I’ve always been a bit conflicted about India Aire’s “I am not my hair”. While I get that my hair is not a fundamental part of my being, I know that the choices I make regarding it reflect what’s happening in my culture and ultimately inside of me. So since afrocentrism is important to me, but not a recognized part of Western Culture, I insert it into my lifestyle by wearing natural hair and integrating African patterns and dress into my wardrobe.
When I decided that I needed a change after 15 years with locs, there was a fair amount of trepidation involved. I wanted to make sure I maintained this important commitment to myself that locs represented. For those who don’t know much about locs, while they must be washed and maintained like normal hair, the products required to do this while maintaining a "no poo" or curly girl regimen can be easily and cheaply encountered at most grocery stores. However, loose hair requires additional conditioners and stylers to achieve the best results which can be challenging to find in Seville. Despite these fears, about 5 months ago, I decided to strike out upon the path of becoming a loose natural for the first time as an adult.
When most people hear the above, they visually cue to the scissors and/or hair clippers scene where the emotionally wrought woman quickly releases herself of the burdensome energies wrapped in each loc within a matter of minutes and is left with a carefree afro and all of its freedoms.
I chose the road less traveled, to take my locs down, one by one in order to keep as much length as possible. It’s important to note here that I chose this route, not necessarily in the Robert Frost, throw caution to the wind in the pursuit of excellence kind of way. It was simply motivated by my fear of having short hair. Seville is a fairly conservative city, most girls have longer hair, there are very few edgy short cuts happening here. So in hindsight, the desire to conserve length was probably just motivated by a desire to fit in culturally.
I happened to be visiting my sister in Oakland, California for 3 weeks this summer when I made the decision. It was truly a now or never moment since I knew I needed someone skilled at cutting curly hair to give me my first haircut. I calculated that at an average rate of 30 minutes per loc I’d need to take down 7 locs a day over the course of two weeks to take down 107 locs. The reason I had only two weeks is because not only would the hair cut have to take place before I left California to return to Seville, but I’d also need a few days to experiment with and purchase products I knew I wouldn’t be able to access in Spain. I did all of this whilst knowing that there was a very real possibility that after all this work I might still be left with damaged hair that would have to be cut. Primarily due to the fact that 6 months prior I had my locs colored and cut and the stylist not only cut the length, but also cut up the shaft of the locs. In short, I had no idea what the finished product would look like, it was a gamble.
When I finished the take down, I looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket, I had a lot of dry damaged hair. I looked considerably less crazy after my Deva haircut in San Francisco. However, one important thing most people don’t mention in all those YouTube loc take down videos I watched is that the hair inside of locs is usually starving for moisture, which actually isn’t a problem if you never take your locs down. If you do though, even with the best haircut no one walks away from a loc take down looking like Tracie Ellis-Ross. Re-infusing the moisture so that the repair process can begin isn’t overnight, it can take a few weeks. I now have more volume and body than I could have ever possibly achieved with locs and I love it, but the maintenance is certainly more involved than with locs and that’s just an inescapable fact. With every passing week though, I discover new ways to make it easier and am able to still use most of the old DIY no poo and styling recipes I used on my locs. Mainly out of necessity because most of the awesome natural curly girl method approved brands sold in the US such as Shea Moisture are not sold in Spain. So I find myself having little moments of silence every time I wash my hair and see the jars that I bought in California dwindling.
The moral that I realized after the process was finished is that fear can lead you to make certain choices, but life will always continually attempt to guide you back towards facing your fears. So, if you want your life to advance or progress in a more conscious way you to truly be in tune with the motivations for your choices. In my case the fear of keeping length motivated me to spend 2 weeks of my vacation picking at locs, instead of just chopping them off and being done with it. Ironically, I don’t regret it much because after a while it was like knitting a sweater, it became relaxing and I learned a lot about patience. Whilst I worked on patience I prepared myself to accept whatever outcome that presented itself. I prepared myself to detach from my hair, to detach from my traditional standards of beauty which although I didn’t know it at the time were definitely antiquated and narrow. Long hair does not equal beautiful hair.
The new look is an adjustment, I had the fear that I wouldn’t be left with much hair and I didn’t retain as much length as I wanted, so I had to face that fear. It’s a new and interesting journey though, which was my objective in the first place. Maybe what India Aire was trying to say is that everyone will have to learn their lesson eventually, how you map out that trip is what matters. It is simply a question of what type of scenery you want to see along the way. Your only responsibility is to love and appreciate the process.
Have any of you grown on your hair journey?
Ayan lives in Sevilla, Spain and her least favorite question is ¿de que parte de EEUU eres? She's basically a Southerner, equal parts Louisiana and Tennessee, with some Oklahoma and Texas mixed in. She looks at the world in big picture terms and enjoys learning about psychology and history. Even though her default facial expression is serious, she's actually equal parts serious and funny, but always blunt. She loves DIY anything, playing and watching tennis and adding new music to her Spotify playlists. She's currently working on developing a way to make a career out of all these unrelated interests, until then she teaches English.