'When it comes to natural hair I have wondered for a long time why it seems as though we as black women with lose natural hair have to do so much to our hair to maintain it. Why does it feel like I have missed the point altogether, going from having to have bi-weekly ‘touch-ups’ for my relaxed hair and avoiding the rain for the life of me, has been replaced by an equal level of stress with my afro: weekly wash-days, having to stretch it out every night, a 15 minute undo-and-fluff session followed by avoiding all humidity during the day. It doesn’t really feel like the freedom I was looking for when I went natural, and to be honest, it doesn’t feel very ‘natural’.'
My TWA is now 7 months old, and it is not so teeny weeny anymore. I undid my month long braids tonight and found that my hair had really grown, this despite the fact that I had not been doing anything at all to it, no spritzing and no covering it up at night. I made a commitment to starting this fresh new hair growth journey with a lot less pressure and expectation, and with a calmer more relaxed attitude. Now this article is not an attempt to advocate for neglecting your hair, however I am inviting you into my evolved hair growing experience.
At the time of undoing my braids I had been doing a lot of thinking about life, my life, and I have come to the conclusion that a lot of where we go wrong is believing that we need to ‘control’ our own lives, now this might sound radical; but I have come to believe that the most responsible thing one can do for oneself and one’s life is actually to leave it alone. I would like to draw some parallels between the experience of growing afro hair and living a joyful, carefree and successful life. Now I must add a caveat, my definition of success in this article goes way beyond having a good job, making money and perhaps living up to the standards of what it means to be ‘doing well’ in society. My definition of success is living a life of joy and freedom. I have found that the single most sought after experience for most people is freedom. The most common thing I hear from people is ‘I want to leave my job and start my own business’, ‘I want to travel’, ‘I want to be making more money’, all of these things are desired for the purpose of having more time (freedom) to do the things that they really want to do. I am referring to success from a holistic perspective- living a life of freedom is what I define as success, being happy and healthy, having positive and supportive relationships.
When it comes to natural hair I have wondered for a long time why it seems as though we as black women with lose natural hair have to do so much to our hair to maintain it. Why does it feel like I have missed the point altogether, going from having to have bi-weekly ‘touch-ups’ for my relaxed hair and avoiding the rain for the life of me, has been replaced by an equal level of stress with my afro: weekly wash-days, having to stretch it out every night, a 15 minute undo-and-fluff session followed by avoiding all humidity during the day. It doesn’t really feel like the freedom I was looking for when I went natural, and to be honest, it doesn’t feel very ‘natural’. Maybe instead of trying to manipulate our hair into what we think it should look like, we should perhaps try taking cues from our hair as to how it grows, and how it best should be worn, in the same way I believe that life offers us guidance and it is through heeding those messages that we will find our path to success.
When I look at my life and the things that have brought me to the decisions that I have made, I find that it is a series of seemingly isolated incidents that serendipitously connected to form and feed into the very path that I am on, so that if just one of those incidents didn’t happen I might have found myself on an entirely different trajectory. I am someone who is naturally quiet controlling and likes to plan things, but with maturity and the more relaxed I have become the more I find my life naturally leading me to the very things that I need to be doing, that fulfill my passion, and that give me a sense of freedom and joy that I have been looking for. I find that my life is living me, rather than me living my life. I am not advocating for passivity, I am advocating being guided, being led by life. The very same thing could be said about growing a plant, or even for that matter, growing a baby; in both instances the growing happens on its own; it cannot be helped, there isn’t much we have to do. I plan to approach my hair growing journey in much the same way this time around. This is the reason why for some time I have felt like the most ‘natural’ state of afro hair is dreadlocks, dreadlocks grow on their own, they don’t require much interference or maintenance, in fact if you were to leave your 4C hair well and truly alone it would eventually form into locks; and I suppose that is why growing locks has been approached from a spiritual perspective in a lot of instances.
I think a lot of the feeling of needing to do so much to our hair when worn in its loose state is the fact that long, big, loose hair is prized over short hair for women, so we do so much to stretch our hair, to ‘beat the shrinkage’; and it takes a lot of maintaining to keep afro hair like that. Perhaps, and this has been a recurring message on this page, we should invest some time decolonizing our notions of beauty, disentangling ourselves from the external ideas of what makes beautiful hair, what represents femininity; perhaps then growing loose afro hair might be more of a care-free experience.
This article was written several months ago*