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1. How long have you been Natural?
That’s a hard question to answer because I’m not sure how to count it. I transitioned for two full years (October 2008 to September 2010) before doing a chop. I never had a TWA. So, I suppose the answer is I’ve been natural for seven months now (from September 2010 to April 2011).
2. Why did you become Natural?
There wasn’t just one reason. I had always professed to be a natural gal . . . I took no aspirin for headaches, no cold medicine for illnesses, I neither drink (alcohol) nor smoke. I’ve never colored my hair. When I had my children, I had them naturally without epidural, etc. I took some pride in that. Then one day, I realized, as if a light had gone off in my head, that I couldn’t claim the natural moniker completely if I was still relaxing my hair. And while that was tugging on me, I was also assessing WHY I relaxed my hair. Was I trying to fix something? Was there something wrong with my hair? What was I saying to myself about how I felt about this important part of me? Did I think that I should “fix” God’s work? Yup, it got deep for me.
Simultaneously, I had gotten really fed up of the expense of getting a touch up and had begun to notice that I could see my scalp in a way that alarmed me. Since I didn’t want to sport a comb over, I thought it was about time to take everything that had been weighing heavily on me into serious consideration and jump into the process of transitioning with both feet. Initially, it was very scary for me. It took me a year to decide.
3. Was it a hard transition? How did you transition?
The actual transition was not too bad for me, though at first, I was at a lost for what to do and how to do it. I have a lot of hair, which had been masked by years of relaxing. I actually forgot how much I had. As it came in, I was challenged – not by styling it — but by combing it. I was intuitive to notice that my hair was best managed after I had shampooed and conditioned it so whenever it gave me a hard time – in those early days of my transition – I just jumped in the shower and shampooed. It was probably the best thing I could have done. I wasn’t using the best products at the time — I hadn’t yet discovered the better products for our hair but that was just a matter of time. It was my daughter who led me to a YTber (Beautiful Brown Baby Doll). She zeroed in on her because of her weight loss; I was drawn to her because of her hair. I tried some of the things that she recommended like unrefined Shea butter and I was good to go. At that time, it was probably the best 6:30 minutes I had ever spent in my life. (Well, I exaggerate but you get the drift.)
I transitioned mainly with buns. I am not a braid, wig, weave wearer. I also decided early that I’d maintain my hair as if it were all natural, rather than try to match my new growth to my relaxed ends. For me, that was my own personal stroke of genius. It really helped me a great deal. Soon after I learned about not combing dry hair and that was another huge step in my transition development. By this time, I was using no-sulfate products . . . more natural products . . . and my hair began to blossom. I took no pictures in the early days but by May 2009, I finally realized that I should chronicle my journey. By the fall of 2009, I decided to make the chronicling more formal . . . so I started a blog. http://slimwavy.blogspot.com/
I used buns mainly to stretch my hair, which I often followed with a braid out or a cornrow out. I curled my ends to help it blend in with the rest of my hair. Two years is a long time but I was patient and diligent about my hair care. In hindsight, there were times when I definitely did not feel very patient or when my hair went left when I asked it to go right. I remember wanting to yank the hair out of my head to make it grow faster. I remember the days when I’d pull it back in my bun only to have it respond to some moisture in the air thus turning into a chia pet. Those were the early days when I could never predict what my hair would do. I carried hair care tools with me everywhere until I understood my hair better. By the time I became a hair pro (of my own hair) . . . my transition was over. I was both sad and elated. I remember tearing up at my chop. I had done it. I had grown out my relaxed hair and I was onto a new phase in my journey.
Today 7 months natural with the two years of additional growth behind me, I don’t even bring an extra bobby pin with me. My hair and I are friends now; we understand each other. Transitioning was probably one of the most beautiful things I did for myself. As I transitioned, I lost weight . . . 35 lbs. The weight came off as the hair grew out of my head. There was something very spiritual about that whole process for me. Phew! I loved it.
