I’ve been technically “natural” most of my life, but from elementary school until near adulthood I did not wear my true texture. Like most women in my family, I was a press and curl girl, with extensions as an acceptable alternative. I got relaxers off and on throughout my teen years. If we couldn’t afford another relaxer treatment or for whatever reason I didn’t get one, my mother or aunt would use the pressing comb to straighten my hair. So even when I was relaxed, I was never the kind to be running to the salon for another relaxer. Therefore, when I found the hair boards, the idea of “creamy crack” was a foreign one to me. Similarly, the idea that there was a status difference between pressing and relaxing was also new. I had mixed the two without much thought and the outcome of them was always the same: straight hair. Rather, the distinction I drew was between straight hair and kinky hair. Therefore, when people ask me when I went natural, I tell them when I started wearing my hair in its true kinky state, which was the spring of 1996.
The spring of 1996. Actually, that’s a bit misleading because it wasn’t spring where I was, in the southern hemisphere, in Zimbabwe. I was on a semester of study abroad. Zimbabwean women for the most part were like American black women in that they had relaxers or extensions. However there were three women from HBCUs who were also on the study abroad program. Two of them had locs, but one of them had loose nappy hair. I had never seen that before. I had seen loose natural hair of the “good” curly variety, but not any that approached my own texture. We weren’t hair twins, but she was within range 🙂 It was she that let me know, explicitly by telling me so, that I didn’t have to press or wear extensions. I could copy her twists or afro puff. And that was the end of it for me because, truly, I hated getting my hair straightened or braided. I was tender-headed and every salon visit hurt. So I happily began to wear an afro puff most of the time with a few twists.
Twists – Twist-out
I wore my hair in an afro puff primarily with the occasional twists for the next decade. In 2007 I decided that I needed to make more black female friends as my current environment didn’t have any. So I started a natural hair care group at Meetup.com. I figured I could use a few styling tips and, since I’m shy, the shared topic of natural hair would make it easier for me to talk to people. Well, it worked. I met more black women. But also in preparing handouts for the meeting, I came across Nappturality.
Nappturality was a new phase in my hair’s life. There I learned proper hair care and styling, discovered great product companies like Qhemet Biologics and Oyin Handmade, learned about hair typing, became a temporary “product junkie”, suffered a mild bout of “hand-in-fro” disease, learned how so many women had difficulties from society for choosing to wear their hair natural, and had many interesting discussions. I also began to talk on Long Hair Care Forum which expanded my hair knowledge even further.
My hair gives me a lot of difficulties, more now that I’ve found the hair boards than before. The main difficulty is tangling. But all the same I do love it and take a lot of pride and enjoyment in my hair. I hope I’ll get even better at this hair thing as time goes on.
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