Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Big Chop

Immediately after the "big chop"
 By Briana Whiteside 

On May 17, 2013, at 12:15pm, I big chopped. I transitioned for nine long months which were planned and thought out, but spontaneously on that cloudy Saturday afternoon, out of frustration, I sat in the mirror and cut the relaxed hair off. For me, the process of cutting my hair was a symbolic ceremony of letting go of the old me and coming into a new woman. I think of it as a birthing ceremony.

[Related: On Natural Hair]

The transitioning months surprisingly taught me a lot about myself. It was through that stage that I became aware of how much I used my hair—let’s not forget the false lashes, which I’m letting go of too—as a crutch to enhance my physical appearance. While I loved the illusion of healthy, thick, beautiful hair, the truth is that my hair was unhealthy, filled with split ends and unmanageable breakage. It was time for a change because I wanted thick beautiful hair and the option of going to the gym and not worrying about sweating out my relaxer.

A few days after the big chop
The decision to big chop was easy; my hair actually made the decision for me. After long months of transitioning, using lots of moisturizers, and shea butter based products, the relaxed hair began to shed uncontrollably. I tried a protective style, the Senegalese twists for three weeks to try to manipulate my hair, but it had a mind of its own. When I took my hair out of the twists on May 16th, I noticed that the relaxed hair was missing in large sections, and it just looked horrible. The next day when I got off work I cut the stringy pieces of hair off.

If I said that I was completely confident with my big chop, I’d be lying. Though I am not completely confident and I am still learning my hair because it is new to me, I can’t help but embrace it. This was an important decision for me because I needed to let go of the crutches that I thought defined me as a person. Now that those crutches are gone, people can get to know and see the real me.

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Black Studies Program.  

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