Back in December I decided to cut my hair a tad and I also cut a shorter bang area in the front. I loved the result for the ease of styling it gave me. However, things continued to change quite a bit over the months that followed, as my house hunt came to a pinnacle. I didn't do much new with my hair, wasn't very kind to it, and in packing to move I discovered hard proof that I'm a product junkie to the 5th degree.
In the back of my mind I knew something had to give, and now that I have a bit of breathing room I can reflect. It seems that after all this time being natural, I still have a persevering unhealthy attitude about my hair. It's not based in the texture or my acceptance of what God blessed me with however.
Going natural is perceived by many as an act of rebellion. It's thought of as a decision to ignore that which is considered culturally normal and acceptable (and even pretty) and become a potentially different type of woman. For many of us it's not like that at all, and for many of us it means so much more. Add into the equation the BC that many of us decide to employ to transition and you have us ladies also shirking the long-hair-on-women ideal. It's liberating to be free of so much general societal pressure, but then we enter a new world. A world filled with acronyms, protective styling, twist-outs, hunting for appropriate products and lots of proving people wrong. Most of the time that person is our own selves.
"I don't need a perm to have long hair"
"I'm beautiful as the creator made me"
"I too have good hair"
We prove to ourselves that our hair is healthier and can grow longer than ever before. But now the length is mostly hidden in the coils. 75% to 90% shrinkage is common and hides most of any length gained. It's only when we press or stretch it significantly that the TRUE length is exposed. I realized some time ago that my natural hair texture makes my hair look the same now as it did almost 2 yrs ago. It's a bit denser now because of all the compressed curls, but really-it looks the same. When I first decided to cut it significantly in December, I was having a "why bother" type of reflection. But I still hung on to most of my length. I talked about my length with my girls. Took pictures, did length checks, continued to imagine having super long hair.
What I realize now, when I have truly more important things going on, is that my long hair is invisible, needs more regular trimming, and does not suit my lifestyle. I don't twist it or braid it any more because it takes so long. I don't like using as much product as I now do, particularly the expensive products that tend to work better. I end up on a perpetual hunt for inexpensive replacements for them, which don't seem to exist yet. I don't have time to make my own.
I hope to have more free time again in the future, when maybe it will be a better time to have long, very curly hair. But I never intended for my hair to have more of a claim on my free time than it did when I wore it straight all the time. I keep asking myself "why is the length so important?" why do I fancy having hair down my back?
It's the prove everyone wrong factor. It's the shock reaction I'm addicted to when people find out how long my hair really is. It's imagining how long it will be the next time I straighten it. But this is all indeed another social pressure that has nothing to do with who I am. Long hair is another one of those social constructs assigned to women, and typically reserved for straight hair. I think this is one of the myths we just love to rebuff. But I already know the truth, I see the truth on other women and in my own 6'/year new growth. The act of proving is not for my own benefit. Retaining the length is more like a challenge, fueled by hair boards/blogs riddled with length goals and bsl, apl, mbl accomplishments. I feel validated, and honored even, when I flaunt my length to high praise. It's addictive, but it's also challenging to a point of obsession when the outcome does not fit the best ordering of my priorities.
I think I had a healthier view of my hair and what it meant to my identity when I did my first big chop almost 10 years ago. I had no expectations of length or texture and instead just wanted hair that I could take care of myself. I wanted to care for my own hair, inexpensively, and with full acceptance of it.
Now I have the luxury of thinking about the shape of my face and head, and I have knowledge of my texture to guide me. I cut my hair very short again in 2006, and I surprisingly did not mourn the length much then. I'd lost my texture due to pressing damage, and found regaining my kinky texture to be far more important than having long hair. I did spend a lot of time thinking about that lost length last year though, (when I caught back up to that old length) wondering how long my hair would have been. I think those thoughts contributed to this unspoken defiance I'm getting over now. I wanted to get all that lost length back to show it to some one, some day. All the while juggling my time and money to maintain it "invisibly" on a regular basis.
Alas hand in hair syndrome, fairy knots, splits, and neglect are now the true result of this mis-match of my mind and my life.
I know his was a long post but I hope it's helpful to some of my fellow naturals chasing down BSL markers on their backs!
I plan to cut 2-3 inches or more off this Thursday at Fiddleheads in DC. I can't wait! I want to just start hacking at it myself now that I made peace with letting some of it go.
Here are some departing picts of my length checks etc at various times over the past few years.