Can I be real right now?

meMaintaining my natural hair is more effort than I care for. I’m not saying that I don’t love being natural, because I do. I’m saying, as a low-maintenance, hair-lazy sort of Diva, I am doing the MOST caring for my natural hair. Well, let me back up. It’s really not the maintenance as much as it is the styling of my hair. Let me explain.

When I first began my hair journey, I was fully relaxed. I was relaxed and excited about learning about how to grow long, healthy hair. I was a member of a few hair boards that became invaluable resources. I watched as ladies transformed their hair and sharing the what and why of healthy hair care. I arrived on the scene with shoulder length hair that was freshly layered by my favorite Dominican stylist. My hair looked beautiful but, in order to keep it looking good, I had to entrust that task to my stylist. I am a mom of four girls and had no time for my own hair. My own hair was typically in two french braids, up in a bun or in a ponytail. That was the extent of my styling expertise.

To me, my hair was thick and flat ironing was more of a chore than I could bare — Hence, the stylist. But, there was no time to visit the stylist frequently. I saw her, mainly, when there was a special event or occasion. I had no time for my hair. I was hair-lazy, straight up. Now, don’t get me wrong. There were times that I did flat iron my hair myself, on the fly. But, there was no heat protectant or comb-chasing. Nope. I cranked that heat up as high as it could go and I flat ironed in chunky sections, hitting any puffy areas encountered. I bumped my ends under or flipped them up. That was the extend of my own hair care. But hey, this is only shocking in light of what I know now. This was THE norm for me. And even though I had a bushel of broken pieces of hair around my feet by the end of my grooming session, my hair was styled so, I kept it moving.

After being on the boards for a few months, formulating an all-natural oil mix that grew my hair like weeds, and stretching my relaxers for several months instead of weeks, I was suddenly interested in the health of my hair and decided that it would best for me to go natural. Not only was this a healthy decision for my hair, but I felt there was an overall health benefit to not introducing the chemicals contained in a relaxer treatment into my system. After all, I had lost my sister to cancer and, at that time, my mother was also dealing with cancer. I had a front row seat and was actively involved in their care and support. Avoiding introducing chemicals into my system became a priority one in my overall health. At that time, I was in the midst of the longest stretch between relaxers ever. I was beyond 6 months post and decided that if I could make it to 1 year, it would mark my official decision to transition.

Well, a year came and I was off to the races. By this time, I had lost my mother and was taking care of my ailing and broken-hearted father. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever transitioned with a year’s worth of natural hair but, it wasn’t easy. And to add to that, I had to put my hair on the back burner again, to take care of my father, whose illness eventually culminated in his demise from cancer, as well.

I protective styled, more for my convenience than for my hair’s sake. I just had no time for it. At this time, I was also running my new start up, NJoy Essentials, providing an improved version of my hair growth oil and hair growth advice to anyone needing it. To say that I was overwhelmed is an understatement. But, somehow I managed to go on. I wanted to wait until the end of that year before I big chopped. I would have been 22 months post. But, at 17 months post, I’d decided that enough was enough. There was way too much going on to continue with my transition and, quite frankly, I couldn’t stand how skimpy my ends looked when my hair was wet. So I chopped. And to my surprise, I loved it!

I couldn’t help wearing my curly hair out. It was armpit length, stretched. So with shrinkage, I had a nice little curly fro. But eventually, back up into protective styles it went. And, no, I didn’t use weaves or braids. That would’ve been nice and convenient. I went with Celie braids under beanies and the occasional wig. I was still busy, through my father’s final days and through finalizing his affairs afterwards. I was physically tired and emotionally drained. But I still had the business and all of my wonderful customers and friends who prayed for me and lifted me up. You will all never know how much your kindness and support meant to me.

Well, my hair was still growing and I tried to remain semi-involved in the growth challenges that I had going but, I had spent no time in learning about styling options for my natural hair.

Remember me? I’m hair-lazy with limited styling skills on natural hair.

Oh, I could twist it up. I knew what to do to keep my hair healthy. But, styling? Not so much.

Fast forward to today. Here I sit, under the steamer, preparing to flat iron my hair for Valentine’s Day. This will be the first time I’ve used heat and I’m suddenly aware of my limitations. My lack of experience with good flat ironing technique, my impatience with the process and my reluctance to damage my progress. Suddenly, it has occurred to me that this natural hair game in no…game.

I talked to a hair sister earlier and we lamented over the ease of maintenance of our formerly relaxed hair. We talked about relaxed hair and I commented that my hair grew fine when I was relaxed. And while I’ve never judged anyone or bought into the relaxed vs natural debates, I have to say, I do miss the ease of it all. My natural hair is not without its woes, my ends curling and knotting together with my shed hair, being the greatest of my concerns.

I have learned that, for me, I have to detangle my hair to remove sheds every 2-3 days or else I will experience tangles on my ends. And because I have very little patience with tangles, I usually end up cutting them out. I’ve done four trims over the past few months, trying to even my hair out after cutting out tangles. This is wreaking havoc on my growth progress. So, I MUST stay on top of detangling. Problem is…I’m hair-lazy, remember? Perhaps a weaver or braids might help. Perhaps. But that would only cause me to be even lazier. So, I’m now considering periodically flat ironing my hair to prevent my shed hair from getting entangled on its way out. Not my favorite option but, for one who needs to learn how to style in a way that doesn’t encourage tangles, this is an option. I’ve just ordered curlformers as an additional option. Are there any others that you can think of? Anyone else overcome this sort of frustration? After dealing with cancer ravaging my family, I don’t want to resort back to using chemicals like relaxers. Maybe there’s no connection. But emotionally, I can’t chance it.


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