I was born with thick, kinky, coily, black hair. I hated combining it. I hated washing it. And I hated how my mother styled it. When I moved to America, I hated my hair even more. I couldn’t accept it, just like I couldn’t accept myself. I blamed my hair for my insecurities: it made me ugly.
In ninth grade, my parents finally let me get a texturizer. This is it, I thought, I am pretty now. But the texturizer didn’t make my hair straight enough, no matter how many times I squished my strands between the hot plates of the flat iron. I flat ironed my hair to death. It stank of burnt hair and the ends broke off in a rather choppy manner. After the texturizer disaster, I got braids and that seemed to work for a while. I liked braids, they were no fuss, no stress. I didn’t have to deal with my hair. I didn’t have to accept it or take the time to get to know it. But I hated, hated when I took my braids out and had to deal with my natural hair. I couldn’t escape my hair and I couldn’t get it braided back up quickly enough. Then someone told me that I should change my hair and get a relaxer. I did just that.
One year later, I moved to Arizona and had to cut my hair off because it was over processed. I decided to grow my hair back naturally only if it was covered up. During that time, I found an amazing stylist so I never had to deal with it if I didn’t want to. But my hair was never good enough, so I started abusing my strands with heat again. With more heat came more breakage. My hair dresser tried to get me to love my hair, accept it’s kinkiness but at that time I just couldn’t.
I moved again, back to Wisconsin, and decided to try the Brazilian Blow out on my hair, this I thought would love my strands the way I couldn’t. Eureka! It worked. I thought I found the answer to my insecurities, but then my hair started breaking. It broke right in the crown of my hair where everyone could see. It looked as if I had purposefully chopped my hair in that way. I was devastated. Heart broken. I destroyed my hair. I abused it. Because I wouldn’t get to know my hair I couldn’t understand it, and I couldn’t love it.
I decided to give my hair a break. I took out the extensions. I stopped baking it with the flat iron. I tried to understand it, I was patient with it. I saw it’s beauty and its strength in its natural state. Eventually my hair started growing back thicker and stronger.
My hair taught me to learn to love myself. I was fighting who I was; I was rejecting someone I didn’t even know, myself. I made a mistake many women make, I looked for a man to love me when I didn’t love myself, like I tried many products to “love” my hair when I couldn’t. I didn’t take time to know my hair, to find out what products worked well in it and which ones didn’t. I didn’t know what my hair wanted or needed. Similar to another mistake I made that other women make, not knowing myself or my expectations, wants, needs and looking for a man to fix “something” when I didn’t know what the “something” was.
My hair taught me resilience. Despite the ill treatment, my hair grew back, time and time again. I finally got the message to accept it and to love it for what it was. By giving it time I saw it’s beauty. In an attempt to find someone to love me, I did something a lot of other women to do, I treated myself poorly. I ended up abusing myself. As women if we take the time to get to know ourselves, understand ourselves and love ourselves, we will accept ourselves for who we are. For those women like myself, who have gone through droughts of self-love and made the mistake of trying to find a man to love them, but have eventually learnt to love themselves, they are not damaged, they are resilient. This is the lesson my hair taught me.