I remember the summer I was in the second grade. That summer it was so hot, all I wanted to do was eat popsicles. My family didn’t have a lot of money and having a box of popsicles in the house was a real treat. So I couldn’t just eat as many as I wanted. Every time I wanted a taste of that cold sweetness, I had to ask my mom for permission to grab a popsicle out of the freezer. My little 7-year old self was so irritated by having to wait until she said yes or no. And sometimes, she said no!
Fast forward almost twenty years later. I’m living in the DC area and fascinated by the lovely natural hairstyles of the women I see walking around the city every day. Afros, locs, twists – it’s all so unique, yet so simple at the same time. An expression of beauty without conforming to the straight hair standard that sends black women running to the hairdresser every 4-6 weeks to remove the kinks from our heads.
I tell my family that I want to go natural with my hair. But every time I bring it up, my mom, sister, aunt or cousins shake their heads vigorously. “No, no, no,” they would say. “You wouldn’t look right with an afro. You would look too African. You would look ugly.” Each time I was met with resistance, I would slink back, second-guessing my own enthusiasm about the possibility of ditching the relaxer life and wearing my hair in its natural state.
For years, I did this back and forth with myself – my desires vs. my family’s disapproval. I kept thinking: maybe they were right. Maybe I would look ugly if my hair wasn’t straight.
But in 2010, my mind was finally made up. I had already decided to quit my job and become the CEO of me. It was time to stop asking others for permission to do the things I wanted to do. When the rocket scientist dumped me, supposedly over my decision to go natural, I sort of snapped. I had a major epiphany that year – it was a blessing that our relationship didn’t last. Because there was no way in hell that I was going to let anyone – not even the love of my life – tell me what to do, let alone how to wear my own damn hair.
I was a 27-year old woman, not a 7-year old little girl asking mommy for a popsicle.
In March 2010, I did the big chop. I cut off my “beautiful” relaxed hair, and with it, the objections of other people to my change in appearance. This was MY life and I was going to start living it MY way. And they were just going to have to get used to it.
Are you still asking for permission in certain areas of your life? If so, why? If not, how did you start the process of living life on your own terms?