Dropping My Sew-In Safety Net is Where Life and Love Began for Me
I was a run-of-the-mill black girl from the suburbs. My mom would take me to the hair salon every two weeks to get my hair washed, conditioned and hot-combed. This may seem like a waste of time and money, but my mom was never a DIY kind of woman. Anytime she tried to put a hot comb through my hair, it was a really cheap one that she would rest on a metal pie plate in between hair tugs. Sometimes she even outsourced hair responsibilities to our neighbors.
Growing up in all white schools, my hair always felt like this giant helmet of shame. It never laid flat or blew in the breeze or quickly bounced back from being wet — like Tiffany, Kristy and Jenny’s did. Every six weeks, my friends would wonder why it looked so fuzzy. I didn’t know how to explain it and I wasn’t proud of it. I was embarrassed and felt invisible.
In college, I stopped caring about my hair. I became the weirdo Black girl (before AfroPunk was a thing) and just wore my hair in pigtails for three years. It was an identity that I could hold on to.
When I stopped relying on my parents to pay for my hair salon trips, I found solace in the flat iron. I was coming into my own and really began to see the impact of my personal appearance.
Then one day, a pack of Yaki 1B came into my life and everything dramatically changed. I went from the funny Black girl in school with the goofy hair to the girl to hire for music videos. Boyfriends fell from the sky, I tripped over job offers and TV gigs became a reality. I was living life in full color!
However, something was missing.
Every once in a while, I would take my weave down and go with my straight, short hair. When I didn’t have a weave, life went back to being exceptionally monotone. I felt invisible. Boyfriends were nowhere to be found, job offers disappeared and the TV gigs quickly halted.
It took one weave-maintenance trip to the salon to quickly discover what was missing.
I sat in the chair, watching the stylist undo my tracks. As she neared the end, I erupted into tears. I looked in the mirror and immediately felt like that invisible, sixth grader with helmet hair. I looked away from the mirror and saw a little girl staring at me. I immediately stopped crying. I couldn’t let this little brown girl see me crumble under my own insecurity and separation anxiety from fake hair.
I no longer wanted anything to do with this toxic relationship with my appearance.
“Shave it off," I told the stylist. Completely repulsed by my request to shave my head, she refused to do it. She told me that she didn’t want to be held responsible for this terrible decision that I was about to make.
The owner of the salon volunteered to shave my hair for me.
“I get it girl. I got you. Let’s start over.”
With each pass of the clippers, I felt years of external validation melt away.
I knew that what grew out of my head was a manifestation of my self love and nothing else. Without hair, I suddenly felt a sense of liberation that allowed me to love myself freely and wholly. It didn’t matter what came next or who was validating my appearance. Being able to take one big step (or chop) towards pushing through my own insecurities, without a sew-in safety net, is where life and love began for me.