Relaxed to Natural: The Journey So Far

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I’m on my way into the seventh month of my hair transition, and so far, it hasn’t been that bad. If someone had told me a year ago that I’d grow out my relaxer, I would have laughed and plastered my car with “creamy crack ain’t wack” bumper stickers.

I’ve tried to approach this journey with an open mind, but there are a few things I wish I had known when I started.

It’s NOT cheaper. At least not yet. A friend gave an enthusiastic endorsement for natural hair, saying it would be budget-friendly.

“You won’t have to pay for relaxers, so you’ll save money.”

There are two things she didn’t count on. One, my stylist charges more for natural hair. Two, my unrelaxed roots don’t take well to temporary color treatments, so I had to upgrade. Add in the cash I’ve spent to build a moderate stash of at-home haircare products, and money is flying out of my wallet like it has wings.

Two textures means two solutions. My first attempt at a twist-out resulted in thick waves at the scalp with stringy ends because I over applied styling product. My relaxed locks couldn’t absorb it all. Now that my hair is a mix of textures, it takes multiple products or techniques to get a consistent look.

There’s no such thing as too much conditioner. Or, if there is, I haven’t reached the limit yet. My natural hair needs every bit of my heavy-handed application.

There is a such thing as too many YouTube videos. There are thousands of product reviews and demonstrations online. Some contain valuable information while others don’t. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Whatever my friend(s) did, it probably won’t work for me. Hair texture, personal preferences, and individual efforts factor into the final style. If something doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. There are plenty of options.

What doesn’t work now may work later. As my natural-to-relaxed ratio increases, I’ll revisit some things that didn’t work so well the first go round.

The pic above isn’t my fav, but it shows one of my more successful efforts at a flat twist-out. I’ll keep you posted as the journey continues.

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Relaxed to Natural

 

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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.

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The Mommy Uniform

The transformation takes place for some of us before we are even aware of it. During the first months of parenting, we are covered in spit up, milk, and baby poo. We fall into a world that revolves around our infants, and when we emerge ready to reconnect with the rest of society, it’s too late. We’ve given up our good clothes for a mommy uniform.

With Mini Me, I wore jogging pants and family reunion T-shirts. It was warmer when I had Lil Ma, so I wore shorts instead. A closet full of more flattering gear collected dust.

I know. We need to get back down to our fighting weight for some of those clothes to fit. We aren’t going anywhere but to the grocery store, so who cares? The baby spits up on everything, so why does it matter?

It matters because you matter.

Being a mom is work. Hard work. You get overwhelmed in a flash. You can feel as if you are slipping away. And before you know it, you’re at the bottom of your own priority list, if you’re even on the list at all. You may not be able to do everything you did before having kids, but maintaining your personal style is one way you can put yourself first.

Don’t get me wrong. My wardrobe has undergone some changes since I became a mom. I iron a lot less. Machine washable fabrics are my friends. But there’s plenty I can wear that doesn’t involve my family’s name and an outline of the United States. Right now, I’m into mid- and maxi-length sundresses. Super easy and super cute. Below is a pic of one of my favorite combos — a chevron maxi with denim jacket.

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What’s your go-to fashion staple?

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Me Time

I’d been looking forward to last weekend for a while. The kids were going to my mother-in-law’s, and Hubs was on the road. I had visions of the time being totally awesome. I made a list of things to do. Laundry, as usual, was the first item of business. Then grocery shopping. Oh, and a trip to the cleaners.

My mom called and said she needed a ride somewhere Saturday. I added it to the growing task sheet.

After I dropped the kids off Friday, I looked over the list. Everything on it, from cleaning my purse to buying baby shower game prizes, sounded lame. The complete opposite of awesome. I wadded up the sheet and dropped it in my purse.

When I got home, I made a bowl of buttery popcorn, opened a bottle of Tempranillo, and picked up a magazine. After watching a movie that wasn’t animated or featuring puppets, I took a hot shower and went to bed.

Saturday, I stayed in bed playing on Twitter and clearing my DVR until 10. After a short yoga practice, I revisited my list. I took care of laundry and the shower games while watching the Food Channel. (My version of responsible multitasking)

I made no calls and responded to no work emails for two days. A few times, I forgot the kids weren’t home, and I went to check on them because the house was so quiet.

I’ll admit, it was hard to sit still at first, but it was well worth the effort. The weekend was a great reminder that I need to take care of myself so that I can be the best for my family.

My Fashion Fear: Patterned Pants

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I’ve spent a good amount of time living in fear of colored and patterned pants. My phobia stems from the 90s, a time when bright baggy pants ruled the day. Sure, we thought we were fly back then, but the 20/20 vision of hindsight tells another story. I for one, looked like a clown.

I decided to give colored pants another try at the worst possible moment: when I was five months pregnant. Desperate to find a comfortable pair of pants while on a week-long business trip, I wandered into a J.Crew and met the Minnie. If you haven’t been introduced, you should make their acquaintance. The 21st-century version of colored pants focus on a slimming fit, which cuts the clown factor to nil.

I picked up a two pairs of Minnies, one in black, and the other in flame, a red-orange color that bordered on day glow. I took them back a week later. I wasn’t ready.

After Lil Ma was born, I found these lovely tone-on-tone florals at Target. The fit is great, and I can pair them with a jacket and tee to make them work appropriate.

Fear conquered. I now LOVE colored and patterned pants. They add a fun layer to my wardrobe. I even went back to J. Crew for the flame pants. You can see how that turned out here.

What is your fashion fear?

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