I was 16 years old; I started getting relaxers when I was 10, but I always loved big, curly hair. As you know, relaxers really didn't allow for this. I had gotten my hair relaxed the week prior, and I went into my mom's room and just said it, "I think I want to go natural." My mom wasn't amused at such an suggestion. "What are you going to do with it? You can't even take care of your hair now. It will look too messy. No!" I didn't push the issue further.
I finally big chopped a few weeks before my 21st birthday. The day prior, I had gotten back from visiting my dad is DC, and I spent most of the week just googling natural hair care. I thought it was easy, and said "Screw it, I'm just going to cut it all off." I didn't cut it all off though. I gave myself a neck length hair cut. This was radical. My hair was a little longer than shoulder length, which, unfortunately, was considered long by many of my black peers. We were convinced that we couldn't grow long hair. So a little longer than shoulder length was miraculous.
Anywho, a week went by. I enjoyed the cut, but I really wanted to go natural. So finally, I took the scissors, and I cut all of my hair off. The date was July 15, 2009. I was finally liberated...and holy shxt I just cut my hair off! I hated that first year natural, and that's just honesty. But even though I had some criticism, my friends and family were a decent support system, I was in a good place, and I was caring for my own hair. So I stuck with it, and 7 years later, here I am.
I write this because I wonder what would've happened if I big chopped when I was 16. There weren't nearly as many resources on natural hair at the time. My mother was in full control of my hair and hair care, and she was very much unfamiliar with natural hair. And I went to a mostly white, suburban school where I was viciously bullied...and going natural would've made it ten times worse. On top of all of this, I suffered from depression. I can't imagine what going natural at 16 would've done to my mental stability. And to think it would've been positive is unrealistic, at the least, and just plain stupid, at the worst.
Going natural is a very personal decision. For some, it's very easy. They don't even give it a second thought. But for others, it's deeply emotional. It can even be traumatic. I'm a huge advocate of natural hair, but I also know that there is a right and wrong time to go natural. We can't just throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. Sometimes it is better to wait. Go natural when it's right for you. It may be today, or it may be a year from now. It's ok either way.
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