Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Myah's Words: Feminine Hair

I have always been a girly-girl when it comes to clothes and fashion. I love pink, sequins, and sparkles. However, there is one area of my life where I have struggled with my femininity. That area is my hair. Growing up, I alternated between relaxed* hair (which is basically taking my natural, coily hair and chemically straightening it) and natural hair (which is wearing my hair the texture that it grows out of my head, without any chemical changes). I have always had hair that grew fast and for many years my beauty was defined by the length of my hair. I loved short haircuts but I never had the nerve to actually cut my hair. From eighth grade to my junior year of high school I wore my hair in its natural state (think afro or twists). I loved my hair this way, but as I got older I started to notice my peers did not approve of my hair in its natural state. Having natural hair was not seen as cool when I was in high school and it definitely was not seen as pretty. Pretty girls had long, luxurious permed hair. I had shoulder length, thick, kinky hair. In all honesty, until junior year of high school I was blissfully unaware of how “uncool” my hair was. One day in particular, changed my view of my hair for the rest of my high school and half of my college career.

                                                (My natural hair, pre-hair insecurities)

During the middle of the year I went to school wearing an Afro.  I was proud of my thick, full hair. When I made it to school I was met with laughs, pointing, and harsh jokes. I had never felt more ashamed of myself or the way I looked.  My self-esteem was greatly affected by that experience and from then on I vowed that I would never wear my hair in its natural state again. I started to feel insecure about my hair and the next year I permed it. I remember going into the salon believing I would come out a new woman because my hair would be straight. I started my senior year with straight hair. The first day I went to school feeling confident and sexy (okay, as sexy as a seventeen year old could be).  I just knew my new hair would grant me the popularity and acceptance I was looking for. I was met with disappointment. People commented on my hair, but just as soon as it was seen, it was old news. I quickly became just another black girl with permed hair.  Within the coming months my hair began to break off and I developed dime and quarter sized bald spots. The texture of my hair greatly thinned and I knew I was having a reaction to both the perm and the heat (curling irons and flat irons) I was using.  Even so, I continued to perm my hair.
                                         (My relaxed (permed) hair during my senior year of high school)
College brought on a new hosts of hair insecurities. Suddenly, I was not only in a sea of permed hair I was introduced to the world of wigs and weaves. I quickly realized that the cool girls on campus had long straight weaves and wigs.  I wanted to weave my hair but I quickly realized that the price of weaves were not cheap! Some of the women around me were spending $100- $200 every four to six weeks to get their weaves done. My student income didn’t allow for those types of weaves and I quickly began to feel inadequate.  My freshman year was a mix of micro braids and permed hair. Regardless of how I styled my hair I felt insecure and unhappy.  My sophomore year became a year of experimentation. I started out by cutting my hair into an uneven bob. I absolutely loved it. Then I cut my hair into a short crop cut. I loved that too but it was hard to maintain.
                                                                      (  My "Bob")
                                                                     ( My "Short Cut")
I loved my new hair but inside I felt a deep, genuine urge to embrace myself as I was naturally. I still based my beauty on being cool and having an acceptable hair style. I knew I needed a time where my hair was in its most natural state. I knew it would force me to develop a self-esteem based on being a natural version of myself. In January of 2010, I cut my hair off and began the process of going natural once again. This time I was determined to find myself, for who I really was and for what I naturally looked like. For so many years “popular” was pretty in my eyes and since weaves and straight hair where popular they were also what I saw as pretty. But they weren’t me, at least they weren’t who I naturally was. I ‘m not sure where the determination came from but I suddenly found myself on a quest to find out who I was. I wanted to know that I was beautiful for just looking like Myah. I read a plethora of natural hair blogs and watched natural hair videos on Youtube. I learned a lot about my hair, my ethnicity, and inevitably my identity. During this period a lot of my true insecurities came forth but so did my inner strength, authentic beauty, and confidence.

                                                    (Natural Myah in the Early Stages)
I stayed natural until June of 2011. At that time I had just completed my Bachelor’s degree and I wanted a style change. In my mind the only change I could think of was a perm. I still had left over insecurities.  They weren’t as strong as before but they were part of the voice in my head that told me “natural hair wasn’t as sophisticated,” and “guys will think you are cuter if you have permed hair.” I battled with myself for a couple of months and then I took the plunge. I remember sitting in my beauticians chair and feeling her put the first few strokes of perm in my hair. I knew in that moment it was a mistake. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her to stop. I was too timid, polite, and unsure I guess. After the process was over I tried to tell myself that I liked the new permed style but I knew in my heart I had made a hair mistake. I didn’t even feel like myself.  The next morning when I woke up and looked at my permed hair in the mirror I wanted to cry. I had truly made a mistake.  Two months later I cut my hair off and began the process of growing my hair out naturally again. I haven’t regretted my decision to return to being natural. 
                                                           (Natural Myah in May 2011)
                                              (Permed Myah in June 2011 (I was hating my hair!)
I won’t lie, sometimes I still feel insecure about my hair. However, though this process I have become extremely confident in my hair. I think I am beautiful with my natural coily hair. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having straight hair from time to time (but I don’t like straightening my own hair because I don’t want to damage it) so I have five wigs that I use mostly during the winter months then I want my “straight hair fix”. I think it is so important to be able to accept yourself for who you naturally are. I don’t think synthetic hair, nails, or makeup are wrong, but I think they become a problem when you can’t feel beautiful without those things. Makeup, hair, nails, and clothes are only made to enhance our personal style and our existing beauty. They do not make us who we are. Every day I am learning that even with my coils (or naps as some would call them) I am still just as pretty as a girl with straight hair. More importantly I am myself and that is the bravest thing this girl has ever been.
                                                             (Myah Now)

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