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Embracing My Coils: A Hairstory

Like lots of little coily girls, my hair was always a big deal. As a young girl, my hair was pressed straight with a smoking hot comb and hairgrease on a very regular basis. About every two to three weeks, my mom would wash my hair and I dreaded the torture of the detangling that followed. My coils broke apart many candy colored plastic combs during those detangling sessions.  Because of those sessions, I convinced myself that my hair was just too n*ppy. I sat in the kitchen, held my ears and bared those hot presses because I never wanted anyone to see me without my hair “done”.  I  had a press for most of the school year and cornrows every summer. No time was wasted pressing my hair in the hot summer months especially with me enjoying splashes of water in the fire hydrant on the block and pools on summer camp trips or just plain ol’ sweating.

Sometime after my 11th birthday, I was able to “graduate” to a perm. I was so very happy to not have to deal with the hot comb anymore.  No more keeping still.  No more burns on my ears . No more sitting by the stove.  I had a box of Luster’s PCJ Original Creme Relaxer that was going to take care of all my hair drama.  I could not stop obsessing about it.  I kept reading the information packet in anticipation (ha).  I wanted all that magic NutrientSheen to penetrate my cuticles, moisturize my hair and all that other nonsense that the product promised.  I remember once reading the leaflet that showed illustrations of a hair shaft with lifted cuticles and another with some sort of swirly lines representing the NutrientSheen penetrating the cuticles.  My brother grabbed the leaflet right out my hand and said, “Let me see what this is you keep looking at”.  He zeroed in on the lifted cuticle picture and said “uggh your hair’s gonna look like THAT!”  So I had to drop some knowledge on him, “NO.  That’s microscopic.  That’s just how it is during the conditioning.  You’re not gonna be able to see that.”  (Did PCJ brainwash any other children as thoroughly as me?)

When the day finally came, I got the cream smothered all over my hair and was amazed that my hair was still straight when my lovely St. Lucian hairdresser washed the relaxer out.  With my head in her deep kitchen sink, I rolled my eyes up as far as I could and saw my straight hair hanging forward with water running down it.  No more hair shrinking back up when it was washed like it did with the press!  I couldn’t contain my smiles.

The following years were a flurry of sponge rollers, hair clips,  Shirley Temple curls with french rolls, hair loss from stress and neglect, a brief but disastrous stint of braid extensions, short and hot curled cuts, wash, set and wraps at Bronx Dominican salons, bobs and more cuts.  By 21, enough was enough and I wanted a ‘fro.  I had been inspired by some natural ladies I met years earlier on a trip out to Howard University but, at the time, my 16-year-old self wasn’t ready to quit the lye just yet.

My hair was already in a short cut when I decided to go natural.  I went to a barber to get my hair cut very low so I could wear a short spiky style (I was into the spiky thing at the time). I don’t know why I thought that would work; I guess I was still hanging on to some sort of hair instead of just getting it all shaved off straightaway.  I was in slight shock when I saw the low cut.  I paid and dipped out of that barbershop like I was running from the law.  (OK .  That might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I rushed out as fast as possible.)  At home, I did a more thorough inspection.  I saw thin edges and a little thin spot at the center of my hairline.  I’d thought “I’m not even going to try to figure this out.”  I went to the fabric store the next day, bought some black fabric and rocked head wraps for about 4 months.  Once the summer started sneaking in, I had to let go of the head wrap.  It was getting too hot under there and my hair had grown out about an inch or inch and a half .  So, back in a barber’s chair, I asked,  “Could you cut off the last of the relaxed tips?”

As I wore my fresh new ‘do some folks said I looked sophisticated while others asked with astonishment if I was going to get waves or an S-curl.  The latter group held they’re mouths even more agape when I replied with a firm “no”.  One former older female co-worker suggested that I should just loc my hair and if I was afraid to commit to the permanence of locs, that I should at least twist my hair because she was “tired of looking at it”.  *blankstare*

Well, I let my TWA rock out!  That is until I got a little self-conscious of it and tried to texturize it.  I’m sure that I didn’t leave the cream on long enough because it looked pretty much the same after I rinsed it out except for a little Superman curl in the front.  In the end, I really wanted chemical free natural hair but I let the doubt, the stares, the negative comments and the “Why did she cut her hair?” question that was whispered when I turned my back, get to me.  I put the chemicals down for good after that. Once again the TWA was rockin’!

I made newbie mistakes galore: dry combing, no deep conditioning, still clogging my scalp with hairgrease, (Yup.  BB Super Gro Extra Light.  Who’s afraid of petroleum?) no twisting, no protecting my ends, sulfate shampoo, green hair gel that came in a tube (?!).  All of these things equaled no progress.  It was a long time before I got out of TWA stage.  Did I wonder what was going on?  Of course.  But, I had essentially never dealt with my natural texture and was at a loss. I began to think that maybe my hair just wasn’t growing.  (I couldn’t have been more wrong.)  No peers or relatives had any advice (except the one “friend” who suggested, “If the natural things isn’t working for you, maybe you need to start perming again.  It’s not like you have good hair.”) and the blogsophere hadn’t lit up yet with the natural movement (at least not that I knew of).  I told myself back then that I was going to find a natural hair salon/stylist.  Finding a salon didn’t happen right away and I ended up moving out of the country for quite some time so it was me and my TWA against the world.

