In 2012, I did the big chop, where I cut off all my relaxed hair and began my natural hair journey. For those of you not familiar with this concept, in the black hair community, it is common to chemically permanently straighten your naturally kinky coily hair. The process of reverting back to our curly hair either by cutting off all the chemically relaxed hair, or slowly transitioning until a desired length before the cutting process, is often called going natural. You can read about my personal hair journey here.
So after the big chop, my goal was to grow my hair as long as it could possibly get. Since then, I had a few trims which set me back a few inches. Even though I knew trimming my hair was necessary to keep it healthy, I would always feel like I lost something after the process. So a few months ago, I saw the most beautiful girl on the train who had this super short hair cut. I liked it so much, I couldn’t stop staring at her. It made me feel inspired to cut my own hair. But I felt scared. I knew I wanted to, but every time I was about to book an appointment at the hairdressers, a sense of loss, the same as when I trimmed my hair, crept into my conscience – “Sandra, don’t cut your hair. Look how far you’ve come? Your head will look to small. But long hair is so pretty. Everyone says you shouldn’t. Remember how bad you felt when you trimmed off half of it?!”
These fearful thoughts always resulted in the cycle of me keeping my locks and coming back to the short hair idea a few weeks later. This made me really vexed and annoyed with myself. I couldn’t understand why I was so attached to my hair. I realised that it was not just me – long hair particularly in the black community is seen as a prized thing. It stems from this stupid ‘good hair’ ‘bad hair’ nonsense we’ve been fed for years and year. Many people from all cultures also have this idea that black people can’t grow long hair [Of course this is a myth]. We are often unable to retain length due to the damage from chemical relaxers. I guess that’s a reason long hair is coveted in black culture. I can bet you anything that a girls family/friends are more likely to frown at the idea of her shaving her head if she is black with shoulder-length hair than if it is a white girl with the same length of hair. Why should the length of my hair be a measure of my beauty? This irritates me. Short hair is beautiful, long hair is beautiful, all textures are beautiful.
And this is all wider than just black culture or hair. It’s also about the perception of women’s appearance in general. I’m so sick of girls feeling they need to do this or look like that to satisfy someone else’s idea of ‘attractive’. The worst part is a lot of the time we do or avoid doing certain things with our appearance because we are scared about how people will react to, or think about us. But I also understand that all human beings including males go through some sort of culturally driven self criticism. We all need to stop tailoring ourselves to other people and caring so much about external opinions. I’m not even going to pretend. Before, during and after I cut my hair I felt very anxious and nervous. But I did it, and I love it! It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’m proud of myself for sticking to my guns. You can watch me cut my hair here.
My end message is just do you. If you want to shave your head, go for it. If you want to tattoo your whole body, yes girl! If you want to dress a certain way, by all means proceed. Just think about the reasons you’re doing it. It should never be solely for the satisfaction of someone else. It should be for you.