Photo Courtesy of Dominique Beltran

I remember my scalp burning; that meant the relaxer was working. I never sweat it though. “Beauty is pain,” I would tell myself as I imagined the admiring looks I’d get in the hallways. My hair would finally be straight and I would fit in at school. Curls and frizz were never in, and I could see it with every wrinkled nose and question phrased, “Why doesn’t your hair stay straight?” I can’t tell you how many times I wish I could’ve gone back in time and encouraged my eight year-old-self to cherish the silky curls I was born with. What is it that J. Cole says? “No need to fix what God already put his paintbrush on?”

  Being the only black girl in a kindergarten class, I really stood out with my colorful hair bows and pigtails that swung in unison with me on the monkeybars. After one-too-many, “Why is your hair so poofy?” questions, I went home crying to my mom, begging her to stop the natural hair madness, and like any caring parent who just wanted her child to be happy, she did. My mother finally allowed me to get a relaxer.

For years, I would relax my hair while soaking up comments about how my hair was “So pretty and long for a black girl.” I would perm it, flat iron it, keep my head above water in the pool during summers, run for cover in the pouring rain and avoid anything that mimicked an afro if that meant getting my white friends’ (and their parents’) societal approval. However, the one and only thing that was missing was my own approval.

I can’t go back in time. So now I face the harsh reality, that I would continue to perm my hair and have an identity crisis about everyone else’s perception of beauty. Now, I proudly let my afro bounce as I walk, and I am proud of the black woman my mother raised me to be. My hair thanks me for that conversation during my junior year of college with a dear friend who encouraged me to “just cut it off”— the big chop. Starting over and chopping off every eurocentric beauty expectation that I had growing up re-invented me. It forced me to confront my hair demons and learn to love me for me.

Now I want to make it clear that I’m not hating on any sistas who relax their hair. Blackness comes in so many beautiful styles and textures. I want to make it clear that my journey clarified other things for me. For that, as a black woman, I am eternally grateful. Respectfully, don’t touch my hair.

For my sew-ins, lace-fronts, relaxers and afro’s alike,

Xoxo,

Big Sis.

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