By Alisha Tillery
The buzzword is definitely natural hair as of late. From the weekly #NaturalHair Day on Twitter to actress and comedian, Kim Coles, unveiling her transition to natural hair on Afrobella, “going natural” is all the rage, so much so that it’s referred to as the “new black.”
During #NaturalHair Day, I viewed countless tweets and pictures of women celebrating themselves and their hair. It was beautiful, but after a while, I became annoyed. I couldn’t decide if the trending topic was a celebration or a finger-pointing party, though I hoped for the former. I understood when a fellow writer tweeted, “I can’t participate with the (natural hair) hashtag like I deserve to be on a pedestal just because I’m a natural. I still think it’s very divisive.”
The trending topic reminded me of a Twitter debate I participated in just days earlier about straightening natural hair. Some women are saying it’s the number one “don’t” per a follower’s Twitter rant:
“I’m having a very annoying conversation with a woman who has natural hair. It turns out that I’m not ‘helping out’ the natural hair lifestyle by occasionally blowing out my super thick hair and straightening it. Here’s what she said: ‘If you are going to wear your hair natural that means no blow drying or straightening it to look straight.’”
Give me a break.
Before you give me the side-eye, I, too, am transitioning. I have been relaxer-free for just over a year now. It started as a challenge of how long I could go without a relaxer. I didn’t do it so much for self-discovery or to see how dependent I am on my hair. Thankfully, I’ve never suffered from thin hair, breakage or chemical damage. I did it to see what my hair looks like without a relaxer. And get this: I straighten it…often! gasp
I will not be told what to do with my hair by anyone.
After nearly 17 years of relaxing my hair, I’ve almost completely grown out my relaxer, and it took patience and discipline. After accomplishing that, which I consider to be a milestone, I will not have anyone tell me that I have to wear my hair in its natural state. My hair, my decision.
I often hear the phrase, “It’s just hair” thrown around in discussions to promote various schools of thought regarding hair. If it’s, indeed, “just hair,” why shouldn’t I have the freedom to do with it whatever I choose—be it to relax, coil or weave it?
Yes, it’s true that hair is a major issue for African-American women. To quote interior designer Shelia Bridges, who was featured in Chris Rock’s controversial documentary, Good Hair, “The reason hair is so important is because our self-esteem is wrapped up in it.” If this is so — if hair is such a big part of us, is it really appropriate to treat our hair choices and textures as members-only clubs?
I am in no way suggesting that we shouldn’t celebrate our hair and its versatility. More so, I’m suggesting that no other person has the right to dictate what we do with our own hair, natural or otherwise. The beauty about being a woman is we have an array of options, and that is what we should embrace.
My personal goal is to grow longer hair. Eventually, I’ll wear it “out” or in twist-outs, but when I choose. All of the parts of our bodies, even the hair that grows from our heads should cause us to feel loved, not guilty or judged.
So to the women, like my dear friend, who can rock a ‘fro and twist-out like no other, the women who flat irons her natural hair every two weeks, the ones who let the relaxer sit until it begins to fizzle on her scalp, and the ones who think the longer the Remy, the better, only you know makes you shine. Whether I agree with your methods or not, it’s your hair, not mine. If what we’re really practicing and advocating for is freedom from whatever is entrapping us through our hair, let’s act as such. Live and let live.
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