4. Did your age aid in your decision to go Natural?
I don’t think my age had anything to do with my decision . . . except that I remember thinking, “Go for it. You’re not getting any younger.” I also remember thinking, as I looked down the barrel of the two years ahead of me, pondering whether I should just go ahead and do it, that in two years, I’d be two years older whether I transitioned or not . . . and at the end of that period I wanted to have something to show for the time.
I don’t know if that answers your question but I certainly wished I had started much earlier. There was a time when I blindly followed a 8 week touch plan. I didn’t give thought to why I did it or whether I could stop, I just went and got it done. It wasn’t until 2007 when I started really questioning why I was continuing to do it. I’d had scabs and burns and all sorts of weirdness. My hair never suffered really . . . except for that thinning that I began to notice in 2007, which I think was caused by the chemicals AND the high heat that my stylist used.
So, maybe my age might have played a role in that I was “old” enough but to give a hoot.
5. Does your age make it easier or harder to be Natural?
Going natural really requires some real contemplation, I think. At least it did for me. I knew that I wasn’t going to cut my hair off in a big chop so I had to really think about how I was going to manage the two textures. And in the process for me or anyone else choosing to go this route, it is very important to come to a place of acceptance and that can’t be rushed. But once you get there, it’s glorious. I had the same revelation when I turned 40. I stopped caring about what folks thought and could get on with the business of being me. It was similar with going natural but it required more thinking because of all the societal, cultural, and racial associations attached to hair. At some point, I had to just say %^&*(*&^% because I needed to release myself from what was clearly, for me, bondage.
Did I “worry” about what people thought? I’ve got to admit it: Yes. But I pushed myself to a place where I didn’t care. That took time. When my hair decided to frizz up (and I mean badly) and I had to go into a meeting . . . I had to go into a meeting. I couldn’t crawl underneath my desk. When I felt uncomfortable wearing twists as I was in the early days (“This is a child’s hairdo. How can an adult wear this and be taken seriously?”), I got over it when I received positive feedback from those that mattered to me. I could then see the beauty in the style . . . it ceased being a style for little girls when I claimed it for myself. Perhaps my age made that easier to work through.
6. Do you see many Older Naturals in your area? If so, what styles are they sporting?
Funny you should ask this. I live in a place where I don’t see many people of color period . . . except at church. My hair, I am learning, was the topic of much conversation. Unbeknowst to me, people had been “watching” me transition. (I didn’t think anyone was paying attention!) Women (older women) have been coming up to me to tell me that they have been impressed with my hair growth or how nice my hair is or something similar. I’ve been encouraging women at my church to go natural. One of my friends at church has decided to do so but she didn’t say anything to me until she was 5 month post relaxer. It was all I could do not to squeeze her with joy. My advice to her was to stop trying to match the relaxed texture to the new growth and she did. She’s been wearing braid outs . . . in fact, the first one she wore, made me gasp . . . it was so beautiful. I’ve heard others whisper that they, too, might also go natural. That makes my heart full.
7. How do you primarily wear your Natural hair?
Twists, twist outs and buns, though much less frequently than when I was transitioning. I’ll do the occasional braid (without extensions), too.
8. Favorite products and/or product line?
Karen’s Body Beautiful
9. Any words of wisdom or encouragement for other Older Naturals already Natural or thinking about it?
If you are thinking about going natural, jump in with both feet. It’ll be the best decision you’ll have made for yourself in a long while. It’ll be scary at first, you’ll come to place where you’ll not know exactly what to do. But the network and community for naturals is so vast, all you’ll need to do is plug into one . . . there are forums, blogspots and videos to help you over any hump you may experience. Acceptance is key but even if you choice not to do it, the most important thing is understanding how to better care for your hair.
I’m really thankful to JazzWife for sharing. I love her hair and her blog, http://slimwavy.blogspot.com/ . Make sure to stop by and check it out.