My older sister first decided to go natural back in 2004. She was the first person I had seen go from Dark & Lovely boxes to trying to grease and pick out a fro on a daily basis. The naturals in the community I lived in were very few and far between, and they all were natural because they had never put a perm in their heads. But for every other Black girl and woman I knew, it was shiny, short bobs with just the right amount of bump at the ends.
But my sister Veronica, who was finishing up college at the time, was the first person I knew to wake up one day, go to the shop, and have her relaxer cut out of her hair.
I didn’t get it.
It turned out to be confusing for other people too. There was a lack of understanding and appreciation for her hair choice at that time, and my sister would later remark that a lot of assumptions were made about her being a pro-Black or militant (read angry) Black woman. Her hair was also used as a diss by men she rejected, who would make remarks after the fact about her “nappy a– hair.”
Yeah, it wasn’t an easy transition at all.
But my sister stayed with it. She genuinely felt like her hair was healthier than ever before. And more than anything, she liked it. Therefore, she didn’t care who was for her style or against it. She learned what products worked on it, and she stayed positive about it all. Her choice to go natural would eventually inspire a few of her friends to go natural, as well as me and my other sister, who have since ditched relaxers for curls and locs years later. Veronica, like a few women you probably know, helped to promote positively the natural hair movement that has since expanded and exploded.
Nowadays, things should be much easier for everyone.
If you go natural, you’re usually not the only woman in a room or train car who is. There are all kinds of products out now that cater to natural hair, with beauty brands seeing the demand. There are YouTube channels and sites that consistently offer product reviews and tips on how to try new things with your hair. Nowadays, you don’t have to go it alone.
But with every movement, some find a way to try and create division. Some people decide that we need to dictate the rules of what it truly means to be natural. Of what it means about your self-esteem if you’re still one of the few women getting consistent relaxers. Some complain about the lack of representation of different hair types on TV and in ads. And simple systems meant to help you find the right products for your hair type become something like teams, where some say the struggle of 3B hair is nowhere near as real as that of a woman with 4C hair.
And that’s where the meme you see above comes in.
A co-worker shared it with me, and as you can see, it says that in order for someone to really be a part of the natural hair movement, they can’t support one type of hair (the looser curls) while leaving another type (the tighter curls) out to dry.
As I looked at the commentary over the image, I did see a myriad of responses. But I will say that most reactions were speaking on how women with kinkier hair textures often feel like they’re ridiculed over their hair. How those who know their texture is more on the 4c side won’t commit to going natural because they don’t want to deal with the comments or the maintenance.
“…the point of this pic is saying don’t support natural hair movement only for the more looser curls or waves patterns and not show love for the women like myself who have more coarse textures wanting to where [sic] our hair natural as well,” one woman said.
And while I thought about the reality that you don’t see as many women whose hair looks like the woman on the right on TV, and we are often told that our hair looks “unkempt” by some, I couldn’t drink the Kool-Aid this meme was serving.
I don’t see anything wrong with reminding people that there’s beauty in all hair textures, but I’m not a fan of trying to define who really is and really isn’t a part of the natural hair movement. I’m not here for the rules. I’m not here for people arguing over who is and who isn’t receiving enough adulation.
I’m also not here for people who expect everyone to love their hair for them.
Too many of us decide to go natural, and we have this warped idea that once the relaxer is all gone, our hair will immediately look like Tracee Ellis Ross’s.
Lies! Lies from the pit of hell I say!
And when our hair doesn’t look like what we imagined, we do what we can to try and change it. We follow YouTubers whose hair texture looks nothing like our own. We cover up our own hair with nonstop wigs and extensions (but still tell other women with natural hair, “Cause you know I’m natural too…”). We try to force wash-n-gos when Lord knows our hair will just coil up and refuse to bend to the will of our combs afterward.
When these things we deem as disappointments happen, then we feel like our hair textures and types are not appreciated or cute, then we pit one texture against another, and memes like this are created.
But you have to learn to love your own hair. Isn’t that the point of all this?
It’s not meant to do what anyone else’s does and what you deem a disappointment is truly a lesson in what does and doesn’t work for your locks. If you’re natural because you truly want to learn about and embrace the hair God gave you (or in my case, you want to see what it can do without being altered by a relaxer), then we have to stop focusing on everyone else’s head and do what we can for our own. Style your hair in forms that actually work for your texture. Do your research. Try your products. Learn your hair and appreciate the ups and downs of it. From the way it looks after a good twist-out to the way it shines in the sun. To the drama it gives you when you don’t cover it up before a nap to the shrinkage you deal with on a humid day.
I could be wrong, but I thought going natural was about embracing your strands instead of worrying about what others tell you is good and bad hair. I didn’t think it was supposed to be a club where only certain types get access, or you have to prefer every kind of head of hair to truly be #TeamNatural. It’s all becoming a little too serious.
It’s all a process, and in many cases, it can be a long process to fully embrace your strands. But when you are confident in your hair, you don’t need to seek outside validation or compliments or self-esteem boosts from third parties. It may be nice to hear, but it shouldn’t make or break your decision to grow with your hair. Because you didn’t big chop or trim off that last bit of relaxer for the world or to fit into some kind of club in the first place.
Or did you?