I Am Not My Hair, But It Definitely Is A Part of Me

Wrote this in June, but didn't publish it until today.

In the few days I've been back home, I've already been receiving several mixed reviews about my natural hair. I'm so used to rocking it at school, I forget that people I grew up around haven't been there to witness my growth and transformation, especially the self-love I developed by wearing it naturally. Some love it and some quietly ask when I'm going to "do something to my hair," never mind the work and time it takes to twist and bantu-knot my hair, in order to unravel them each morning with a defined curl. At these, I'm learning to be patient and avoid easy frustration. One would think that the African community, especially women--especially Christians, would have a deeper appreciation for natural kinks and the confidence it takes to rock them, the way God designed them. Surprisingly, most of the ones that have helped rear me don't seem to have this perspective.

I could go on and on about black women and the political discourse that has become our follicles, and in fact I probably will with later posts. However one thing that I must say is that although I am not defined by my choice of hairstyle, the journey I have gone through (and honestly still exploring) to get the confidence to wear my hair naturally has been redefining for me. Realizing I don't need extensions to see myself has been liberating. In fact, I was recently at a beauty supply in my hometown to find a weave that would be "appropriate" for my upcoming corporate internship. I walked into the store with a 'fro  with curls defined by a fresh twist-out that I felt excited to debut. (Note: in my suburb of Atlanta, weaves are ubiquitous and so normally a part of the culture, I feel like a fish out of water.) In the beauty store amidst a sea of synthetic tresses, I felt like a contradiction. At the thought of finding some to attach to my own head, I surprised myself at the level of dissonance I was feeling.

I'd long imagined that I'd still wear weaves, even as a natural-haired woman. I consider it a protective style like the twists and braids I have no problem wearing, so I typically don't think much of it when I tell my friends (a lot of whom are not black or African) that I'll still probably wear a weave as a hairstyle at some point in my future. However, standing in that store, I couldn't fathom being okay wearing hair that didn't in some way remind me of how much God has grown me in inner beauty. Instead, I felt like I would be hiding something in fear of rejection…like I was doubting God's promise to never forsake me. 

At that point, I'd been texting two of my best friends and one encouraged me to simply get twists, which I'd earlier considered. With that--I had peace. I knew that being back home in humid Georgia would leave me too irritable to dealing with my hair everyday like I do at school in Los Angeles, so I had already made the decision to wear my hair in a protective style for the summer to make life easier. However, when face to face with a hair mannequin with Remy tresses in color 1B, I quickly realized that a weave felt like I was trying to be someone else.  Working up the courage to wear my natural hair straightened was a development, then blown-out, and even my current state, forgoing straightening/ stretching my hair after washing it. Each of these took crazy amounts of confidence and divine reassurance that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. And even though the challenge of choosing hairstyles was external, the true battle was and is being fought deep inside me, unmasking the many lies that had been keeping me from experiencing true inner beauty worthy of a Proverbs 31 woman. 

Even now, I'd hate to make a definitive statement that I'm done with weaves forever, because I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I've come too far and still have complexities to work out before I can put one on again. The work that God is doing in me in response to how I thought I had to look in order to be beautiful is crazy and literally life-changing, and I don't want it to stop short. I'm learning how my beauty is first and foremost for an audience of  one: my Savior, and He's the only one I have to please, as well as the only one who can truly comprehend what it means for me to be beautiful; after all, He made me in His image!

Yes, I'm writing this post as a cathartic response to the first-full day I intentionally chose to wear natural hair to formal events in my hometown, amongst the close-knit and opinionated community of Nigerians I grew up with. Still, it's also a reminder for me to remember that I truly am not my hair, so I don't have to try to meet cultural standards by changing my hairstyle  so I feel un-judged in my environment. I have God-given freedom to choose whatever I think is beautiful for me, knowing that my true beauty comes from Him . Right now, it's a halo of kinky curls also known as an afro. In a few days, I'm hoping to try out the Senegalese twist trend that I've been eyeing for quite some time. In a few months, I might even color my hair--or cut it--or both! Embracing this freedom of personal style is just another way of choosing to become the woman I was created to be, regardless of  what whoever  else thinks of it.