When I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t my reflection that I saw, it was my mother’s and it was very disconcerting. I don’t think she knows how big of a shadow she casts with her fiery personality, nor how much of my adult life I have struggled to get from under it. For as long as I can remember, I have always been told how much I look and acted like her.
It was my third year of college when I called her feeling defeated. “Mom, I give up!”, I said when she answered the phone. “Baby, what’s wrong? What do you mean, ‘you give up’?”, she replied. I went on to tell that I was tired of fighting to try and not be like her that it was a losing battle, resisting the inevitable. Mother got a very good laugh out of that, she still does whenever it comes up in conversation.
In the summer of 2011, I cut off all of my hair to go natural for the summer. In the “natural hair” world, this is called the “big chop”. I wanted to be free of the chemically treated hair and its accompanying maintenance, but just for the summer. I was never anal about my hair length but rather it’s overall “presentation”. Regardless of length it had to be “fly”; healthy and well kempt at all times. So, cutting my hair did not prove to be traumatic per se because I’ve worn short styles before but I wasn’t quite prepared for the revelations (yes, there was more than one) going natural provided.
As I blogged previously in, Happy to Be Nappy, I no longer felt feminine and didn’t realize that I associated my femininity and attractiveness to my “relaxed” hair. Some have attributed that to social and cultural conditioning to which many black women have fallen prey – our natural hair isn’t beautiful. I’m sure that holds a lot of truth. Even so, I soldiered through the summer as planned rocking my hair in its natural state and quite quickly began to love it.
However, before the beginning of fall, I was back on the creamy crack because, when I looked in the mirror, it wasn’t my reflection that I saw, it was my mother’s and it was very disconcerting. Where did I go? I was on a mission to see ME again and if it meant relaxing my hair, then that is what I was going to do! And, I did.
Recently, I shared with my mother how it felt to look in the mirror and see her looking back at me. I approached the conversation gingerly because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings or give her the impression that I somehow view her negatively. Her response not only surprised me but left me feeling uplifted and supported.
My grandmother passed away almost seven years ago and my mother still has one of her wigs. Well, my mom shared with me that she tried on that wig and when she looked in the mirror, guess who she saw? Yes, my grandmother. She laughed, snatched the wig off and it’s been sitting on that Styrofoam head on the dresser ever since. She understood completely what I was feeling and that gave me so much comfort.
That relatable moment has also empowered me.
It’s been two years since I first chopped off all my hair and I find myself at the precipice of the big chop, again. The desire to wear my hair natural and chemical free never left and in fact, it is stronger now than it was before and I’ve made the decision to have a go at it, again.
Ahead of me are all those same issues that I will undoubtedly have to face. This time I’m ready to work through my insecurities and grow along with my hair, in its natural state.
- The Hesitant Transitioner pt.1: Contemplating Going Natural (theboogiedownbeauty.com)
- Natural Hair Can Be Annoying (shinestruck.com)