During the summer of 2006, my friend Tasha and I would take joy rides through the city of Cleveland singing along to India Arie’s song: “I Am Not My Hair,” while the song played on blast.
At the time we both had full head weaves…
My relationship with the full head weave began in 2004 when I decided to go natural. By “natural,” I mean that I’d decided to stop using cream relaxer to straighten my hair. I had a stylist in Brooklyn, Yvette, who convinced me that weave would be a good alternative for me while I went through this transition.
She warned me that it could be addictive, however..
and it was.
I finally had the long flowing locks I’d longed for as a little Black American girl. And I had options: bone straight, wet and wavy, curly tendrils, etc.
Weave allowed me to live into a western cultural beauty ideal and I was completely turned out.. Even though I was technically “going natural.”
And by the time I was living in Trenton and dating Kesner, I was somewhere between natural and not. By this time I had fully transitioned from relaxer and I had a full head of natural hair. My real hair was beautiful, thick and full. I would get it flat ironed and pressed during the cold months, when I didn’t have to worry about humidity.
And I always reserved the month of August as my afro month; I rocked an afro puff…
But only in August.
And the rest of the year – or any time that my hair felt dry, brittle, or simply unmanageable- I went back to old trusty.
My beloved weave.
But -if I’m honest- as much as I tried to own it, there was a part of me that never felt fully authentic. Nor did I feel fully beautiful, because the part of me that made me “pretty” was not real.
It was a covering…
I’m not quite sure what happened to me on that airplane ride back from the Delta Convention, but somewhere between New Orleans and New Jersey, I made the decision to chop my hair off. In retrospect, I think it was probably about control. I couldn’t change the way that I felt so I needed to change the way that I looked; I could control that. I also didn’t want to look like Kesner’s girlfriend anymore; I was starting over. This was a marker, a turning point, and I needed to look different. I also thought that in that moment I was just crazy enough to justify doing something drastic; it was now or never.
Against the will of my line sisters, Kim and Talithea, I went to Target on my way home from the airport and I bought hair scissors. I was staying alone at Qiyana’s that night, and when I arrived I didn’t waste any time.
I stood in the mirror of Qiyana’s guest bathroom and I took one last look at myself as I had been. Then I took a clump of hair in my hand and I cut it off.
I cut my hair in chunks. There was no method to my madness, I just cut..
It felt good. Like a shedding. I was shedding away energy that I’d carried in my hair for years and years. With each chop I felt lighter. I cut my hair in a frenzy until it was all gone; it was all on the floor. And what was left on my head was about two inches long all around – a mini afro.
I could hardly look at myself in the mirror when I was finished.
What had I done?
I didn’t look for long. I cleaned up instead. It would take me another hour before I could muster the nerve to get back in that mirror….
The second time around I just stared at myself. This was me. The real me. Without my covering.
Could I get to know me like this? Could I find beauty in it? In me? As I stared at myself in the mirror, I heard Kesner’s voice in my head, saying: “you know I think you’re beautiful, right?” He’d said that to me on the Sunday before he died.
But did I think I was beautiful?
I went to bed not knowing. I would deal with that tomorrow…
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2012