My hair. Where do I even begin? Well, before I do, I’d just like to say that my new journalism professor inspired me to write this post. Her name is Lori Tharps, and on the 1st day of school as she gave her intro to the class, she spoke of the books she has written, and of course me being a research junkie, I wanted to find out more info about them. She’s the author of 3 books total, two of which I can’t wait to read, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, and Kinky Gazpacho:Life, Love and Spain. As I did a little research, I began to think about my own hair and how it got to be the crown of glory that I now adore. When I think back as far as I can and remember, I probably started paying attention to my hair at around age five. As I think about it, I can vividly remember sitting on the couch with my aunt as she combed through my multi-textured afro in an attempt to make a style using “ballies” and barrettes as her little helpers. I hated getting my hair done and would avoid it at all costs. It was never a quick process as my aunt often promised it would be, and even afterward the tightness of the hair accessories gave me a headache so bad that I ended up taking them out not even a day later.
After the never ending repetition of that and the whining and complaints that tagged along, “it” happened. I was then 6 and preparing to be the flower girl in my neighbors’ wedding, and as I got glammed up for the special occasion I payed my first visit to the hairdresser. In her opinion, I must have “needed” a relaxer because without permission from any of my caregivers, she sure gave me one and it started a decade+ long battle between me, my hair, my self-image, and society’s say so all mixed together. I remember the day I got my 1st relaxer, I remember feeling like I was so much more beautiful because now my hair was straight, silky, and pretty. But why did I feel this way? What messages had I been fed from society and subconciously that I wasn’t even aware of? I kept looking in the mirror, and touching it, and with the compliments I was getting that were then foreign to me, it only fueled the fire. I fell victim to the “creamy crack” as many people refer to it, and soon began to think that I couldn’t live without it. You know that feeling you get when you buy a new pair of shoes? That’s the feeling I got when I got a touch up relaxer and it wasn’t until later that I dug deep enough to figure out why that was so.
All throughout elementary, middle, and most of high school my need for relaxed hair only grew, but thankfully my hair didn’t suffer too much….at first. My hair has always maintained a nice length, but when I came of age to start taking care of it myself and transitioned out of the “little girl” hairstyles, everything went left. Yes, way left. I had breakage beyond belief, hair that was good for nothing, and a self-esteem that was quickly plummeting. I no longer felt that “I’m beautiful” rush that was induced by the relaxer’s “shining armor”; it actually made me feel depressed and even in those moments, I thought the cure was to go get another touch up to “fix it”. It wasn’t until I was in my sophomore year of high school that I had class with a young lady who had the most beautiful, healthy hair I had ever seen and that’s when I knew something had to change. I would catch myself just staring at her, and one day I just plainly asked, “What do you do to your hair? It’s beautiful!” The first thing she said is, “Well, I don’t get relaxers and I just make sure to deep condition.” That’s all I needed to hear, and I haven’t had a relaxer since that day in 2006. To make the transition, I turned into a weave wearing queen because I figured that was the easiest way to let my hair get a break, and it worked. By the time I was heading to college two years later, my relaxer was almost fully grown out and I was on my way to happy, healthy hair! The natural hair boom wasn’t quite as bustling in 2008 as it is now, so I honestly felt like I was alone. All of my friends were still in their old hair ways, which made it that much more difficult because they just didn’t understand. Initially, when I referred to my “natural hair”, I just meant that I didn’t get relaxers but I was still weary of wearing it in its REAL natural state, nix pressing.
It took me an additional 2 years before I came out full coily-curly coif of an afro comfortable, and I haven’t turned back since. Of course I press it from time to time, but the majority of the time I’m rocking it just as God made it. I discovered a new found freedom in wearing my hair as it was in its raw state, I felt empowered. No, I’m not just saying it because it sounds good, but it’s true. When my hair is BIG and I have my red lipstick in tow(Yes, I’m addicted to red), I feel the uttermost confidence and nothing can bring it down! It’s just…freedom. I am happy that I was able to find liberation in accepting something that was always a part of me, but hidden behind hash chemicals that only stripped away at the true beauty. Hair is very important to women and holds more sentimental value than one would even imagine. No, women don’t just cut their hair off after a breakup “just because”. Hair is the first thing a person pays attention to when they see you, and it has a silent dialogue with the onlooker before you even say a word. If I told you I wasn’t my hair, I’d be partially lying because I’d say it has a fair share of stock in who I am, BUT as this is true, I see it as a compliment to the rest of the bits and pieces. I love that it’s just another attribute that adds to the uniqueness of Sharontina Brightman. I have fun with my hair, and that’s where my happiness, self- confidence, and appreciation for my naturally beautiful mane have chosen to meet.
I mean, I love India Arie’s I Am Not My Hair, but…wait, yes I am…
Here’s some of my fav natural hair moments…everyday I never know what to expect, my hair has a mind of its own…
Are you going through a hair transition? What has been the most difficult part? Do you think relaxers are perfectly fine?(I don’t hate them, it just takes proper care when using them)…I’d love to hear your feedback!