Monday, April 8, 2013

On Natural Hair

By Briana Whiteside

I never thought I could feel beautiful if my hair wasn’t straightened. Those who know me know that I take my hair very seriously. The girl with the thick beautiful hair that swings every time she moves—yup that’s me. But, nine months ago I decided to transition from relaxed hair to natural hair.

I decided to take this journey because I wanted to work out and get into shape. In the past, I refused to go to the gym because my hair would sweat out, and I’m so tender headed that ponytails hurt my head so I couldn’t wear those frequently. However, last week, I noticed that my hair was breaking off because I would straighten it weekly, in hair care that’s a big no no!

So on Wednesday I decided that in the month of April, I would
give my hair a break and not put any heat on it. Talk about going through withdrawals.

I turned to my dear friends and Black Studies sistahs for encouragement because they are natural hair women, and—the site to find hair care tips, hairstyles, washing techniques and other women’s stories. I have to admit last week has changed my life, especially concerning my hair. I went to work (with my hair unstraightned) and received mixed reviews as I expected. However, one individual (non-black) remarked, “I never saw your hair unknept.”

Wow, you can imagine my surprise, and the amount of strength it took not to lash out? Instead, I asked her a series of questions such as, “What makes you think that it is unkept?,” “What is your definition of unkept?,” “Who is to say that I belong to an imaginary unkept society?” I assume that she got to the point because she corrected herself and said, “I’m just used to you wearing your hair straight.”

In some ways, the incident gave me some motivation to continue wearing my hair “unkept” because I noticed that it seems to make people nervous. I felt like an Angela Davis rebel. Is my hair revolutionary? Does relaxed hair make people relax? I’m not sure.

I think people go natural for various reasons;
mine was because I wanted to get into shape without having to worry about sweating. I have learned to embrace myself and my hair, and love the skin I’m in.

A Notebook on style

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

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