Afros & Hippos - Getting Back to My Roots

For the past few years, I’ve been contemplating breaking my addition to the “creamy crack”. (For full disclosure, I had no idea what that term referred to until I watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.”)

I’ve been getting my hair chemically relaxed since I was in 7th grade. Before then, my mother would plait my hair every morning with pretty clips and bows. For special occasions like Easter or my birthday, I might get a hot comb treatment. I was always amazed by how different my hair felt and looked when it was straightened. My hair would actually blow in the wind and do all the sorts of things I felt that “good hair” would do. I can’t say that my mother taught me the idea of “good hair” as my mother has had an afro since the early 1970s. So, I’d assume my understanding of “good hair” was the product of the attitudes of my school friends and my own comparison of my Barbie’s straight blonde locks and my own “nappy” mane.

The summer before I started junior high, my mother agreed that it was time to start getting my hair relaxed so that I could pursue all the styles I wanted without her having to deal with pressing my hair (only to have me ruin it in the shower, when exercising, or in the rain). I loved getting my hair relaxed. But I don’t think I was ever truly satisfied with chemically straightened hair, and that was probably because until recently, I didn’t know much about the process of chemically straightening hair and the importance of a specialized regime to ensure that your treated hair remains healthy. So, I even then I normally sported a ponytail or bun. It was easy and got my hair out of the way—and now it is my signature look.

I do wish that I had chosen to not go relaxed at 13, but then, I don’t know how I would have coped with being the only natural-haired Black girl at school. A lot has changed over the years. Natural hairstyles are much more mainstream and so many women have learned to embraces their natural curls.

So, this brings me to my latest bright idea. I want to grow out my hair. This desire stems from environmental, spiritual, and even financial reasons. Whereas I used to abhor any new growth, I now rejoice in seeing and feeling its texture and curl. I want to experience having a whole head of texture and curl—something I haven’t had in over 15 years.

Back when I was applying to Peace Corps, I figured that I would go natural before my departure. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to maintain my relaxer routine if I lived in a remote village, and I figured it would be the perfect way to transition from relaxed to natural without having to deal with the reaction of people who are used by my “straightened and pulled-back” style.

Doing it now frightens me. I worry about the reaction of my friends, my coworkers, and guys. I wonder if I will be perceived as attractive to men sporting a ‘fro—particularly men who aren’t African American (you know that I always find myself attracted to Latinos and White men). Will those men find me attractive or will they be put-off by a natural style? But then, would I want to date that sort of guy anyway? And I wonder how it will change other people’s perception of me in the workplace—especially as I seek to pursue fellowships, internships, and other professional opportunities abroad.

So the reaction of others definitely worries me. But I don’t think that is enough as the only reaction that matters is my own. I’m not really afraid of the actual change in hair texture and style. I have my mother to thank for that. Plus, cutting my hair off and sporting a funky ‘fro shouldn’t be that much of a change given that I don’t rely on my hair in framing my face and my hair has never really defined my style—it’s always just sorta there.

So, how soon until my “Big Chop”? My vote is for a few months of transitioning (i.e., letting my natural hair grow out) before getting it cut and styled into a funky ‘fro. I plan on consulting with a trusted stylist who sports a natural do this weekend. I look forward to hearing what she recommends and then, asking my mother for her blessing (as is required for all major life decisions).

Oui, c’est possible: A hippo with an afro in 2011.


Organica said...

Like! :)

I think you should go for it.

Heather said...

I would love to see you with natural hair. I can picture it in my head and I think you will look great. C'est une bonne idee!


Hippo Q. said...

merci, heather! tu écris bien dans francais!