Like a lot of black women, I have an intense relationship with my hair. A love-hate, shame, complicated relationship. I’ve been relaxing my hair since I was eight years old, more than twenty years ago. And until I moved to Atlanta, Georgia a few years ago, I never felt weird about that. It wasn’t a statement, it’s what you did with hair like mine. To tame it, to make it manageable, to fit in. Especially growing up in a mostly-white suburb where finding a black salon was nearly impossible, relaxers made it easy to not think about my hair most days. I could throw it in a ponytail or pull it half up and concentrate on my life. Oh, and it looked good.
And then I moved to Atlanta, the mecca of black hair, and suddenly it became pretty clear that straight hair was not the only option. You didn’t have to have big, loose curls to justify wearing what naturally grew out of your own head. Still, I found a salon I loved and stuck to what I knew. I alternated between letting my hair grow out past my shoulders and chopping it into cute, sleek bobs. But that was about as far as I was willing to experiment. Until my beloved salon suddenly closed.
I’d been starting to play with the idea of going natural, inspired by friends and coworkers who rocked the hell out of their natural hair. But it was still theoretical and once I got engaged, I put it off as something to do after the wedding. Everyone knows the biggest beauty rule of wedding-prep is don’t do anything drastic: stick with what you know. So that was the plan: start transitioning after the wedding in a year or two. I started pinning loose waves and half-up styles that would work with my relaxed hair. But at the same time, I was also pinning natural hair inspiration and reading articles on transitioning to prepare myself for that eventual journey
I’d purposely looked for inspiration that matched what I remembered my natural hair looking like: tight, light brown corkscrews shot through with blonde and red. And eventually, a thought occurred to me that stopped me in my tracks. I want my wedding to be a beginning. The opening of a new chapter in my life that will hopefully include children, a house, a family of my own. And I was going to start that chapter by looking like my old self? I was going to go natural and look back on pictures of my wedding day only to see a woman that didn’t look like me anymore? That sounded like an ending, not a beginning.
So I cancelled my next relaxer appointment and decided to take the plunge. Not in a year, not after the wedding, but now. I loved my single self like I loved my relaxed hair. But it wasn’t who I was growing into. It wasn’t the woman I wanted to be the mother of my future children. On the day that I embraced a new journey in my life, I wanted to look and feel like my truest self. And for the first time, that includes my natural hair.