To read the first part of this post, please click here.
For some people, it may be confusing why hair could be the cause of so much soul searching. You have to understand the history of black hair to understand this. Our hair has a history. For centuries, black people have been demonised through many ways including the color of their skin and their hair texture. This topic will be the subject of an upcoming post. Living in Australia, I realised that I had been trying to fit in or conform with the majority. I did not want to stand out. I just wanted to blend in. I wanted to be judged in accordance with the widely accepted Western standard of beauty. So to attain this standard, I started with the weaving, obsessing with the straight hair and bleaching my skin so it became lighter. I thought – I might be black but I am not THAT black. I am not THAT African. Oh and look at my long flowing hair….I am definitely a better version of African! This was my internal dialogue for years!
Of course, my soul would not let me rest. Something always felt not quite right. Following my incident at the hairdresser, I started going online and searching terms like “what to do with my hair if I do not want to relax it anymore” and “regrowing your hairline”. I stumbled across a natural hair blog and BAM the seeds were sown. But I was scared – I wasn’t ready for that s***. I didn’t realise there was a whole community of black women embracing their kinks and coils. After much consideration and oogling other naturals on blogs and youtube, I decided I was not going to have another relaxer put in my hair again. I was going to transition for at least a year, cut off the relaxed ends of my hair bit by bit and learn about caring for my hair in the process. I could not fathom myself doing the big chop and having short hair. I didn’t associate short hair with femininity!!! After some research, I purchased a nice curly wig to give my hairline a break and started my transitioning journey. Did you realise what I did there? I bought a CURLY wig. The straight hair chick bought a curly wig. That may have been a small step for some but for me, buying hair closer to my own natural texture was a Neil Armstrong type step!!! For the first time in my life, I started to take care of my hair regularly. I washed and deep conditioned it weekly and moisturised it every other day and had regular oil treatments. My hairline was recovering slowly until I decided to get cornrows before going away on a holiday – big mistake! My hairline took another hit (Another post on what not to do to your hairline coming soon!). But I kept moving. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way. I feel like if you go through a difficult period in your life and you come out the other end asking why me? – then you have missed the point of that lesson!
I was on holiday in the US between March-April this year. We travelled to New York and were sightseeing in Harlem. We had just been to a black history museum and I was feeling all emotional when we walked past a natural hair salon and I thought to myself – why procrastinate? I’m not going to find a natural hair salon in Oz. So I went in there and did the big chop. I felt good immediately following that. This may be because my hairdresser just ‘got’ my hair. I mean going to a natural hair salon is so cool. They don’t pull or fight with your hair. They don’t come at it with teeny weeny little combs or complain about your hair texture. They don’t comb your hair when it’s dry. They just get it. I realised that if you know what to do with your hair then it becomes easier. I had mini twists installed. (Side note – I thought it was quite fitting for me to go back to my “roots” in Harlem of all places – just saying!!!) I was feeling quite chuffed with myself until the next day when I woke up, looked in the mirror and thought what the f*** have I done?? I felt very uncomfortable and self conscious about my short hair. So I got my wig out and wore it for a few days afer that. However one very, very hot day I decided to just go out without it and I received so many compliments from strangers that day that I thought this is not so bad – I guess I’m still kinda cute (don’t judge your girl…we have already established she has issues!). Sometimes I think the universe intervened that day and that heat and those people that complimented me conspired to push me along! My little ego grew and I didn’t wear my wig again for the rest of the US trip.
Following the US trip, I was travelling to Switzerland for three weeks on a Fellowship Program. I didn’t want my hair short during that time so I decided that I would install a weave until I got back to Australia. This was no ordinary weave though. I got a natural textured weave made for naturals so that you do not have to straighten the hair you leave out once installed. That weave was kinky as! It shrunk, it tangled – it was basically a good learning experience on what to expect in the future. This was the best decision I made at the time. I was not feeling one hundred percent great about my short hair and the texture and so taking a break from it prevented me from straightening it. I received so many compliments wearing this hair and my little ego grew big (again). I thought to myself you can do this and one day your hair will look this awesome.
The first time I wore my natural hair out to work after returning to Oz, the first comment I received was from one of the guys who said “what happened to your hair, you look like you have been involved in a fight”. I did not respond to this. How does one respond to such a comment? Besides that comment everyone else (who dared to comment) said it looked good. Other people just kept quiet and stared – a face can say a thousand words! At this stage of my journey, I had come full circle so instead of feeling defeated and self conscious, I was determined to wear my hair out to work until it was normal and people stopped staring. They did, slowly but surely…and this is how Shaka was born (Yes, I named my hair….!)
So this is the story of my natural hair journey. My journey was a journey back to my roots – literally and metaphorically. Not every black woman that decides to wear their natural hair goes through this whole thinking and soul searching process. But for me it was quite a different, intense but beautiful journey. If I have straight hair in the future, which I will because I love changing up my look, I will be okay with it because I have removed the kinks from my head, which is more important than removing them from your hair (borrowed from Marcus Garvey). So I want to thank my future children (if I am ever blessed to have them) for making me want to be a better person already. I want to thank all of those random strangers who stopped to compliment me each time I wore my natural hair (and weave) out. They helped me to accept how unique and truly beautiful my hair is. To the girl who burnt my hair, thank you so much for accidentally triggering this journey! And to my hubby for seeing the beauty inside me before I did. He is one of my biggest cheerleaders throughout this journey – although his face after cutting my hair was priceless!
Oh yeh about naming my hair Shaka, I feel its very fitting. First – this is a hair blog so it would be good for future references to just say “so this is what Shaka did today…….don’t you think? :) Secondly, if you know the history of this great Zulu King you will know that he was a kick arse warrior who revolutionised warfare and grew his empire from a tiny clan to the great Zulu Kingdom. But despite this, he had to go through a lot, being ignored by his father and having to fight for the throne when his father died. Although he was tough, he was also vulnerable evidenced by his “breakdown” when his mother died. This is why my hair is called Shaka. My hair has been through a lot. I rejected her for so long like she was an illegitimate child, like Shaka. But like a true warrior she didn’t let me rest until I finally accepted her. She fought for her right to be my crown. But despite this, she can also be fragile and vulnerable – hello hairline…!
My relationship with Shaka is quite special. I love her some days and some days she just pisses me right off. I can plan a hairstyle and spend hours preparing for it only for her to just coming out looking all raggedy and bored as if to say: Is this the best you could come up with for me today? #epicfail #ineedanewownerwhocanhandlemelikeaboss. And I’m like really? I don’t need this today of all days! But most days I just admire how beautiful, bold, strong and unique she is. She has been through a lot and yet she is still quite badass! She is an extension of me…how can I not love her?