Naturally Me: Hair, Men and Image

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At the age of 14, I caused my grandmother to go into a conniption fit when I did the unthinkable. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that little rebel in me decided that I did not want to have relaxed hair anymore, and I started to…wait for it…let my hair grow the way it came out of my head naturally.

From the way my grandmother reacted, you would think that going natural meant joining a Rastafarian commune to shack up with some natty dread, and pop out some equally natty great-grands (no disrespect meant to Rastafarians). After all, when she was growing up, there was a serious stigma attached to natural hair. No one even dreamed of sporting a natural do, if they wanted to progress in their career or social status.

Fastforward to 2012. I’ve been totally natural since 2007, and it has been a rollercoaster journey. At one point, I was so fed up of the constant hair maintenance battle that I went for a relaxer. I even sat in the hairdresser’s chair. But as she was prepping my hair, something started to tug inside of me. I just couldn’t do it.

Initially, I didn’t quite figure out what that nagging feeling was, but then I realised that I had fallen in love with my multi-textured hair, with its unpredictable, yet endearing moods. I reminisced about the sheer exhilaration of stepping out of the salon, after handing over the job of styling to the experts. These coiffeurs seemed to have magic fingers that could transform an unruly mess of tangles into the most stunning, traffic-blocking, head-turning looks.

As she was about to start mixing the chemicals, I told the hairdresser to stop. I was determined to (in the language of Project Runway’s Tim Gunn) “make it work”.

I had my first relaxer at age seven, so I had no idea about the range of possibilities natural hair could afford. For all my natural years, the rope twist was my de-facto style, and as much as I loved the look, I was bored. With newfound vigour, I ransacked YouTube and natural hair blogs, where I discovered a whole range of options.

The world of flat twists, twist outs, afro puffs, and canerowed upsweeps were unchartered territory. I was overwhelmed, but overjoyed with the choices, and I was determined to try any decent looking style at least once.

Now, I know some ladies are concerned about how the fellas will react to natural hair, and are reluctant to either stay or go natural, because they think that men won’t like it. Personally, I have never experienced guys not liking my natural look.

On the contrary, I have received many compliments from guys of varying races, nationalities, and ethnicities about my hair. When at home in the Caribbean, I’ll be walking along minding my own business, and hear at least one “psssst Princess”, or “psssst Empress” (titles reserved almost exclusively for women with natural hair), mixed in with the usual “smallie”, “darkie”, or “family”.

To me, it’s all about preference.

In the same way that some guys prefer slim women, while others prefer full-figured ladies, some prefer natural hair; others prefer relaxed hair. It’s simply a matter of finding someone who will appreciate you for you.

Most guys like a girl who is confident. How a woman perceives herself will often dictate on some level how a man perceives her. So just wear your hair the way that makes you feel happy, and chances are your guy will be happy with it too.

No matter how you choose to wear your hair, just keep it neat. No man I know wants to be walking with a woman who looks like an unkempt hot mess. Any kind of hair, natural or not, needs to be well groomed. So to say that natural hair is messy or unprofessional speaks more to the person upon whose head it sits rather than the hair itself. And men aside, shouldn’t you simply want to look good for yourself?

The lesson from this is for anyone male or female to be comfortable with who you are, and not to conform to what people think you should be. IMHO (in my humble opinion), if you love your hair natural, and someone else doesn’t like it, then that really is their problem – not yours. If you try to change yourself to suit someone else’s ideal of beauty, then you are not being true to yourself.

By the way, in case you were wondering how my grandma has been coping with my decision, much to my surprise and delight, she has come around. I’ve even gotten a couple rave reviews from her about my styles. While I’m not exactly sure if it’s because she actually likes them or whether it’s because she’s relieved that I didn’t run off with the Bobo dreads, I’ll let you be the judge of that one.

Anyone looking for ideas on how to style their natural hair can take a look at my Facebook album

 

Image credit: theyeyodiaries.com

Nicole M. A. Brown

Nicole Brown was born and raised in Jamaica, but has lived in Trinidad and Tobago since 2003. She enjoys learning new languages and meeting people from different cultures. She’s also interested in the creative arts, and serves as the dance ministry director for her church. To contact her, you can email nicolemarie.brown@gmail.com.

