“Ask a black girl about her curly hair and you’ll end up getting a story about her life.” Growing up, my mom did a great job maintaining the length of my hair by braiding it. Cornrows, French braids, one single braid- you name it, I wore them. However, managing THICK bra-strap length, 3c/4a hair was difficult considering the there were not an ample amount of natural hair products and tutorials on the internet like there are now, which made growing up and learning to do my own hair as a young girl almost impossible.
All I wanted was for my hair to be long, manageable, and blow in the wind without having a to spend an excessive amount of time getting my hair pressed with hot combs. My longing for more manageable and straighter hair stemmed from the images I grew up seeing as beautiful. Both my mom and my sister have long hair with looser curl patterns than me, and obviously as a young girl who looks up to her mother and older sister, I thought they were beautiful women and wanted to have hair like them. I also grew up in a predominately white neighborhood and was typically the only black girl in my grade which made my desire to look like everyone else and “fit in” that much more intense.
By the age of nine, I came to the realization that it was about time for me to learn how to do my own hair. I remember going swimming over my friend’s house, which devastatingly messed up the braids my mom had done the day before. I was hanging out with my friend, who was white with pin-straight hair, so I couldn’t necessarily look at my friend nor her mom to “tame the fro” nor did they have the tools I needed do my hair. Like at all. Not even a comb y’all. “Who doesn’t own a comb? No Pink Oil? (Yes, Pink Oil). No bristle brush?? How do these people live?!” I thought to myself. I was out of options. I couldn’t do my hair myself and didn’t know how to even try to make my hair look presentable again leaving me with no choice but to call my mom and tell her to come to my friend’s house just so she could rebraid my hair. That’s love. However, it was also embarrassing. I was a nine-year-old girl who wasn’t knowledgeable or confident enough to do my own hair. This was when I had to take matters into my own hands and ask to get a relaxer.
It may be common sense that getting a relaxer would be damaging to your hair. You would think the fact that it’s a chemical so harsh that it could burn your scalp and completely alter the texture of your hair would make the chemical treatment sound unappealing. However, I wasn’t aware of the side affects that came with relaxers. Both my mom and sister have been “natural” their whole life so I didn’t have anyone to warn me of the potential side affects and the damage that it could do to my hair. All I knew is that my hair was going to be a straighter, more manageable and was gonna look bombtttttt. Also, I would finally be able to do my hair myself. I remember getting my first relaxer and literally dancing in the bathroom of the hair salon because I thought my hair looked so good. I had never seen it so straight and flowy- I was basically the 10-year-old Beyonce. Unfortunately, this long, thick, straight hair was short-lived.
Before I knew it my hair was extremely damaged. My ends were so fried by straightening my relaxed hair daily. I played soccer so I was always sweating out my straight hair and would end up straightening my hair sometimes more than once a day. I would straighten it in the morning before I went to school and then again after soccer practice if I had somewhere to go afterwards. It only took about a year or so after my first relaxer until my ends were so see through and scraggly I had to cut my bra strap length hair to my shoulders.
Growing up always having thick, long hair made this shorter, thinner hair style a major adjustment. People would constantly ask me “so are you going to grow out your hair?” and to me, I was. I wasn’t necessarily cutting my hair to keep it short, my hair just stayed short. I was convinced that maybe this was because “black hair just doesn’t grow.” Little did I know my hair was growing, obviously because I had to get touch-up relaxers for my new GROWTH, but my ends were breaking off at the same rate that my hair was growing, making my hair look like I wasn’t growing it out at all.
I would take a shower and have little broken off pieces of hair all over the bathroom and was convinced that was just how my hair shed. My hair became so brittle and dry I could hold the end of a strand of hair and gently tug it and the end would break off. Obviously my hair was getting thinner and weaker, but in my mind I couldn’t do anything about it. My hair was relaxed so it wasn’t curly… but it wasn’t straight. It was a weird straggly kink that made me feel like I had to straighten it in order for it to look decent. My only other option would be to transition to natural or big chop which wasn’t going to happen. I was in high school at the time and couldn’t risk going through an awkward stage since I cared a little too much about what my peers thought of my looks. So if I couldn’t grow thick long hair myself, I figured I would just buy it.
“Oh my gosh Miriah is that all your hair??” I would get asked. “Yes! Yes it is!” I would reply with a big grin on my face as I walked into my first day of freshman year rocking my brand new clip-ins. It technically was my hair…. I bought it.
Those clip-ins were everything to me though. I finally had long hair again without having to wait for it to grow. I felt like I was winning in the hair department. Clip-ins were less expensive than getting a weave, and I played sports so I could take the clip-ins out at my convenience and wouldn’t have to worry about ruining the hair by getting them dirty or sweaty. Throughout my four years of high school I wore my clip-ins, which quite frankly, destroyed my confidence.
I loved the way I looked with thick, long hair, yet my own hair was so damaged and “short” that I was too insecure to wear my hair without my clip-ins. I would not dare to leave the house without them in. Since I knew I would always have my clip-ins in, I really just started to neglect the health of my real hair in general. My clip-ins covered 75% of my hair, so in my mind there was no point in taking care of my real hair. All the damage I could do to my hair had already been done and I felt hopeless, so I just gave up on it altogether.
However, I knew that I was relying on fake hair to help me feel beautiful, and that wasn’t healthy. My sister had just fully recovered from heat damage and her curls were poppin’ and growing like a weed, so she was constantly encouraging me to go natural too, especially because she knew my hair had potential to be long and thick since it was like that when I was little. After about two years of contemplating the pros and cons of going natural, I finally gained the courage to do it when I went to college. I was going to a new school where people didn’t know me and couldn’t compare the way I currently looked to the way I did in high school. I got last relaxer in November of 2013 and never looked back.