Ten years ago yesterday I stood in my bathroom and looked at my relaxed shoulder length ends for the last time. I could not even begin to understand the journey that would lay ahead of me but I know that if I was going to be completely natural that I would have to jump in head first.
Actually, my journey began in nine months prior because I grew tired of relaxing my hair. Back then we were not inundated with the positive images that we have now for natural hair. There weren't many good examples that I could readily find the represented what I was looking for. I had two coworkers who had gorgeous locs and I was enamored. My brother in law even had locs and they were nice. I was good at maintaining my hair from a child but sadly there was not much information on DIY grooming for my natural hair.
Many people around me were relaxed or getting blow outs on "heat trained" natural hair, think silk press, and it is always hard to be different. I never shared my end plan with anyone because I didn't want the unsolicited comments or the pressure to change my mind to deter me from my goal. During this time I also made a life altering move to Maryland from Brooklyn, NY and I realized quickly that more than my location changed. Yes, there were stresses of being in a new state. There were things to get used to all around. However, the one thing that bugged me the most was the lack of options for my hair. Here in Maryland, the options were limited and that drove up the price...SIGNIFICANTLY. I could not walk around the corner and get a $12 wash and set on Tuesday from my local Dominican salon. Yes, I could do it myself but I was a bit spoiled. A wash and set $35-$40..... NOT. A touch up.... close to $100 with a style... NOPE. I am CHEAP. Don't get me started on braids. I agree to pay people for their craft, I get then but again, I am cheap. I resorted to doing my hair myself or getting it done on my frequent trips back home for a visit.
Instead of making excuses I decided to research, (yes, I researched my hair as well) and I found one site that I loved the most, Nappturality. The ladies there were my main source of information. As I read about curl patterns, products, oils and wash days I learned how to maintain my hair in its natural state. During this time I started getting my hair braided about every 4-6 weeks as I grew out my relaxer. I was determined to not get it done again until decided what I really wanted to do. I didn't know but I was actually transitioning. I did simple internet searches and to find out more about natural hair and I was directed to many message boards. YES MESSAGE BOARDS (I am dating myself). I came across tons of information on people who were transitioning from relaxed hair to natural. There were styles threads, inspirational picture threads, big chop or not threads, loose or loc threads and people who just shared their journey.
I choose the date of 2/6/2008 as the day to big chop and start my locs because it was right before my birthday and I wanted to get my locs started for my birthday. I took out my last set of braids and I stood in the mirror and made the first cut. I watched the hair fall in to the sink and I knew that I had to keep going. I am not sure how long I was in the bathroom but when I came out I had about 2 inches (if that) of hair on my head. I showed my children, who were 8 and 13 at the time, and they freaked out. I told them then that I was getting locs.
I went to my appointment the next day because I didn't need another moment to second guess my decision. The young lady was nice but when she told me not to wash my hair for FOUR MONTHS I was done. Thankfully, my months of research taught me better. Water is my friend and I need to wash my hair. Have you ever washed your hair and then just let dry like that? Do you remember the tangles? Well this is what helped my hair lock, not prevented it. I went on to maintain my locs myself for the next almost eight years.
Somewhere down the road,I can't say that I grew tired of my locs completely. However, I can say that I achieved what I wanted. I styled my hair almost any way possible and I even achieved waist length. I am not sure when it happened but I think I got a little bored with my hair. In an effort to maintain my locs I decided to get a hair cut. I researched and I went to the salon in Oyin Handmade on my 7th anniversary of being natural and got a nice bob. It was great! I felt interested in my hair again...for awhile. By the end of the year, during a long stay home due to a flair up with my Dysautonomia, I picked out my locs in a week and I was officially loose.
WHAT DID I DO??? I didn't start off with a TWA I started off with a big thick mane of hair and I had no idea it was going to be that hard to maintain. Still armed with my research, I quickly figured out how to care for my hair, learned that I had low porosity hair and understood that I needed WAY more products than my locs needed. It was a big learning curve.
Here I am just over two years later and I have entered a new phase of natural. I can grow my hair I can style my hair, I can color my hair and I can straighten it too. The one thing that has been missing with my loose hair was having fun. So now I am just enjoying it. I am like a chia pet because this thing will grow. I just want to love it, maintain it and have fun. So ten years later I have tons of pictures of the different phases of natural Nicole and I hope to have many, many more. The next frontier, going gray Nicole...yeah. I'm also 41 today. Oh happy days.
One day at a time.