My Natural Hair Journey

With big hair comes big responsibility. The weight of the curls brushing against me was too heavy a burden for my shoulders to bear. My natural hair journey is one filled with ups and downs–disappointments that shook my self-esteem to the core then bounced me back up. My entire being moved to the bounce of the spiral texture that is my hair.

The power of the curl is something only a person with curly hair can understand. I am coming to terms with it, and take each day as it comes, but boy has it been hard.

It is getting better though.

I grew up feeling like some freak of nature. My East Indian roots didn’t seem to sync with my curly fro of a mane. My sister has thick wavy “East Indian” hair. My brother’s hair has always been really thick but too short to make comparisons. How did I end up looking the way that I did? Am I adopted? Do I have African blood in my lineage? Did my mother have an affair and I’m the offspring of a milkman?!

It was hard when I was younger. I remember looking at my cousins with deep envy as they detangled their silky straight hair with a brush. A NORMAL HAIR BRUSH! My hair breaks brushes. They would stand by the mirror and brush their glossy straight hair and look at me with feigned pity and say with a flick of their silky strands, “Aren’t you hot? I feel hot just looking at you”.

I just wanted to fit in and look like the other kids. I would often be the odd one in dance performances – my hair was always in a ponytail because the other hairstyles my dance group would rock wouldn’t hold. The latest hair trends always seemed to favour straight hair. At swimming practice, my hair wouldn’t stay in my swim cap, leaving my hair drenched and green after every swim practice. I didn’t know where to start when it came to styling it. I always wore it up in a ponytail pulled so tight I would get headaches, all in the hopes that my new growth would somehow be straight.

Growing up, my mum took care of my hair–she brushed and tied it every morning. Being the strong-headed child I was, at the age of 10 I proclaimed that I was old enough to take on the responsibility of styling my own hair. My mum protested, I protested even harder until she eventually gave in. I was in over my head by the first day. My baby chicken arms would hurt trying to brush my knots out. What did I know about sectioning? So I fell into the routine of brushing just the tops of my hair, tying it into my too tight ponytail, then rushing out of the house before my mother could get the chance to see me.
This routine continued for 2 weeks, before I was eventually caught. I remember sitting in the special chair my mum kept to sit on when she did my hair, my knees shaking and my lips quivering knowing the neck yanking that was to follow. My knots were so bad and my hair so matted that the only solution was to tie my hair in a ponytail and chop it right off. I was sent to school with eyes puffy and red and visions of my mangled ponytail on my bedroom floor.

Haircuts are a nightmare. I dread having to walk in to the hairdresser and have all the stylists gather around and stare at my hair, while sneaking pity looks at the stylist that has to deal with my mane. I guess you could say that I am a stylist’s nightmare, and my doubled bill represents it. The first time I ever did anything with my hair was in high school when I relaxed it. The results were disastrous. Apart from the burns behind my ears, only the top half of my hair straightened. To my disappointment, my bushy ponytail remained despite numerous attempts to tame it chemically.

I then began straightening my hair with a flat iron after I finished high school. Yes, it took 3 hours every week and I would have to wake up an hour earlier every morning to touch it up–but in my mind, it was worth it. I could do what I wanted with my hair. I didn’t stand out. I looked like every other girl walking down the street. That was what I needed at that time in my life. Looking back, I guess you could say that my straight hair was my safety net. I looked the way I was expected to and didn’t draw too much attention towards myself.

My turning point came about 5 months ago. My lifestyle had changed. I started living a healthier, more conscious lifestyle. Yoga consistently became part of my daily routine, and I became more aware of every ion in my body and every strand of my hair. With sweating daily came the realization of how impractical it was to spend all that time manipulating my hair. So one day, I let go of all the preconceived notions I had about my appearance, and went natural.

The key to living with my hair natural is taking every day as it comes, and learning to let go. In that way, my hair has been a guiding metaphor in my life. My hair has taught me so much about myself. I have learnt to let go and acknowledge that I can’t control everything, and that’s ok. I appreciate every stranger that comes up to me on the street, and entertain the men at that bar that respectfully ask to touch my hair. Embracing my hair has taken me a step closer to the individuality we all seek to have. I love my hair through the good and bad, but especially on the days when the stars align and it does what I want it to. It’s been 5 months and there’s no going back.