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Accepting my hair for how it is was a long journey that I'm still traveling. I grew up in a family that believed in perms and hair straightening. Now don't get me wrong. My parents always taught me to love myself, but I would always find myself loving myself better with straight and permed hair. Society has always taught African American women not to love certain parts about themselves and kinky and coarse hair was something unprofessional, unattractive, and even unsanitary.
Going natural was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It wasn't an intentional or bold move. I just went so long without a perm and then liked what I saw. It wasn't until I was almost in high school that I saw my natural curl pattern, and then I wondered why I was always ashamed of it. Now I see that I was ashamed because when I turned on the TV or looked on magazines, if black women were represented, they almost always had straight hair, whether it was from a perm or hair extensions. Although I had plenty of black dolls as a kid, none of them ever had a hint of a curl in their hair. It was very rare to see a black woman proudly donning a thick afro with the 4C tight curls. I basically didn't see black women that wore the hair that I had growing out of my scalp.
I’m not angry at my parents for perming my hair as a child. They never did it because they thought I was any less beautiful with my natural hair. I went to a predominantly white elementary and middle school. Having a perm was the best way for me to be seen in the best light by my peers and teachers. It was more for assimilation rather than shame for my natural hair. Also, for the longest, I wanted my hair straight like all of my friends and classmates.
Even amongst the natural black hair community, there are still curl patterns that were more valued than others. Usually, the more loose and wavy curls are more desired, while the tight curls in the 4C pattern are seen as untameable and unkempt. When I first decided to go natural, I remember family members and friends joking about my hair and saying I needed to comb it. There are fewer products in the hair store for people with my kind of curl, and brands that I began to rely on started changing their formulas to cater towards a wider demographics. When many of these companies change, they inadvertently leave out the very same people they initially tried to cater to.
Being natural has not been easy. I am still in the process of learning how to navigate a professional space with my natural hair. I am also still trying to learn the best ways to care for my hair. I have many years of catching up to do, and I seem to always learn something new about my hair. It has been over nine years since I've had a perm, and I don't plan on ever going back. Now don't get me wrong, I am not against straight hair or unnatural hair. I even wear weaves and wigs from time to time. I am just for black women wearing their hair however they want and feeling 110 percent beautiful with it, whether that's permed, natural, long, short, bald, etc. I am for black women feeling professional whether they choose to wear straight hair, wavy hair, or tightly curled hair. Nobody should feel ashamed of wearing the hair that naturally comes out of their scalps.