14 Comments

  1. Traci S. Williams

    April 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    My own granny asked my fiance earlier this year how he “could allow” me to “do that” with my hair. *shrug* Being natural, especially if in a counter-culture, definitely requires confidence. Thank goodness for the online natural hair communities you mentioned!

  2. Carla

    April 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Having never been fortunate enough to know either of my grandmothers, my experience with my hair has been totally different. When I was much younger I wanted to relax my hair (didn’t we all?) and my mother told me that I could when I turned 16. By the time I turned 16, I had seen enough negative examples of relaxed hair to be repulsed by it and I actually hankered after dreadlocks instead. This desire was actually encouraged by my father who loved that hairstyle.

    I spent my childhood and teenaged years with natural hair, only occasionally putting braids or getting it pressed but even then I felt ashamed going out in public with straight hair that was not naturally mine. At 25 I decided to go out on a limb and get it relaxed and the hairdresser I went to was a genius and it came out wonderful. I did it because of a drastic change in lifestyle that was about to take place and felt it would ‘save’ me time. Now, 8 months later, while I may have experienced some frustration with my natural hair at times, I can truly say that I detest my relaxed hair. I cannot wait to head back home (don’t trust the ‘hairdressers’ where I live now) to get it cut off and start anew.

  3. Jolene Nelson

    April 16, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Considering that my mother literally forced me to relax my hair at age 6, while bawling (I have the pictures to prove it), I knew nothing else but that burning, scratching, stinking paste being smeared on my scalp ritually for years. Yes my super thick, extra curly locks are difficult to maintain but havinng now been 100% natural for 10 years I can truly say that I would have it no other way. I too have been yearning to “dread” my hair but unfortunately do not live in a society which would accept me professionally that way. I will never rule it out though, perhaps when the kids have gone off to college and I have mastered self employment….one can dream. Incedentally I have also never coloured my hair after hearing nightmare stories of breakage and thinning. Now that I’m raising my own “nappy headed” daughter I tell her daily that she has beautiful hair and style her with afro’s and head bands. Great article Nicole, thanks for sharing!

  4. Kim Griffith

    April 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Love this article Nicole, you took us all on a journey. Really proud to be rocking the natural hair……:)

  5. vickie

    May 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Just like some of the respondants, my hair was relaxed at a young age and this was because my mum couldn’t handle it. Now years later after some research I have decided to go back natural. I know it will be difficult but look forward to the challenge.

    P.s. your link for doesn’t work can you repost would love some ideas of how to style my hair.

    • Hello World

      May 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      • Vickie

        May 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm

        This is what comes up:
        This content is currently unavailable
        The page you requested cannot be displayed right now. It may be temporarily unavailable, the link you clicked on may have expired, or you may not have permission to view this page.
        Return home

        • Hello World

          May 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm

          I’m seeing the link ok, what browser are you using? I’m using firefox and it’s coming up

          • Vickie

            May 7, 2012 at 9:02 pm

            Tried in google chrome and now on my iPad same results :(

  6. Hello World

    May 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    i think i fixed the problem, let me know if you get it.

    • Vickie

      May 7, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Yes it did thxs real inspiration since I am always lookin for new styles as my hair returns to its natural state. Thxs for the article and pics :)

  7. Keisha gayle

    June 17, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Hmmmm. Food for thought

  8. Michelle

    June 28, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Hi Nicole, loved your article.  I myself have had  natural hair for a long time since 2004.  I loved the styles featured on your fb page.  There was one in particular where you said OB did it.  I would love to get a contact for  who ever that person is.  can you please respond to this message or your can also contact me at motherhubbord@gmail.com thanks much.  

  9. Laura

    August 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I have always had natural hair, I just blow dry it out. Think it’s easier than having relaxed hair. I know people who relax their hair, but they either forget, or don’t relax when they should, can’t tell if the amount of hair their losing in the comb is normal or not …. I think that is all to stressful..

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