I’ve noticed a mentality that up until I got my current protective style I believed only a handful of people had. Turns out, more people than previously thought have a strange way of looking at natural hair thus imposing expectations on me and on how I decide to wear my hair. All of which has led to me to ask the question:
What’s the definition of being natural?
Let me answer that question from my point of view. I’m natural because I have chosen to not permanently alter my hair structure via chemicals. However, it’s clear to me now that for some people that’s not their definition of being natural. There have been times when I’d see someone whilst I’m wearing a weave and they’d be shocked and ask where’s the fro?! or I thought you were natural. What perplexes me is even if you’re using extensions to achieve certain styles, some people still consider them more “natural” styles than weave. Why is a weave considered less natural than braids? Cornrows? I get great responses (from people I know and blog followers) when I decide to wear cornrows yet when I wear a weave – I’m no longer natural. Really? How so? What about my weave makes me not natural anymore? And please note, this reaction seems to differ according to the style of the weave. Apparently, it’s ok to rock a curly, wavy or afro weave but when I choose to have a straight weave I’m not longer ‘representing’. Again, really? Does it not count that I’ve chosen not to straighten my own hair to look like the weave I’m wearing? I’ve heard some people claim I can’t be natural because I wear a lot of make up, or I had dyed my hair, or I don’t use all natural products etc. etc. etc. In that same vein can you not argue that manipulating your hair to look longer, fluffier, more defined via twist outs isn’t how your hair sprouts from your scalp thus isn’t your natural hair? I understand that people’s definitions will differ and I’m open to that of course – but where do you draw the line. But what irks me is when other people impose their understanding and definitions on me and expect me to live up to those expectations. People have decided that I’m the ‘fro girl’. So if I’m not rocking that look or anything ‘similar’ I’ve sold out. Hmmm.
So, I decided to finally write this post and pose this question because last weekend I met one of these people in the flesh. At my fiancé’s birthday gathering, a friend of a friend sat next to me and overheard me chatting to my friends about my blog.
“What do you blog about?” He said.
“My fro and I, so my natural hair” I replied.
“So did you leave your afro at home?” He asked too familiarly.
“umm…no (with a very real “you’re incredibly rude” intonation to my voice) it’s underneath this (smile to show I’m not impressed but if you didn’t know me you’d think I was being polite).
Now this guy goes on to explain how if there was a group against women who wear weave then he’d join it in a nutshell. All the while I’m looking at him in a how did we get to this one way conversation manner. After he was done weave bashing, well not really – I interrupted him to say that I know my hair and come winter time, I need to have a style that protects it from the cold. Of course, he looked at me blankly at that point. Then I thought to myself, why am I justifying MY hair choice to a man I’ve known for all but 5 minutes? Because I felt judged. By him judging me, it shows how shallow he is by using my hair as the determining factor of my character. Don’t put me in a box. And just as soon as this guy decided he was familiar enough with me to insult me, I stopped talking, looked the other way and disengaged from this meaningless conversation.
Up until now, I used to think that whilst I’m in a protective style, I shouldn’t really share photos of myself or any experiences having to do with my protective style days. But I’ve changed my mind. My blog is my space. I made it public to share my hair journey with people who are interested in it. At the moment, protective styling – whether it’s fake hair put into braids, an afro weave or a straight one – is a part of my journey so I’m going to be sharing it. Just as not everyone approved or liked my hair before I went natural, when I first went natural, or even now, not everyone will like my hair. And just as I ended that conversation with this guy, I simply said “it’s MY hair”.
No one has to endorse your hair. Who is this guy or anyone else to dictate what sort of hairstyle should make me feel good about myself? The way I see it, it’s all about the intention of why you’re wearing your hair the way you are. I’ve never and I endeavour not to ever make anyone feel that going natural is the only way to go. Do it if you really want to. Relax your hair if you really want to. Do YOU ladies. I just want to show other women that they have A CHOICE in how they can rock their hair. And my definition of natural is one of them.
So, I pose it to you – what’s your definition of being natural?