I joined Blogging University 101 and Writing 101 this month and the first challenge in Writing 101 is a stream of consciousness exercise.
As I’m sitting here letting my thoughts flow regarding what I want to write about for this challenge, I remembered how someone mentioned to me once that it was a complete waste of time to transition to natural hair—one should just big chop.
This of course, made me think of the panel I’ll be a part of at the 2014 Naturally Redefined Hair & Holistic Hair Expo this weekend in Newark Delaware. I’ll probably be the only “transitioner” on the panel or, best case scenario, one of a few.
[For those of you who do not know what a “transitioner” is, it is someone who grows their natural hair out without cutting off their relaxed hair. Some people do “small chops” as their natural hair grows out, while others wait until their natural hair has reached a length they are comfortable with and “big chop” their relaxed ends off. Of course this means that individuals may transition for varying lengths of time]
For whatever reason, being the only transitioner (or one of a few) on the panel has me nervous. Will people discount my opinion simply because I haven’t chopped off all my relaxed ends? Some people don’t consider transitioners “naturals” (though, at this point, I have far more natural hair than relaxed ends—I only have about 3-4 inches of relaxed ends left).
I am left with the impression that it is simply human nature to classify and re-classify ourselves into a hierarchy, and the natural hair community is no exception. I wonder why we like to separate ourselves so much. Just because transitioners haven’t chopped off all of their relaxed ends, doesn’t make them an invaluable source for others considering the choice to “go natural.” In fact, part of the problem when I was considering beginning my natural hair journey was the fact that I couldn’t find any transitioners out there and I thought that the only avenue to “going natural” was to big chop.
I didn’t want to chop my hair off, so I decided on my own to transition my hair. I had no idea that it was actually a legitimate way to begin a natural hair journey. I just knew that I didn’t like short hair on myself and I wasn’t going to chop my hair—been there, done that, returned to relaxing.
There is value in that perspective—the perspective of someone who is in the transitioning journey to impart their successes and failures. I have found it extremely different when transitioning tips are coming from a fully Natural who never transitioned herself and who doesn’t fully understand the issues a transitioner faces, because her strands are fundamentally different.
Besides, those who say that transitioning is a waste of time are entitled to their opinions. But I find that transitioning has been integral process in getting me excited about my natural hair. Seeing the difficulty of managing two textures, and wanting to get rid of one, and realizing that the texture I wanted to get rid of was not my natural texture, was an amazing revelation to me at how much I actually didn’t love my straight tresses as much as I thought I did—and that was freeing. Especially once I saw the styling limitations of straight hair.
Let me attempt to illustrate. I can do a twistout or a braidout that actually looks good for a couple days if it weren’t for my straight ends. My natural texture can hold a curl for much longer than my relaxed ends. Eventually, my relaxed ends just hang limp. You can refresh a smushed natural curl on kinky hair, but not a smushed curl on permanently straight hair. That just reverts to straight after a day—two max.
Seeing the versatility in my natural hair made me wonder what I loved about my straight hair in the first place—the only thing I ever did with it was wear it in a ponytail or wear it down. Two styles. That was pretty much it. And if I were going to curl it or do a fancy style for an event, it had to be done the same day or with extensions if I wanted the style to last more than one day.
Without this part of the journey to bring about that realization, I would’ve “missed” the straight hair that I once loved so much and returned to relaxing, despite the damage and injuries I suffered from relaxers.
Let’s face it, natural hair care is not as simple as some Naturalistas like to pretend it is. It certainly has its learning curves, and even after you think you’ve figured it out, your hair develops a mind of its own. If that was the only texture I had on my head, without comparison, I would’ve believed my straight hair was better. This, of course, is not to say that I wouldn’t wear my hair straight again–I would (not with a relaxer, obviously). It is, after all, a look that I like. It’s just not a look that has such a profound hold on me anymore.
And while it is true that transitioning may push some individuals in the opposite direction (i.e., return to a relaxer), you still have to do what’s right for you. And I think people lose focus of the fact that this journey is an individual journey—there are no hard and fast ways to “do it right.” If you’re the type of person that needs to be “all in” to make a commitment, then yes, transitioning may be a waste of time or even detrimental to your journey. However, if you’re the type of person that (1) likes your hair length and (2) needs to accomplish goals in increments, transitioning may be for you.
Which is the ultimate impression I’m left with after this stream of consciousness: do what’s right for YOU. No matter what anyone says.