To make along story. . . a little less long, I started manipulating my hair after it was dampened in the shower; less dry combing meant less breakage and I made more of an attempt to plait or twist my hair at night.  I started retaining a little more length and my baby puff was born.  It had been five years since I had stopped perming and I was happy about my small victorious step, but still frustrated.  Wanting some more change, I got an asymmetrical curly weave with braids on the side.  The style was great albeit pricey.  I kept getting more weaves.  I made sure to not neglect my hair under the weaves and trimmed my ends every 2 months.  Before I knew it, a year and a half went by and I had retained length like crazy.

One day, after removing a weave, I relished my coils and kinks.  I picked my hair out, saw my ‘fro and thought, “What was going to be better than my ‘fro?  NOTHING!”  I ushered my hair into a new beginning.  Once again, I was on another natural journey but this time with a little bit more knowledge.  That was Spring 2008 and little did I know it would be less than a year that I would stumble onto the online natural community.  The tips, advice, support and information was so much more than I could ask for.   After that, there was (or should I say is) no stopping my ‘fro.  I LOVE MY HAIR.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 10:33 pm

    I love this story. Just read it and can SO relate.

    • Regina permalink*
      January 10, 2010 10:48 pm

      Thanks, Nickey-Ann. I had to get this up because I knew some ladies out there would be able to relate. I went through the love/hate relationship and now I love my hair. Thanks for reading.

  2. January 11, 2010 9:36 pm

    You (and your ‘fro) are beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    • Regina permalink*
      January 11, 2010 11:21 pm

      Thank you so much! Thanks for reading.

  3. March 6, 2010 4:12 pm

    Great story, and so many of us can relate!

    • Regina permalink*
      March 6, 2010 7:40 pm

      Thank you une autre naturelle!

  4. Mtlveevee permalink
    March 29, 2010 9:09 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story…you are BEAUTIFUL, and your hair is divine (and it looks just like mine!) :)
    What an inspiration….

    • Regina permalink*
      March 29, 2010 9:16 am

      Thanks so much Mtlveevee!

  5. nikkele permalink
    June 9, 2010 9:44 am

    This was great. I can relate to the comments you received from uninformed people down to experimenting with product “no-no’s”! I’ve been natural for two years and the thought of putting chemicals in my head makes me cringe! Keep it up!

  6. Essence permalink
    August 11, 2010 10:25 am

    I ejoyed reading your story. Even though i knew u when u went from perm to natural, I had no idea how u felt. I too felt the same about my hair but am not ready for the change just yet. I will forward this site and info to my friend that has gone natural for the past two years. Thanks for sharing.

    • Regina permalink*
      August 11, 2010 10:34 am

      Thanks for reading Essence. :)

  7. September 3, 2010 9:44 pm

    OMG, I can so relate! The first time I did my BC, the hairdresser suggested I get a texturizer to “soften” my look – I HATED IT! I grew my hair out and quickly cut that stuff out. You’re definitely making great progress. Keep on keepin on!

    • Regina permalink*
      September 4, 2010 10:29 pm

      I will! And thanks.

  8. September 26, 2010 7:31 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your story. Thank you so much for sharing. My daughter has a natural hair style and we get rude comments all the time. We even had a social worker tell us that she’d be checking on us to see if we figured out something to do with her hair! :)

    Thanks again for sharing and for all the info on your website! I appreciate it!

    • Regina permalink*
      September 26, 2010 9:41 pm

      That’s terrible that you get those rude comments. Thanks for reading.

  9. Kim permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:30 am

    What a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I’ve recently (like yesterday) decided to go natural also after 20 years of relaxing my hair. I’m sure I’ll get some unwanted comments since I don’t have what some may call “good hair.” I look at it this way; God saw that it was good enough for him when he gave it to me, so it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. My husband thinks it’s great that I’m finally giving up the chemicals. :-) Thanks again for sharing your story and giving so much helpful information! This will surely make my new journey so much more comfortable for me!

    • Regina permalink*
      November 4, 2010 11:03 am

      Thank you so much. Glad to see another natural. Twenty years of chemicals is a long time. Nice to see that you will be brushing any negative comments off your shoulder. Enjoy your coils!

  10. Sade permalink
    November 14, 2010 11:55 am

    I love this! Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the women who have been natural longer than I! (Only 1 year and a few months fully natural) I’m grateful to hear the stories of the mistakes made, they help me to better figure out what to do! Thanks!

    • Regina permalink*
      November 14, 2010 4:55 pm

      Thank you for reading Sade. Always glad to help! :)

  11. Patience permalink
    November 18, 2010 1:01 am

    Love your story! I am having my BC this weekend. Thin edges, bold spots and all!

    • Regina permalink*
      November 18, 2010 1:34 am

      Thanks Patience. Good luck with your BC and your natural journey. Thanks for reading!

  12. August 13, 2011 12:34 pm

    Regina, you have beautiful story and it shows that having knowledge is power. Thank you for sharing.

    NaturalJael

    • Regina permalink*
      August 14, 2011 8:36 am

      Thanks so much Jael. Yes, knowledge is power!

  13. October 21, 2011 10:39 pm

    Love your story, thanks for sharing! I’m currently in a battle trying to figure out how to style my natural hair and not look like a 3 yr old. This is very encouraging!

    • Regina permalink*
      October 22, 2011 4:47 am

      Thanks for reading!

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