair to play with.  I’ve always had long hair and I like it.


Just like I like black leather jackets and plum lipstick.


Recently I realized that there is a name for what I was doing.  It’s called “heat-training.”  Some in the Sorority are strong opponents with claims that encompass issues of self-hate, to hair damage…ready to throw anyone who even looks at a flat-iron OUT of said Sorority.


I figure, even if it’s damaging my hair (as the relaxer had)…there are no fewer harsh chemicals involved to seep into my vascular scalp and into my blood stream to contaminate my bodily systems and organs.


So…it’s better, healthier.


AND, if it allows me to decrease the time, effort, frustration and energy that goes into doing my hair…and allow it to grow, look good, and feel great.  I’m willing to give it a try.