Hi, my name is Lola and I used to be a processed chick.
I’ve spent almost two months as a ‘natural’ woman now. My mini fro with its super-spring capabilities has wooed me like I never thought it would. I spent a couple of weeks waiting for my moment of regret, my pangs of longing for silky smooth, flickable hair….but it has never come and I’m starting to think it never will!
They say natural hair, or specifically the mini-to-large afro is in vogue at the moment, and I would have to agree. Since I’ve cut my hair I’ve seen many other women with short natural hair (and some others with short jheri curls but I won’t go there!). Not only do I feel much better with myself and the way I look, but I actually like my own hair! Its a lot thicker than I thought it was (15 years of back to back relaxer will do that to you), its a hell of a lot curlier than I thought it was (as opposed to picky) and its really not very difficult to maintain!
The most interesting reaction I’ve had though is to suddenly be seen as a ‘natural girl’. This to me is the strangest thing; I still wear the same clothes and make-up in the same way but I’m now being referred to with phrases like ‘Nubian’ and ‘Afro-centric’. Its fascinating because I feel I’ve always been a natural girl, I’ve always been ‘Afro-centric’ and even a good old ‘bush girl’ as my brother fondly refers to me. So I guess its only with my seemingly drastic hair change that other people assume that in me; albeit without knowing my background or outlook in life. It may just be that I’ve moved into another stereotype bracket.
And this stereotype bracket is not necessarily any better; myself and other fellow natural women have to accept that we are no longer attractive to certain men, men who want these ‘processed chicks’ as someone put it to me. They want long and/or silky haired-women and at times join in with the ‘your hair looks picky’ brigade. I will even go out on a limb as to say this is the same kind of guy who always goes for the light-skinned/ mixed race girl (which means I’ve always been out of it!). But essentially, by being bracketed as natural, we are seen as more work. We may be trying to make a statement. We are perceived as more pious and more difficult than the processed girl who is more willing to conform. Most crucially, we are seen as having regressed as opposed to progressed.
I additionally have to deal with the Nigerian attitude that doesn’t believe a woman cuts her hair unless she’s still school age or its got processing damage! My sweet Uncle Leke bluntly stated “Why do you do this to yourself?”, or Aunty Funmi with “Ey-ya, did it break off? don’t worry it will grow again.” To them going natural is not a hairstyle, its a temporary state in between relaxers, extensions or some ill-conceived weave. I will re-iterate; ill-conceived weave!!
My non-black friends have had some interesting reactions as well. “Can you comb it?”, “How do you wash it”, “Can I touch it?”, or even more surprisingly, they can’t tell the difference! Imagine that in this day and age, there are English people who think that black hair is just like theirs and naturally straight?! I can’t blame them, I’ve happily answered all questions because we black women have some part to play in why they don’t know what our hair really looks like.
I do feel that I would not have been able to go natural if I had not somehow managed to develop the tough skin to go with it. I will admit to having had some stereotypical impressions of girls with natural hair myself, in the past. I will admit to sometimes looking at other girls and admiring their natural hair but feeling like it wouldn’t suit me, or I would look funny because of my forehead! I will even admit to not wanting to do anything that would make me unattractive to men. Things I know black people will think and believe when they see me.
But I’ve come a long way. I have discovered that you can never look horrible when exhibiting yourself and your features in their natural state. My hair does look better natural because its doing its own thing and making itself my crowning glory. I have discovered what it is to have more time to myself in the mornings, I no longer have hair washing evenings (no this wasn’t an excuse, it took 2 hours to wash and style my hair) and I’m saving £100 a month!!! That’s £1200 a year; I know my hairdresser misses me!
As for the rest of the stuff about being more afro-centric because I’m suddenly wearing the afro part, well I’m Naij through and through. I didn’t just start wearing traditional clothes because its cool, it’s always been a part of my wardrobe and always will be. I’m not just suddenly into black history and empowerement, I am black history, I am empowerment. Myself and the many amazing black women I know already embody so many positives about ourselves and our capabilities and I’m personally going to keep encouraging them to take the step towards embracing their hair in its natural state. No excuse of picky, or style limitation will do.
Its time to leave the processed chick where she belongs…in the late 90s! I’ll be running AA style counselling sessions for processed chicks on demand..;-)