I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I decided to go natural.
However, I do remember that it was sometime during the beginning my master’s program. I had been a Floridian for only a few weeks and was absolutely DONE with my hair.
Now I’m a southern girl, to the core (being from North Carolina and everything), but Florida’s humidity was a different kind of beast. Tallahassee (affectionately known as Tally by the locals) in particular was something I had never encountered in my entire twenty-some years.
So stifling that you almost choke
Open your front door and immediately breaking into a sweat
Three showers a day
But that’s not even the half of it.. you see summer is also smack dab in the middle of Florida’s hurricane season. And if you’ve ever been to Florida between June and August, you know that this is an important note to mention.
So not only is it a million degrees, but NOW you have to also factor in the insane humidity. Not to mention the buckets (and I mean BUCKETS) of rain. During the summer months, storms typically blow in and out within the hour. The scene outside constantly changes from clear, bright blue skies.. to quarter-sized droplets flying full speed horizontal.. and back to clear, blue skies.
It’s kinda crazy.
And here I am, in this absolute chaos of a summer trying to deal with 1) being miles away from home and everyone I’ve ever known 2) being successful in a challenging/demanding program and 3) completing training for my new job.
I know… yikes!
Well, one thing I eventually decided was that these cute little blowouts I was so used to getting was just not going to cut it. Every other day I was either getting rained on or sweating out my hairstyle faster than I could fix it. And, with all the heat I was putting on it, my poor little strands were breaking off and becoming severely damaged.
Awakened In Tally
I began to consider going natural a little after the school semester began.
I’m not sure if it was the new culture I was emersed in or my age and maturity ripening, but I suddenly found myself growing more culturally aware of myself and others. In this journey, I began to take particular notice of the Black women around me. I saw the stories they were telling with their hair, and in turn, I became more cognizant of the stories I was telling with my hair.
I suddenly took more interest in the products I used and took the time to research the chemical makeup of things like relaxers and hair grease. I was now more conscientious of what I was exposing my body to by using them. But more importantly, I was in the wake of forming my racial identity and was, therefore, reconstructing my idea of Black hair and Black beauty, as a whole.
Now, it wasn’t my first time being on the campus of an HBCU (having completed undergrad at North Carolina Central University) but it was my first time experiencing it with my newly enlightened eyes. Blackness was all around me and I was in complete awe. The women, in particular, had me especially speechless. I had never in my life seen so many Afrocentric hairstyles. All around me were luscious curls, thick afros, and long flowing dreadlocks.
And, as I began socializing, I realized that not only were these styles different, they were constantly changing! I saw a mixture of twist outs, braid outs, bantu knots, etc., all on the same woman’s head in the scope of a few weeks.
I was fascinated!
Finding MY Curl
About 6 months later I began officially transitioning, a word we naturals have coined that simply means you stop getting relaxers to straighten your hair so that you can slowly move towards being relaxer free.
I was growing my natural hair out because, frankly, I was absolutely terrified of the big chop.
The big chop is when you cut off the permed ends of your hair leaving only your natural, new growth. This new growth is typically about an inch to two inches long. It’s called a big chop mainly because it’s a drastic change in your appearance. Your once long straight hair is now MUCH shorter and curly.
Doing a big chop takes big cahoonas.
Ever since I was a little girl I was taught that long, straight hair was beautiful. And if it’s not long and straight, then long bouncy loose curls could also be considered pretty.
And, anything other than that, was not.
So here I am, faced with rockin’ the complete opposite of what’s been ingrained in me. I was about to venture into the very antithesis of what early twenties Taya wanted to be… If I decided to go natural and do a big chop, I would not be seen as Beautiful or Sexy to men.
I know. I know. It sounds terrible! Why the hell would I govern my body and base decisions on the opinions of men?! What can I say, I was young. And at the end of the day, I was a woman who wanted to be wanted by someone’s ashy elbowed son.
Now (with all of that in play) I wasn’t quite ready to jump in the deep end of shea butter and curls, so as I transitioned I still wore my hair straight. I began to get Dominican blowouts… which are known to heavy on the heat. But it was all good because my 4a hair was being “tamed”.
In contrast to not knowing exactly when I decided to become natural, I remember quite vividly the moment that I actually did become “a natural”.
What Have I done…
Eventually I did grow the gonads I needed to truly get going on my natural girl journey.
I woke up one Sunday morning, after partying my night away with the girls. I was mildly hungover and faced with the task of preparing for the upcoming week of work and school. Besides doing laundry and cleaning up my little apartment, I also had to do my hair.
I’m not sure how long I stood in the mirror looking at my pitifully sweated out hair. Or, how many times I started and stopped the “fixing” process before getting completely overwhelmed.
My hair was a mess. Besides smelling like the club’s “beautiful” aroma of weed and sweat, my roots were also puffy and reverting back its curl while my ends were stringy and lifeless.
I was over it.
I went to the kitchen and got my scissors (yes paper cutting, utility scissors, not haircutting shears like I needed) and went to work on my head. in less time than I care to admit, I had cut all of my relaxed hair off and was left with a TWA (teeny weeny afro).
And then, I cried.
Yall, I cried my little heart out for a good long time. I’m talking, boo hoo “what have I done” kind of crying.
But then, I got up.
I washed my face and then went on to wash my hair. I threw in a deep conditioner and never looked back. I went on to get an amazing stylist who loved doing natural hair. She helped me feel comfortable in my own skin (and hair) again. She reassure me that I was making a great decision for ME, and no one else.
I also began to learn how to do my own hair. Youtube was my very best friend. And during those early years, it was pretty rough… but I eventually began to the hang of it.
And the fact that I was still able to stay active in the dating scene further soothed my anxiety.
Nappily Ever After
Today, I am about 13 years in the game. I’ve learned so much about not only my hair but also, myself. I’m more at ease with the whole experience of being natural and I’ve grown to appreciate my hair for what it is, what it does, and (most importantly) what it doesn’t do.
Being natural has also taught me to be brave. And patient. And to love on myself when it appears that no one else will.
I love how soft my natural coils feel!
I love the sweet smells of shea butter and coconut oil that I leave behind when I leave the room.
And, I love the way my look can change from week to week, or even day to day.
Let’s just say, it took me a while to get here, but I made it. I’m a loud and proud, hashtag Natural Girl.