Brace yourself, this is going to be a long one.
If you recall my first post regarding my daughter’s hair journey, I confessed that I had a momentary lapse in judgment which resulted in texturizing her hair. Here is how it all went down …
My daughter has always had long hair. Well, not from the womb. She came out like every other child, a bit of brown fuzz covering her head. When her hair grew long enough for me to grab tufts of it (around 18 months) and put it in box braids, that is exactly what I did. This style and cornrows with beads would become daughter’s staple hairstyles for years. Luckily, Nia did not suffer from the infamous bald patch at the sides and back of her head due in part from laying on her back or sides for prolonged periods or the friction of continuous rubbing against her cotton bedding. (A second time mom, I learned that particular lesson with my son.) I knew enough to have a satin throw under her head at all times. Despite this knowledge I remained woefully ignorant concerning taking care of my daughter’s hair beyond the braids and an occasional ponytail. Her hair was thick … is thick. Truthfully, thick isn’t even the word. It was more like a bush of massive amounts of this thing identified as hair and it continued to grow. I would leave these braided styles in for a month with occasional touch ups around the edges once the braids became too frizzy. The less I manipulated her hair, the faster it seemed to grow. When I washed her mane, it was a thing of beauty. My mind wanted to make the connection between water and curls, but decades of miseducation had me fighting what I instinctively believed — water was the key to maintaining moisture, not the enemy. But it couldn’t be that basic, could it? Humph. Hindsight.
After a few months of research, I settled on Just For Me!™ Texture Softener™. When I read the following I wept (major exaggeration) because someone understood my pain:
Just For Me!™ Texture Softener™ offers moms a new alternative to make hair more manageable.
Texture Softener™ works by mildly loosening curly, coarse or kinky hair while maintaining a youthful, natural-looking texture.
During and after the application process, my conscience plagued me telling me I would not be happy with the results and would eventually come to regret this decision. Just recently I came across this promise on the manufacturer’s website (see Figure 1). Its claim is a brilliant and effective marketing ploy, but the truth is when you chemically treat hair, the disulfide bonds are broken changing the amount of curl in each strand. The asterisk in the image states:
* Conclusions from laboratory combing studies on wet/dry Texture Softener™ hair vs. both natural unstraightened hair and conventional relaxer process.
** Sidebar **
Studies? What studies? How many studies? Who were the participants? How many participants were involved? Did these mothers know how to care for their bountiful naturally kinky, curly hair or were they just as clueless as I had been? Doesn’t matter. Companies conduct controlled studies, slap claims on products, draw conclusions and the public generally accepts them. Thankfully, we are smarter, discerning consumers.
** End of Rant **
Nevertheless, I should have trusted my gut. I didn’t like the way Nia’s hair felt immediately upon washing out the “mild relaxer” and conditioning. There was a noticeable difference in her texture. Her curls were looser and no amount of TLC or protein treatments would coax them back. However, my disappointment wasn’t her disappointment. Daughter was giddy, loving the results. For her, this was the next best thing since discovering violinist Daniel Davis. She could not contain her excitement. The flinging of damp hair commenced. She was worse than Willow Smith, whipping her hair back and forth with such furor I thought her little neck would snap and her head would go tumbling across the dining room floor.
Once her hair was fully dried, daughter sang a different tune. While it wasn’t as poofy as before, it still wasn’t as bone straight as she envisioned. You know, flat … stuck to her head like so-and-so. Insert another conversation about loving all of who she is here. Her point, “I’m not saying I don’t love me, Mommy. I’m just saying I want my hair to look a certain way.” Hmmm.
Somewhere over the course of the summer with nieces and nephews visiting and having her cousin flat iron her hair finally achieving the sleek bone straight look she desired, Nia found her hair thinner and too straight. She found herself missing the uniqueness of her poofy hair. Her ends no longer curled when we washed her hair. They hung limp, thin and straight. She rediscovered the cuteness in her new growth, the curly roots peeking out to remind her that she was born perfect. She verbally wished that all of her head looked that way once again … poofy.
We began her transition. Box braids and deep conditioning treatments and snipping away inches in between braiding sessions. During this time a friend introduced me to a YouTube channel that opened up the world of natural hair care and maintenance. I watched videos with the daughter, found other naturals online with similar hair textures, researched products, purchased products and was pleased with the results of some and not necessarily others. In the process I learned that our hair responds differently to products. My daughter’s hair may love a certain product and mine is like, “Wash this mess out and try again with something else.” As mentioned before, daughter has a looser curl, while I have tight coils. Get this … now daughter wants tighter coils, not looser curls. I have to laugh. Will chick ever be happy with what she has? But isn’t that one of the songs of life. Acceptance is key; appreciating the differences, another.
Two years later, November 2012, daughter stood in front of the bathroom mirror. We’d just finishing rinsing out the dc. She stared at me as I asked her the same question for the seventh time, “Are you sure you’re ready?”
“Yes, mom. Just do it, please.”
While daughter’s big chop didn’t result in a TWA, it was still shocking for the husband and some members of the family when they saw Nia. Oh, the comments. Wow. Some were harsh, because apparently we (women) are defined by the length of our hair and not what’s in our head and subsequently shared in scintillating conversation. However, water … duck. Same outcome with the addition of a few insightful comments from yours truly. But I, too, must admit, I was a little saddened at the loss of length that had become synonymous with Nia, but it’s hair and it grows back. And more importantly, daughter loves the versatility her hair allows and the new “grown” look she’s currently rocking.
* Photos were taken January 28, 2013