My Natural Hair and I
By Pamela Bartholomew
In order for you to understand the relationship between my hair and I – you first need to understand who I am and where I am from. I am a young, black, Canadian girl living in eastern Canada.
I need to make two things very clear :
1) I absolutely adore Canada and where I grew up. I find myself counting daily how fortunate I was to be brought up in a country that is built on acceptance and welcoming.
2) I give a lot of credit to the fact that growing up where I did, has definitely shaped me into the person I am today. It taught me how to stand up for myself, how to see different cultures and learn different viewpoints, and most importantly I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.
Where It all began
Okay, now let me be real with you for a moment. Even though I was born in Canada, my city itself that I grew up in was majority caucasian. Now, for anyone that was in or IS in the same boat as me – I hope that I can explain this feeling to the best of my abilities.
Basically, I was fortunate to seldom go through bullying due to being dark skinned (choosing to ignore all the incredibly immature “jokes” that were told to me throughout the years)- BUT It wasn’t long before I quickly realized how different I was to the other kids in my classes.
My hair was different and I knew it from the start. My hair was black, thick, and fluffy. My hair never sat down straight down on my head no matter how many times I brushed and pulled. I would apply all the gel I could get my hands on until my hair looked almost wet.
At school, I would often rip out the shiny cornrows my mother had patiently braided on my scalp the night before. I remember my mother scolding me, ripping out the knots I had created in my hair from running around all day with my natural curls flying about in every which direction. I just “wanted my hair to be like the other girls”, with their silky straight hair blowing through the wind- whipping around their shoulders and falling on their faces gracefully. I wanted it so badly.
I remember, getting so angry when my mother put my hair in braids or twists before going to grandmas house for the summer. “No boys are going to like me” I would think to myself. I don’t know which boys I had thought I was going to meet there but I knew whoever they were – they were not going to like my hair. I hated it. I hated that I couldn’t have that sleek hair all the other girls had. I wanted it so badly.
Enter hair relaxer
The media did a number on me and my mindset.
I remember watching bollywood movies with my mother. I watched as the beautiful woman twirled and spun around with their long black hair trailing after them. They looked so elegant and care free. I would daydream for the rest of the day, dancing around in my room imagining myself with long flowing black hair. A reality I thought I could never obtain and it damaged my self worth.
As soon as the media came into my life – the amount of which I thought I wasn’t enough only worsened. I had thought that my natural hair was not the idea of beauty. Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by anything but people that looked like me.
The media never showed other woman with the same kinks and curls in their hair as me so I never thought that I could ever portray beauty.
Typed in google the word “pretty” and didn’t see an image that remotely resembled anything I looked like.
I was crushed and I felt defeated.
That’s when I turned to relaxing my hair.
“Relaxing” is the process of putting chemicals on your hair to modify it’s natural texture. It breaks down the curl to make straightening easier.
* I do not look DOWN on relaxing at all – however, it is important to note that I was actively changing the way that I looked and the NATURAL curl of my hair in order to resemble that of which I saw on the tv… my mind wasn’t healthy*
I thought – yay! I found the secret to a beautiful mane. Thoughout public school to high school I would repeatedly relax my hair – all the while, adding in weaves/extenstions to make it seem like I had that long flow of hair that I have always wanted.
Except I could never get my hair to look natural or look just how I would want it.
I would spend so many days driving forty-five minutes to and from to get downtown to a beauty supply store that might possibly sell the hair that I was seeking. Time and time again, I would leave my hair dressers feeling incomplete and unsatisfied.
No weave could fulfill my need. No weave could make me look in the mirror and think to myself “wow, I look beautiful”. Nothing was working, and I never felt alright. My relaxer would grow out so you could see my natural hair coming through or my weave would get tattered and beat up – not to mention, how much money I would put into it was astronomical, to say the least.
I can not tell you how much money I spent on my hair throughout my life – but I can tell you that it is not a pretty number.
The year 2020
So, fast forward to the age twenty-three. Yes, I am talking about a couple months ago this breakthrough happened. I had never in my life had a moment like this so you can understand why it was such a memorable moment for me.
I need to stress how badly my wonderful boyfriend Cam had played apart in this. I had always felt particularly shy around boys about my hair. I always felt like even if they knew it wasn’t “all mine” – I didn’t want to admit it out loud.
But, as you will come to know from my blog posts – Cam is different. Cam, being as an extension of me, had always made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I can get more in into depth on my sappy feelings on another post, but just as a whole – know that he really brought out the honesty and raw side of me.
For example, there was a point that I had to wash, dry, and braid my natural hair myself before seeing a new hairdresser in the city the next day. I knew I had to take out my weave and I was so nervous to do it for the first time in front of a boy – until I started. I found it easy – and like, I wasn’t hiding anything from him already so why start then? I took out my weave and showed him my hair in it’s natural form.
My heart was beating out of my chest and I felt my hands shaking. He took one look at me, jaw dropped and rushed over to hold me in his arms. ( I did videotape this moment for my future self so If you’re interested in seeing this – message me). It was a moment in my history I will always hold close to my heart. That was the first time I had ever showed my natural texture to him. As nice and special as this moment we shared was, I still wasn’t ready to show the world my natural hair – so, in went a weave quickly after that.
