I have an announcement to make: I’m growing out my relaxer!
If you are underwhelmed by this declaration, then join the club. I am too. I had no intention on writing about the transition, but a good friend made me change my mind. (Thanks J!)
I grew up in a family that wore a range of hairstyles from afros, dreadlocks, and braids, to Jherri curls (um, yeah) and relaxers. Hair lengths ranged from finger-snap short to waist-skimming long. I don’t really remember anyone making judgements on one style versus the other. I take the back. My mom hated Jherri curls.
Momma, who spent a good deal of her college years trying to force her fine, silky locks into an afro, had come to a conclusion by the time I came along. Hair care was best left to the professionals.
So as soon as I was old enough to sit still, my mom took me to a stylist twice a month for a shampoo, blow dry, and ponytails. If a special occasion, like school picture day, came up in between rotations, she made an emergency appointment. The only hair care items we had at home were combs, sponge rollers, headscarves, and a can of oil sheen.
High-school swim class dictated my introduction to relaxers. Neither my mother nor I could imagine shampooing, blow drying, and curling my shoulder-length mane twice a week. My hair stylist explained that a relaxer was a lifetime commitment I had to renew every six to eight weeks.
For 23 years, I followed the advice of both my stylist and my mother. I’ve had my hair relaxed every two months by the hands of a licensed beautician. During that time, I gave myself only one relaxer. It was done under the watchful eye of my college roommate because I couldn’t get home to have it done.
Going to college two hours from home forced me to get more involved with my hair. I made it home every couple of months, so I needed to get acquainted with shampoo and conditioner. I learned how to do roller sets because I was afraid of burning my hair with a curling iron. I figured that was a piece of professional equipment I had no business using.
As soon as I was gainfully employed, I went back to a stylist full time. Having children, however, changed my hands-off-the-hair approach. Neither my time nor my money were as free as they once were, so I took to doing my hair more often. And after I had Lil Ma, I noticed a difference in my locks. They’re a little thinner, and the texture is different. It’s not bad, but it’s not the same. So, after a consultation with my stylist, I decided to grow out my relaxer.
Since I made the decision, I’ve paid closer attention to how polarized women can be when it comes to hair. Upbringing and external influences have our opinions all over the map. Some think we should free ourselves from the “creamy crack” while others think a girl needs a relaxer by the time she’s six.
I’m thankful to be a haircare moderate. It’s your head. Do what makes you happy. Don’t let anyone else decide what’s right or what’s beautiful for you. I’m on a relaxer-free journey today, but who knows where I’ll be a year from now? For me, it’s an exploration of options.