Over the past few years, much of this rebirth has been reflected in my hair.
It was eight years ago this month, the summer after I graduated college, that I decided to stop using chemical relaxers to straighten my hair. I wore my hair in braids to give it a long deserved break and let the relaxer grow out.*
It was six years ago this month that I started wearing my 'fro. I cut out my braids and sported my afro puffs with pride. My 'fro reminded me of my childhood, back when I would wear my hair natural and my big sister would style it all kinds of fun ways. I watched my hair grow healthy and strong. I wore pretty scarfs in my hair, flowers, and clips. I learned it's textures, it's limits. I fell in love with it again.
It was three years ago this month that I dreaded my hair. I had long admired dreadlocks and figured that my hair was finally healed enough to start them. My sister had been wearing dreads for a few years (she started the process around the I was wearing my 'fro), and I had her help me start. She sectioned my hair and, for the first six months, washed and twisted the locks for me. For me, those first six months were the best. My sister is 11 years older than I and having her do my hair again, like she use to do when I was a child, really solidified a bond between us. It made me feel that familiar closeness. We'd laugh and gossip and watch t.v. and just ... be. It was our time. My dreads were started with a lot of love.
This eight year hair journey has been an important one, mirroring my own maturity and self acceptance from the inside out.
So, happy birthday to my dreads. :>
*I was 11 when my mother took me to get my first relaxer. I had no say in it. It was something that black women in my family did to make their hair "presentable" and I was told it was time for me to start the ritual, too. I hated it: the sitting, the burning. How tender my head would be after all of that and then styling. But kept it up for 10 years out of habit and expectation.
I think the milestone of graduating college at 21 made me snap out of things. I felt like an adult for the first time. I had a job straight out of school, I got my own apartment, my own car, paid my own bills - and I began to realize that my hair was mine and I was grown; no one had the right or the power to dictate how my hair had to be anymore and I could finally do what I felt was right for me. I have since never looked back.