“You know you’re burning your hair?”
It was more of a statement than a question, and yes, I did know the answer to the question that my husband had just asked me. I sat on the floor in front of the mirrored bedroom closet door flat-ironing my hair and watching the steam come off it with each pass of the wand. I had just finished blow drying my hair, which was also part of my hair care routine.
How had I come to this point? I had spent most of my life trying to make my curls into something totally different than what they wanted to be. I didn’t always have waves/curls, my hair was pretty “normal” up to about my preteen years — you know, when I started to actually care what my hair looked like.
The only salon experience I’d had up until that point was when my brother was about six years old and asked if I wanted to play barbershop. I’d said “okay,” and the next thing I remember is my mother looking at me while yelling at my brother about scissors and then taking me to the salon to see how it could be fixed. I remember sitting in a booster seat and the stylist wasn’t quite sure how she was going to do that as she picked up different pieces of my hair and shook her head. Not a great introduction into the world of beauty at the age of four.
During my teenage years, my hair texture really changed, and that included curls and frizz (but mostly frizz). I felt so out of place compared to what was considered pretty and popular, so when blow dryers and hot rollers were available to buy, I had to try them. This would fix my hair and then I could look like everyone else, which mostly worked until I went outside. This is where I tell you that I grew up in South Florida, which generally has humidity in the ’80s and has to be one of the most humid states in the US! The next logical step I thought was something that would be less work and not blow up the moment I stepped out of the air-conditioned house.
I had seen the commercials on TV showing African-American women with perfectly stick straight hair flipping it from side to side and I thought that could be me! And it almost was except for the EXTREMELY curly spot on the crown of my head that said: “No, not happening.”
After a few more attempts of using the relaxer, and really disliking the smell, I had come to the conclusion that chemicals were not the way to go. I used to love having my hair blown out at the salon, it never looked so good as that day and the next. I hated to wash it because I could not achieve the same look no matter what brush, hairdryer, or shampoo and conditioner I used.
Then the flat-iron appeared and that was a game-changer for the most part, although I still had to deal with rain and humidity. There is a very small window in “winter” where there’s less of it and those are the best hair days. This brings me back to the question at the beginning – yes, I did know what I was doing to my hair, but, at the time, it didn’t matter. It gave me the hair I wanted.
But after that, I really started thinking, why was I doing this to my hair? I was truly tired of fighting with it because I finally came to the realization it would win. After all, it always did. I had tried every so often to go natural but without the proper knowledge and tools, it didn’t last long. Now I wanted to change that and see what my hair would do, did I ruin it by doing all those things? Would it curl? Would it be pretty? But most of all, would I like it?
I have to interject with a hair fact – my hair had gotten fairly long, mid-back after growing out from a short haircut and I wanted to cut it again the same style as before. So I went to my regular stylist and showed him a picture of me with the cut that he did the last time I had been there. It must have been an off day for him because it was not the same and I was really upset. It coincided with the beginning of my hair journey so it was kind of appropriate that I started out with short hair not too long after this. So once I decided to go natural I needed to do it properly. I researched what information was out there for curly hair and to my surprise, I discovered there was an incredible amount, almost overwhelming… okay, it was overwhelming! But what a time to be curly!
As I became familiar with terms and methods, the more comfortable I felt and was ready to make the change. So now that I have looked back, I really need to thank my husband for stopping and asking me that question and I am so glad he did because it changed me for the better. I was able to embrace something that I loathed and wished I never had and turn it into something I am proud of.