I have a love-hate relationship with hair.
My hair is short, barely enough to force into one stubby knot at the top of my head (something my mum aptly calls Forcing-1). It’s coarse, very African. It’s very painful to comb out, especially when dry, and combs breaking off in my thick tangle of hair are not an unusual occurence. Relaxers make it less coarse, but are excruciatingly painful, no matter which type or brand I use. Dark and Lovely, Venus, Ozone, Dr. Miracle’s, Organic Root Stimulator; name it, I’ve used it.
When I was a little girl, I hated having my hair done. I flat-out didn’t want anyone to touch my hair. I’d cry as soon as the hairdresser started putting the relaxer in, and I’d wail until it would be washed off prematurely. Eventually, my mum cut my hair midway through primary school, because it was just too much trouble to deal with.
My low-cut hair made me look like a boy. Until puberty came calling, I was often mistaken for a boy. Ha! Like I cared. All I knew was that I was free, free from the torture chambers that were hair salons.
Due to steadily increasing pressure from family and friends, I started growing out my hair in my last year of secondary school. I was happy to be able to braid my hair and put in extensions, and resigned myself to a life of pain as far as my hair was concerned. I’d have my hair retouched in the salon, and two weeks later, it’d have gone back to its thick, coarse natural state. It didn’t grow either; it just remained short and stubby.
I especially hated (and still hate) when people would say: “Ah, your hair is so short, what’s wrong with it?” Nothing is wrong with my hair, f*** you very much. I’d close my eyes and pray for the strength to not dole out a stinging slap to whoever said that.
For eight years, I relaxed my hair every 2-3 months, always at significant cost, and terrible pain. Even then, it’d never be glossy and silky, like those of the women depicted on the relaxer packets. It’d just be…manageable.
After my final exams a few months ago, during which I totally neglected my hair and wore extensions for two months straight, I finally had time to do something about my hair. I had anxiety issues for days, before it hit me: I don’t want to relax my hair anymore. I was tired of the apprehension I’d feel when I had to go to the salon, and the pain of the relaxers. I was sick of shelling out money, purchasing caustic chemicals which I’d then apply on my hair and scalp. I wasn’t going to do it anymore. I swore off relaxers.
It’s been a relief, knowing I don’t have to endure that kind of pain. Handling my natural hair, however, has been…an experience. African / African-American hair websites and blogs abound on the Internet, with sometimes conflicting information: Shampoo and condition diligently! Co-wash only! Texturize! Twist-outs! It’s bewildering.
For now, I’m just revelling in the luxury of being able to wash my hair whenever I want to. Maybe it’ll grow, maybe it won’t, but it’s clean and healthy. That’s what’s important about my hair.
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