Posted by Lil
I was reading some BGLH articles (one of my favourite natural hair websites) and according to Domineque Michelle, "culture - not texture - is the reason many struggle to grow natural hair." I agree to an extent, but I also think that what we expect to gain from natural hair vs the reality has a lot to do with why many of us fail to retain length after we Big Chop.
Domineque goes onto explain that whilst she was raised with her mum lovingly washing, greasing and braiding her tresses, her sister grew up in a place where if you didnt chemically straighten your hair you were perceived as unkempt. Whilst the thickness and health of her hair was being maintained, her sister's hair was thin, breaking and "caked with grease."
I'm not the only one who grew up within a similar environment to Domineque's sister. My hair was relaxed when I was about 9. I was so excited that in the history of 'child me's' memorable events- It is way up there with my first period. "Good hair" was relaxed hair - it was the norm in my culture and I finally got to be normal.
At 11 I'd convince myself almost daily that my hair looked just like the girl's on the Dark n' Lovely relaxer kit....until I caught a glimpse of my reflection and reluctantly faced the reality of my disobedient hair.
At 14 "wearing my hair down" meant I'd have to look at people I was talking to with my head tilted at an angle so that my hair didn't look as skinny as it really was (like a sheet of paper).
At 15 I stayed well away from School corridor wall displays as I didn't want to be the girl who leaned back and left a grease stain on a fellow pupil's art work.
At 16 I was wearing extentions on a regular basis and during transition periods I would plait my natural hair into what I thought was a pretty impressive style, only for people to say "when are you doing your hair again?"
I remember being 17 and riding the bus and noticing that not one black person had natural hair; nothing but a sea of weaves, wigs and extentions. At the time I'd just taken extentions out and was letting my scalp 'rest' before I bothered it again. I think that was when my 'pro natural hair' seed was planted, I made a subconcious decision to learn to love my natural hair in it's natural state.
ALAS, the 'love' part came with time, and trial and error, natural hair wasn't what I expected it to be AT ALL.
Hair in its "natural state" is obviously something I didn't mind when I was 8. However, at 18 when I did the Big Chop I did not understand why combing my hair was so painful, and why so much of it ended up on my floor. Why did it look like one dry brown shrunken mass as opposed to hundreds of black tight shiny curls? Why didn't I feel attractive anymore?
The expectations versus the reality of natural hair is the reason I think many struggle to grow healthy natural hair. Some people's expectations are just not thought through and can sometimes be as much as a phase as opposed to a lifestyle choice. Furthermore, when we don't get what we expected, we lose our focus and want to turn back time.
Expectation - Pride in loving who you are
Reality - Shock at getting to know and trying to love who you really are and the unwelcome desire to un-chop your big chop
Expectation - Save money
Reality - You become a product junkie in a quest to excecute the perfect twist out/wash and go with curl definition
Expectation - You'll find yourself a handsome natural husband to go with your handsome natural hair and take #selfies together like the cute Kooples.com couple
Reality - I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but at least 3 of the five natural hair bloggers/vloggers I follow are married to/with white men, based on that small experience and narrow frame of reference I have concluded that white men are attracted to natural hair more than black men are...
Expectation - You won't have to do anything to your hair, just let it grow out naturally and it will navigate it's own way into becoming Esperanza Spalding's hair twin
Reality - NO. If you don't handle your natual hair with the upmost patience and care, comb it only when its moist and stretch the ends to avoid single strand knots you will not experience length retention for a very very very long time.
I could keep going, but i'd rather hear your expectations and realities - please comment below..
Admittedly, there is no one answer as to why some of us struggle more when it comes to growing natural hair, the trick is not to assume it will be easy. Products are only part of it, the rest is diet, exercise and lifestyle. Do your research and have patience. The chances are your hair is growing just fine, but you must first get to know your hair in order to love your hair and remember to look after the ends of your hair in order to retain that length!