About five months ago I posted about my natural hair journey. At the time, I was about 4 months post relaxer in my second attempt to “go natural” that year. I was at the point where I had finally decided that I was going to transition for real this time. I didn’t want to be “drastic” and do the “big chop”, so my plan was to transition by gradually growing out the relaxer and trimming regularly.
After I got to the point where I could no longer wash and straighten it on my own, at least not in a way that it didn’t look like the mushroom from Super Mario Brothers, I began trying protective styles. Now, if you know anything about protective styles, you know that beyond braids and crochet, most protective styles (twist outs, braid outs, etc.) look best on completely natural hair. This is not to say that they are not do-able on transitioning hair, but the straight ends can be annoying. I didn’t want braids because I like my edges…and no shade, but every good braider I know is African and can grip hair the length of a grain of rice. No, ma’am. I did not want my edges snatched like that. Besides, I don’t have the patience to sit still long enough for anything more than a few cornrows. I thought about crochet but I don’t like weave. Again, no shade, but it is just not for me. Sooooo…my “go to” became a part down the middle or side (if I was feeling fancy) and two French braids (outward), Dutch braids (inward), or twists. Side note: referring to braids, something I see as deeply rooted in African and African American culture, as French and Dutch feels traitorous to me. I am sure the ancestors are not pleased…but you all know what type of braids to which I am referring. LOL
Anyway, my little braids/twists worked for me for a few months. I would wear them for about 3-4 weeks and then go to the salon to get a silk press, which I would wear for a week. If you don’t know what a silk press is, it is pretty much a blow out and flat iron style that gets your hair SUPER straight. In fact, getting silk presses made me realize that even if I get tired of wearing curly and protective styles, I still don’t ever need to get another relaxer in order to wear my hair straight. That worked for me until I got a silk press that was a little too silky. I washed my hair a few days later and the curl just would not come back. Additionally, my hair had a chemical-like smell to it. When it think about it now, it was probably just burnt hair and product. Of course, I panicked and washed my hair eight times in one weekend. Yes, eight times before I saw any semblance of my curl pattern. It was at that moment that I decided that a silk press would no longer be in my future. Maybe a blow out and straighten once or twice a year but definitely not monthly. So I went back to my “go to” braids/twists.
Eventually I got tired of that style. On the one hand, it was relatively easy and cute. But on the other hand, I felt like they gave me a more juvenile look than I wanted, at almost forty years old. I also felt like I was lacking a “polished” look. Now, let’s be clear. I don’t think natural hair looks unpolished. I just think the braids were more often struggle than triumph. Ultimately, I think I was just tired of dealing with the two textures.
Soooo, to Big Chop or not to Big Chop?
The brave and fearless me wanted to big chop but the sensible, worrisome me was afraid that I wouldn’t like it. I went back and forth about it for a few weeks and one day I was finally ready. I drove to the salon on a Friday afternoon, with no appointment scheduled. In my spontaneous mind, the best-case scenario was that my stylist would be available and I would leave there with a chop. The worst-case scenario would be that she was not available, I would have to schedule an appointment for another day, and I would change my mind before I made it to that appointment. Well, she was there but completely booked up until Tuesday of the following week. Worst-case scenario. I know myself enough to know that four whole days meant I would definitely change my mind. I scheduled the appointment anyway.
I spent the entire weekend annoyed with my hair and couldn’t wait until Tuesday…that is, until Tuesday actually came. I get to the shop and even though my mouth is saying, “Yes, I am ready to big chop”, my mind is saying, “Girl, don’t do it. You’re going to look like a chocolate brown M&M—little, round, and brown.” LOL
I sat at the shampoo bowl and as it got closer to chopping time, I began thinking about how the transition might not be so bad after all. Maybe I could get a rod set or a twist out. I began stalling my stylist as I contemplated my decision. “Ummm, can you do a deep conditioning?”, I asked, thinking that would buy me some time. She said, “Sure, I’ll do that after I chop so that it can really condition down to the roots of the natural hair”. Clearly, that plan failed. So, I had no choice but to strengthen my resolve and head to the chair for my cut…and guess what, it wasn’t so bad after all. The back of my hair was already almost all natural and much of the top and sides were as well, so the cut, though definitely noticeable was not as drastic as I anticipated. In fact, I LOVE(D) IT! It was not only the absolute best hair decision I have made in a long time, but it is definitely one of the bravest things I have ever done.
What I Have Learned in the Three Weeks Since I Big Chopped
Don’t let anyone else tell you what to do with YOUR hair. As I was contemplating the big chop, I sought the advice of others who were fully natural. I had so many people tell me NOT to big chop, to just transition. Perhaps they were saying it because they successfully transitioned or because they wanted to spare me the disappointment if I didn’t like it. I don’t know. I’m sure they had good intentions. But what I learned from this is that YOUR hair is YOUR hair and there is no one who better knows what to do with it than YOU.
Timing is everything. One of the first things I thought after big chopping was “Why did I wait so long to do this?”. However, the truth is, as connected as we are to our hair, it is not a decision to be made lightly. A couple of people told me, “Only you will know when (and if) it is time to do it and you will just do it.” When I think about how long I thought about it before actually doing it, I know this is the truth. And of course, had I done it earlier, I may not have been far along in the process enough to have as much natural hair as I did when I chopped.
The bad hair days don’t end just because you big chop or because you are all natural. Some days my curls and coils are perfect and other days, not so much. Just like you have those great and not so great relaxed hair days, the same is true when you are all natural. But when I am having a good day, you better believe I am Snapping and Instagramming it up. #curlspoppin
Learning what works for your hair is a process. I have an entire cabinet full of natural hair products—some I love, some that are just “ok”, and some that I need to gift to someone else because I will never use them again. I can’t say how much money I have spent on hair products during this process, but let’s just say that the Sally’s cashiers should know me by name. Side note: Sally’s allows you to return products if you try them and don’t like them. Of course, you can’t have used the entire container of product. Lol. I think I have a routine down but I am always open to try new products.
I no longer have a #teamnatural vs. #teamrelaxer mentality. Each person must do what is best for themselves. It is just as entirely possible to have healthy relaxed hair and unhealthy natural hair as it is the reverse. Let’s not get caught up segregating ourselves by hair style. We should be spending more time celebrating the beauty that is the black woman, natural, relaxed, or bald.
Texture schmexture. Don’t get so caught up on what type of hair you or someone else has that you miss the whole point of being natural. Natural is unique to each individual. It doesn’t matter if you have 3b or 4c. Your hair is your hair and is beautiful the way God made it.
The big chop and natural hair in general is sooooo freeing! Even though I was initially worried about how I would look with a short natural, what I realized is that as long as I love it, I don’t care what ANYONE thinks. I remember going natural for a short period of time in college and my mother HATED it and made it a point to tell me how much she hated it. That made me a little hesistant this time as well. But I can truly say that if NO ONE else likes my hair, the fact that I LOVE it is all that matters. I have gotten lots of compliments though 🙂
You have to be your own kind of beautiful. I find myself wearing makeup a little more often since the chop. I don’t think it is compensation as much as it is just feeling motivated to add a little flair…if I’m feeling like it. However, most days I don’t wear it. But even with that, you have to set your own beauty standard. The one I personally live by is from one of my favorite songs, Video by India Arie.
“Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t…sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won’t…depend on how the wind blows I might even paint my toes…it really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul. I’m not the average girl from your video and I ain’t built like a supermodel but I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally because I am a queen”.