Looking around the salon, it was packed full of characters. I heard the boisterous laugh of the barbers across from me sharing jokes between each other. Teenage girls putting weaves in their hair and getting perms self-consciously looking at themselves in the mirror anxious to have the hair they want. A few seats away, there is a beautiful woman, sporting a buzz cut. She had beautiful skin and her makeup was flawless. There were a mix of different personalities and flavors of people who were expressing themselves in the world, in their own unique way. I sat in the salon chair swiveling back and forth nervously. It had been 6 months to date that I had been transitioning my hair going from a permed straight head of hair to the natural hair that I hadn't seen since I was about eight years old.
My stylists walks up to me and greets me with a smile. I immediately notice the hotpink and steal blue nail polish; a different color for each nail. She knows that I am there to do my Big Chop (2) and ready to become natural once and for all. She swings my chair around so that I face the mirror, goes for her scissors and asks “ok, you ready”? I was more than ready. Mainly for the fact that I had gone back and forth for months debating on whether or not I wanted to go natural. On one side, I yearned to see the other side of me. I was on a newfound journey both personally and spiritually and I wanted my outside appearance to reflect my growth. And on the other side, I was deathly afraid of what my new appearance would look like. Would I accept it? Would society accept it? But deep down in my heart, I knew that this was my time and I wanted to take this step towards owning my identity.
She began snipping away at my straight ends slowly revealing the true texture of my hair. Looking at my hair, I saw a bit of waves, I saw a bit of coils, and yes there was a bit of kink too; I saw me! After she was done, I looked in the mirror at my reflection and I smiled. I ran my hands through all 5 inches of hair that was left on my scalp; I smiled harder.
I left the salon that day a different person. There was a brightness inside that I never felt before. I didn’t walk, I floated; I looked at everything around me optimistically. It’s hard to explain but that day I had new meaning. My hair was something that I had attached myself to for 21 years and just like that it was gone. Hair played a major part in defining who I was but now I realize in actuality, it is just a small part that makes me, me. Just like being a volleyball player, not liking the taste of watermelon (lol), or being a photographer; those things don’t define me, they are just parts of a whole that make me who I am.
I’m happy that I decided to go natural; I truly don’t regret it at all. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my up and down hair days that make me want to just shave my head bald. But the best thing about times like that is the friends I’ve made along the way who have either gone through or are going through the same experiences. So whenever I call them up freaking out about my afro puff gone wrong, I know they are there for me and will talk me off the ledge. My family and friends have been truly amazing throughout this whole process of going natural. And I want to thank them for supporting my choices and applauding my journey.
So…this is me…
Photo Credit: Declan Julien
Photo Credit: Brent Eysler
(1) Yes, I really did go to a hair salon in Harlem, NY called Sho Nuff Hair Salon. It sounds like a name of a salon straight out of the movie "Coming To America". lol
(2) BC: Big Chop; cutting perm chemicals out of hair