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Embracing the Chaos, One Curl at A Time

Well, yours truly did something pretty brave last month...

And when I say brave, I mean BRAVE. Literally over-ten-years-in-the-making brave. Well, after having my hair look like this...

And this...

Or even this...

I finally took the plunge, and did this to my hair.

You guessed it. I FINALLY embraced my curls. No, it wasn't easy to come to this point. No, it didn't take long in the salon chair. No, it wasn't as bad as I thought. On the contrary... It felt WONDERFUL to come to this point. (A little scary, yes, but nonetheless, still WONDERFUL.) Think about it: No more flat ironing and high heat to keep my curls straight and presentable. No more constant flat ironing and high heat to keep my curls straight and presentable after a workout. No more constant, daily flat ironing and high heat to keep my curls straight and presentable before going out the door each day. Just no more flat ironing and high heat, period. I think I may have reached my limit with the flat iron and the constant need to keep my hair straight after one too many hot, humid days. Let alone, every single day of flat ironing and high heat just to make a good impression on others. And every hour to two hours of sitting in the salon chair to keep my hair straight and presentable. I think there was something inside me (apparently at the top of my head) that said: "Enough, Nessa! ENOUGH!" Well, first of all, I know many of you are asking this: "Why didn't you come to this sooner?" Believe me, I'm still asking myself this question as I'm finally embracing the curls. But I think it may have to do with two factors, and they involve both self-reflection and society around me. Why both of those things, you ask? Well, I grew up in a time when naturally curly hair wasn't acceptable, particularly if you're a black woman. There was literally a podcast episode I listened to several years back that compared natural black hair as pubic hair, so yeah, it was that bad and that hurtful to have natural black hair. People were putting in relaxers, perming their hair, flat ironing, and doing everything possible to make their hair presentable and acceptable to land the big job or even the next big gig. Straight hair was in, naturally curly hair was out. Those who could pull it off were more than likely Caucasian and had the products to make their curls so beautiful and easy to maintain. It made people like me jealous and ashamed of my hair. I didn't think I'd look good in naturally curly hair, especially when I was younger. I would've given anything to have my hair naturally straight and beautiful, and just not... Black. I think there's a love/hate relationship with black hair, no matter how confident you are. Black people can either embrace their hair and find creative ways to style it (i.e. braids, pulled back, extensions, shaven, etc.), or they just give up and let it be untamed and unkempt, despite the glares from others who immediately find them to be uncouth and uneducated. But either way, the way people style (or don't style) their hair says a lot about who you are as a person and in some cases, your economic status. This is especially true for black hair. For a number of years, black women were wearing wigs, flat ironing, relaxing, and perming their hair to be presentable to others. This went on for several decades until the Civil Rights movement came along in the 60s. Near the end of this decade, more black women and men were going against society's need to keep their hair nice, coiffed, and presentable. And they started to go all natural, and, need I say this? They started sporting afros. They started wearing braids or even dreadlocks. They even got rid of the wigs (if there was burning of wigs involved in the black community, let me know). But not all black people wanted to do this. I think being conditioned by society to look presentable played a big part in being ingrained in their minds, as well as the change in society over the past few decades. Starting in the 80s and working through much of the 2000s, black women were once again flat ironing, relaxing, perming, and wearing wigs. There was this idea that if your hair wasn't straight or even the least bit tamed, you weren't going to get that job, or that promotion, or even the guy (or gal). The idea that clothes do make the man (or person) can also apply to hair, too. But I think something happened in the past few years that is making black women like me challenge that thinking (not so much the clothes, but the hair): Rebellion.