I went through rounds and rounds of frustration and loss of money over not getting the style I wanted. Between not getting the right colour to not getting the right length, I was going absolutely mental.
Until one night, I was laying on my bed with Cam feeling utterly devastated. I had been going through months and months of not being happy with the way that I looked and this night it was hitting me so much harder. Honestly, I believe that we all have that ONE thing about ourselves that we feel like if it’s not right – we do not feel right, and for me it is my hair. I have always wanted to “be one of those pretty girls”. I have always felt like I have failed at that.
There I was, laying there in our bed feeling so defeated. I felt tired. I felt like giving up and just staying under the covers for days. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I felt bad for Cam to even have to LOOK at me. I had been feeling like nothing I was doing was working. I had gone through so many different weaves and styles that I felt like I wish I could throw my hair out all together.
Cam, my beautiful Cam – is a very big advocate of me being myself. I feel overwhelmed even trying to type this out because it was such an emotional night for us both. You see, I was in a bad place. To feel like you cannot be okay with yourself and the way you look…it’s a very bad feeling. There I was, crying in his arms. Explaining to him that I felt so lost and just – ugly. I was full on breaking down. He was frustrated and upset. He was heartbroken to hear me talk like this. He explained to me that he never fell in love with me for what I had on my head. He fell in love with my SOUL.
He explained that we had such a deep emotional connection that I could have any hairstyle under the moon – nothing would matter to him. Of course, he already had said this to me before many times but this night – it felt like it hit deeper. I never cried to anyone about my hair before. I never have let anyone into how I feel about my appearance and the negativity I felt. This night all my emotions came out at once. There all my emotions were laid out in front of him completely exposed. I was raw and open and vulnerable – and he loved me anyways.
I thought about this for awhile as he reassured me and held me close. I was worth loving. He saw something special in me that I couldn’t see in myself. Something about me has landed this amazing, wonderful man who sees me for more than just the way that I look. I thought about this for even longer.
I have always heard about self – love. We all have heard about it – every platform I could think of drills the notion in our heads. My favourite quote from Rupaul of course is, “If you can’t love yourself – how in the hell is anyone going to love you- can I get an AMEN”. Which I fully can understand. But the fact that someone – the fact that Cam, my friends, my family, have loved me despite the way I look… It took me a minute to really digest that. I have to admit, I have never truly just sat there and DIGESTED that.
– Actually, in this very moment – take a second and just think about yourself and DIGEST that fact for you and your life… –
I am more than the curls on my head. I am more than my fluffy, unruly, tempered, hair. I am bubbly, and nice and I would never hurt anyone. I am lots of things more than the way that I look. My eyes really did open in this moment because no one had ever seen me in my true form, and loved me anyways. These thoughts have to be practiced as a daily routine because self love does not happen over night – but I am learning and I am determined to work at it until I get it right.
I decided not long after my talk with Cam that night to take out my weave. I fully intend to keep my hair out and learn about it and fall in love with it. Off the bat, I was shocked to see the length it has retained after all these years protected. I am thankful that my hair has trusted me and grew with me. I feel like these are steps closer to being the person I have always wanted to be. I WANT to be comfortable with my hair – I WANT to feel free and separate from the way that I look. My hair is one part of me, and I am a whole other part. I am my own identity – it is not me.
I am challenging myself to step INSIDE my own box and learn about myself. Honestly, I have to say I have never felt more comfortable with my appearance than I do at this very moment. There is no “I hate my hair today” because its MY hair. There is no – “I wish I could just rip my hair off” because this is MY hair. My hair isn’t going anywhere anytime soon so I better learn to love it now. I want to feed it with minerals and I want to let it overtake itself. I want to treat it with respect and make sure It doesn’t go neglected. I am proud of myself that I have come this far. I am not going to lie – It was scary the first time walking out of my house with my natural kinks and curls. But after the first couple days, I cannot imagine going back anytime soon.
My advice? Try it out. Go with your natural texture of your hair. Try it out for a week. This goes for all hair types. I’m calling every girl out. If you wear your hair curly, and straighten it every day – try to just maintain your natural curls. If you have straight hair and curl it every day, try and just leave it be. Let your hair breath – let YOURSELF breath just for a moment.
Come back, message me and tell me how it went. I want to know if other girls have felt the same way as me with their natural hair and where are they now. I want to know if you’ve trusted your natural texture – how did it go – and if you’re still there. I have just begun this hair journey of mine and I want to know what I am in for.
I am excited to see how it goes 🙂 !
Have you ever had to battle your self worth vs the way you look? What was your experience? Comment down below and share your story!
What a beautiful post! I’m half Japanese and half Brazilian, but I grew up in a predominantly asian setting so I always thought I should straighten my hair (that is super curly for Japanese standards) so I could fit in.
It was only recently that I decided to rock my natural curld and it’s been an incredible journey! It has helped me build confidence and self esteem.
I think every girl should follow your advice honestly.
WOW, THANK YOU! That means so much to me that you were able to connect with my story. I totally can feel that .. and I’m sorry you felt that way, truly.
I am SO happy that you were able to start your natural hair journey! This is such a great time for you and it’s crazy how much it helps with your inner confidence ! You’re SO right !
That is so so sweet to say, Miya – thank you so much for sharing your story with me today and I hope others can learn from your story too !