My hair and I have been through… a lot, to say the least.
The first time I dramatically cut my hair was the day after my high school graduation. Snip, Snip: Part I was born! I was tired of being idolized and exotified for my long hair, so I cut it to bra-strap-length and kept it pushing.
I kept that length for about two years, going a little shorter sometimes, thinking myself daring for having my ends graze my collarbone. During the spring of my sophomore year, I told myself I would grow it out again, but I needed to spice it up. So I went to the hair salon that doesn’t specialize in coloring (insert red flag here) and I asked for honey-blonde, warm chestnut balayage.
I left with honey-brown highlights. Like literal streaks circa 2002.
I was mortified. I had to stop myself from crying in the car, cried in the bathroom when I got home, then lied to myself that it wasn’t that bad so I could still have some confidence to leave my house. As time passed, the highlights got brassier and my curls started resembling uncooked ramen noodles more than hair. It was stringy and rubbery to the touch when wet, and I didn’t recognize myself.
My self-esteem took a huge hit. I felt ugly, all the time, connecting my hair to my identity… something I said I would never do again. I box dyed my hair a mahogany-brown, satisfied that the highlights looked softer and more caramel than Big Bird. But it was still longer than I wanted it to be.
I made a visit to my salon, asking for my “daring” collarbone-grazing cut and the lady barely even gave me a trim. I went home, disgusted, and asked my mom to cut it. My mother, bless her heart, is not a professional (insert red flag #2). I left the chair I was sitting on in the kitchen speechless and walked into the bathroom, astonished to find myself crying over my hair… again. My curls grazed not my collarbone but nearly my earlobes, and I was left with a bob I didn’t ask for.
I box dyed my hair two more times after that — the highlights continued to blaze through — to a chocolate brown, then a “darkest” brown that was about three shades darker than my natural dark brown, so basically black. Yet, once the highlights were buried underneath the hair dye and my bob started to grow into a lob, I started to feel a little more like myself.
But my hair and I… we had been through too much. I never felt like doing it or taking care of it the way I should, and as any natural Black woman knows, you just can’t ignore your hair’s needs. I spent most of the spring semester of my junior year wearing protective styles like box braids and faux locs, cornrows, braidouts, and slicked back ponytails. I was sick of my hair.
Now, I had always toyed with the idea of cutting all my hair off, but I thought it would be way down the line, when I was about to start grad school or when I had my first kid or something. But… God presents opportunities in funny ways.
Here it was: a reasonably-priced ticket to start from scratch, press the reset button and try again. This way, I’d be able to get my natural hair color back and my curls would be healthier than ever.
This was my chance to Big Chop.
And I took it.
I trekked back to the salon. The stylist ripped the bandaid off quick, chopping off my ponytail haphazardly to just get it out of the way. Then she worked her magic. Immediately, a weight was lifted.
It’s only been about a week with my new haircut, but this is what I know for sure: it feels right.