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Here’s a confession – I’m a lazy natural. To that end, I’m a fan of protective styles I can leave in until they look crazy. Since I gave up the creamy crack, I relish the choice not to spend a lot of money on my hair, and I don’t like having to spend hours doing it each day.

I feel you all judging me already…

This mindset is, essentially, how I began my long and illustrious affair with kanekalon hair. The year was 2013, and I was at the point in my natural hair journey where I’d look in the mirror and sigh. I’d pull at a strand and note with satisfaction that it was beyond my chin only to let go and watch it jump up by my ear.

Blame society, blame humidity or blame chronically low self-esteem, but I didn’t feel sexy or glamourous with my perpetual afro puff.  As a result, I did what most naturals do when they need inspiration: I logged onto YouTube to see that everyone was obsessed with Marley twists.  For those who don’t know, Marley braid hair is a type of synthetic (kanekalon/toyokalon) hair that mimics coarser hair textures. Women in the hair videos were giving me natural hair glam by flipping their twists over their shoulder, and turning in slow motion, so the hair fanned out (with R&B instrumentals in the background).

I spent the next two years in and out of Marley twists, beating my face, painting my lips blood red, and wearing my twists in a severe bun atop my head.  My friends told me I looked regal. A homeless woman called me out in the subway for wearing “two dollar pack hair.”

There were mixed messages, but I didn’t care.  I was happy until I was bored.

When I went back to YouTube, I discovered that the Internet was over twists, and had moved into crocheting Marley hair. Though I loved the way it looked on other women, I yearned for something that looked a little bit more like my 4c texture hair. Marley hair, though coarse, sometimes has a sheen that looks unnatural. When I came across Cuban Twist Hair, I was stuck. It looked like my hair on a humid day. I looked at a few more tutorials, studying the technique and listening for reviews on the hair:

“The hair is soft.”

“The hair looks and feels like 4c hair.”

“This hair is everything.”

Ultimately the hair is $6 a pack, so I didn’t really have to agonize over it much. I purchased four packs and went to work. It was amazing – the hair looked like it was growing out of my head.  Even the expensive clip-ins I’d splurged on didn’t blend this well.

The thing is, though, Cuban Twist Braid hair feels like sh*t.

To be fair, it doesn’t literally feel like human/animal excrement. It feels like steel wool you’d use to plug holes near pipes to keep out mice.

“Your hair looks amazing,” my best friend gushed as she went to touch the Cuban Twist Hair that was crocheted into my head.

“Thaaaanks,” I said as I resisted the urge to dodge her hands. “But it’s not for touching. I actually wouldn’t wear this hair if I had a boyfriend.”

We laughed, but I couldn’t help but wish someone on YouTube had told me what I’d just shared with her. You know, it’s nice, but not THAT nice. I also didn’t expect to meet someone shortly after.

I’m not anti-kanekalon.  A person can’t, in good conscience, spend $6 on hair and expect a miracle. My issue is with some of the ‘faculty’ at my beloved YouTube University. Hair manufacturers send YouTube reviewers sh–ty hair and these reviewers are so happy to get free hair that they often feel compelled to soften the truth (I can’t blame them).  To avoid making the mistakes that I did, consider reading the cesspool that is the YouTube comments section. Often, people who have had different experiences with products will share their stories and provide an alternative view. Also, be wary of anyone who received the hair in exchange for a review. Women who paid the $6 are obviously less encumbered.

While a better woman might have taken the hair out after realizing how truly bad the quality, I rocked with it. I loved how natural it looked, but I was constantly nervous about how other people were experiencing my hair. One night, as I laid my head on my brand new boo’s chest, I was paranoid with whether or not the tendrils were scratching him.  I didn’t ask. I’ve learned not to ask questions I don’t want an answer to, but when I mentioned, a few weeks later, that I was about to take my hair out, he was way too excited about it.

I put it back in to spite him (I’m a jerk).

And I guess that’s my point: It’s one thing for me to feel a bit insecure about the texture of my cheap hair, but the choice is 100 percent mine to make.

I love so many things about Black women, but my favorite thing is that we boldly own what other women tend to hide: that there are so many different ways to be beautiful.  There is the beautiful that comes from being carefully coiffed, anointed in expensive potions and dripping with gold.  There is controversial beauty that comes from waist trainers and butt injections. But there is an equally fierce version of beauty that emerges from the stretchmarks around our arms. There’s the beauty that shines when we wake up. There is the beauty that comes from natural hair hit by humidity, and that beauty is feral. It cannot be contained. What we know, is that all versions are valid, and if we let it, even kanekalon becomes a crown.

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