I've always been fascinated by women who can sport their natural curls without shame, and I've often wondered if it was possible for me to have that same kind of courage and no-shame attitude to love their curls. I guess it started when I was younger that I didn't appreciate my hair being curly and so out of sorts. I thought that maybe flat ironing it would make me look and feel beautiful, even appreciated more by others. But here's a mistake I made after the first time I got my hair flat ironed: I was taking a bath when I decided to put my hair in the water, thinking it would be smooth and flat forever. Boy, was I wrong! It took over a month to get my hair flat by a stylist again, and I learned that wrapping my hair when taking a shower was the best way to go. That was back in 2001-02. And so, it went on for over 20 years that I went to the salons and got my hair flat ironed and tamed for beautiful and presentation. Haircuts, included. I just found it easier to maintain, even though I had to flat iron every single time I came back from outside, with some days being more humid and rainy than others. It became a habit of mine to flat iron constantly because I was deemed ugly if my hair wasn't tamed. Or I would sometimes wear coverings if my hair was having a really bad day until the next time I went to the salon to get it done professionally. And the thing about this is I was often told by my stylists that I would look cute in curly hair. But I didn't believe them. I thought my curly hair was ugly, and it needed to be tamed in order to be beauty, and there was no way my curls can be both tamed and beautiful. Especially if society told me that curls were out, and straight, tamed hair, was in. I struggled with not only body image... But hair image as well. And it was an extreme problem I had for over 20 years. We all tend to do this when we pass by each other, though the Bible strictly tells us not to do this. We judge one another. Especially if it's a matter of appearance. And that includes how we style our hair. You can tell a lot about how a person does (or doesn't) do their hair: Some can look like they've just gotten off the runway even though they're in casual or semi-formal clothes. Others can look like they've been caught in a hurricane and haven't had a chance to look in the mirror lately. Or even some just threw something together and didn't even think to look at their hair. Hair is fascinating to look at, when you think about it. Straight, curly, braided, afroed, pixie cut, punk style, gray, blue, rainbow... you name it! But just like so many things, we don't know what a person is going through, let alone how they style their hair or what they use to keep it nice (or not). So, why should we judge how we do our own hair? It's a head scratcher, for sure. (See what I did there?) But then again, there are just some things people wear - clothes or hair or both - that may just surprise or do a double take. Or even go as far as wondering what the heck were you thinking? Once again, it's a matter of appearance, and first impression is important. Many people think this is 100% true, but there is a small percentage who could care less about first impressions, even if it may cost them the job or even being taken seriously. I personally would like to look good in what I wear, including my hair. Even with my curls, I would like to look put together and throw in a little bit of color and excitement every now and then. But there are some people who don't put in the effort to keep their hair well-groomed or even wear clothes for the job that make me scratch my head (see what I did there again?). I'm going to be honest with you: Some people don't really do a good job maintaining or keeping their hair groomed, even if they have the products and resources at their disposal. It could be that they don't have enough time in the day to put in the effort due to their job, health, income, or all of the above. Or it could be that they don't want to put in the effort to look presentable and put together. They would rather look sloppy because that's what they like and don't care about what others think. For starters, some people know how to style afros in a way that is presentable, but others just aren't putting in the time or the effort. It could be because they're lazy... Or it could also be a rebellion against society and how they expect people to style their hair and their clothing. But here's something that I'm wondering: When does laziness get mistaken for rebellion? When does sloppiness get mistaken for boldness? When does I-could-care-less get mistaken for greatness? It seems like the lines are blurred when it comes to looking good and expressing yourself... Hair, included. Maybe this generation has an interesting view of what fashion is, and not all of it is exactly presentable. But who am I to judge? I guess looking sloppy and ultra casual, including how you style your hair is in, and being put together is out.

I personally may not agree with that, but boldness in being who you are can also mean a bit of rebellion quite frequently. And that includes how you style your hair.

I admire anyone who can be bold with their style and hair choices, but there's also a little bit of envy. How is it that they can be so brave and fierce with their style, and not care about what anyone else thinks? Or even if they do, how can they showcase that courage flawlessly? Maybe deep down they're a little bit scared, but they still do it anyway. I know that on a regular basis before I went curly (even now that I've become curly) I was scared but still put on a brave front and lived my life the way it was meant to be. I guess courage can come in all shapes and sizes, even if it's going natural. Maybe someone one day finally decided that enough was enough with flat ironing, relaxing, perming, and extending their hair on a repeated basis, and started to make it known that natural hair was in. The same way with curly hair, or even embracing the gray hairs that come into play, no matter how hard we try to hide it. Maybe the form of rebellion we see nowadays is a call to embrace who you are with how you style and show off your hair, especially if it's a natural sort of way. But at the end of the day, it's your choice at how you're styling your hair and how you present yourself. And even if people judge you for the ways you style and present your head full of locks (or even if you don'), still keep your head held high and continue to be brave. Just know that some of the choices you make in what you wear and how you style your hair does have consequences in your career, relationships, and everything in between. A lot of it is in a good way, but some of it can be pretty bad, especially if your choices go against what society believes to be presentable, or even normal. Be brave anyway. Be bold anyway. Be yourself anyway. (This week's blog post can certainly be a hair raising experience, but all the same, it's worth reflecting and thinking about. Once again, I remind you that these are my opinions and thoughts, and you are welcome to disagree with me on anything I said. That can be some form of bravery, just like being respectful of other's opinions in a safe and inclusive environment. That means no hate speech, disrespectful language, and divisive comments. If you decide you can't do that, I will block you.)

As you can see, my hair is quite shorter than the previous picture, but still just as curly. I learned an interesting fact about split ends: They grow up as opposed to down. I guess that was why so much of my locks needed to be trimmed, and for my hair to grow back healthily.

I can't wait for the day when my hair is a little bit longer so I can flaunt my curls a little bit more, but in the meantime... I'm embracing my curls, and I'm loving every day that I get to be curly and fun. It's bold to go natural, after so many decades of fashion experts saying that straight, perfect hair is the way to go.

And the sad thing about it? I believed that my curly hair wasn't beautiful enough... And that I was ugly in curly hair. It took me a long time to finally see how wonderful my curls are, and maybe the length of time was necessary for me to grow to love the skin I'm in, the locks on my head. Sometimes it takes going through the lesson, no matter how painful it may be, in order to see just how special you are. And more importantly, how truly beautiful you are just the way you are. Sometimes you can find the most beautiful things in the chaos... Especially if it's the curls. By the way, I'm loving not having to go anywhere near a flat iron or use heat protectants or anything that can damage my hair further. It's nice! I'm not sure what the summer and high humidity will bring to me and my curls, but just the same... I'm embracing the chaos... One curl at a time.

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