So my good friend L big chopped. And she looks GORGEOUS. And she said what I’ve heard so many other women say: that she feels so free! And anyway, every time someone I actually know [either in real life or on a blog I follow] big chops, I’m a little bit…*struggles to find an appropriate word*. Somewhere between remorseful and jealous. I got my first relaxer before second grade, courtesy of my mom not wanting to “deal with” my hair for school pictures while she had two babies to take care of. Part of me wishes I hadn’t learned that the ingredients in chemical relaxers can eat through soda cans at such an early age–13–and declared myself relaxer-free then [with one small slip back to relaxer-hood when I was 14 in Detroit with my father. Hair was a struggle with no women in the house to help me…]. I guess it would be appropriate to say I was a ridiculously long-term transitioner. I wore my hair heat pressed from that very last “diet” relaxer at 14 until I was 19, with some small periods of wearing my hair out in its naturally curly state in between [read: in the summer or when I was feeling lazy]. Starting the summer after my junior year of high school, I had the world’s most amazing hairdresser, who worked miracles on my hair without using any sort of chemical relaxer. She told me that I had so much hair and such good hair that if I ever put chemicals in it again, she would never speak to me again. With her, I got regular trims with my straightened hair, because my split ends were RIDICULOUS, and my senior year of high school, I even got layers, which got rid of more and more of the hair that had been relaxed.
Then towards the end of my freshman year at Princeton, I washed my hair one afternoon and then didn’t want to begin the HOURSSSS long process of straightening, and decided to go lay outside in the sun on the beautiful day for a little while before I got started. Then I fell asleep and my friend A came over and woke me up to compliment me on my hair, and I remembered that I was outside in public with my hair in its natural texture and freaked out. I gathered my stuff up and rushed back inside, where my roommates similarly marveled at my hair (and the two White ones asked lots of awkward questions…). I realized I would miss dinner if I started the straightening process then, so I had to go to dinner with my hair curly. More compliments. I was intrigued by people liking it, and decided the straightening process could be foregone for a little while…which turned into about 8 months, until my mom demanded that I straighten it before meeting her new boyfriend, and I caved and wore it straight again for another 3 months or so, before I realized that I wasn’t straightening it for myself, and that wasn’t cool. So I made a resolution last January to never put heat on my hair again. And I love it. And everyone knows that story, I know, but sometimes I wish it had all been more INTENTIONAL, you know? I’m such a natural-hair advocate, but I feel kind of like I wasn’t as brave with the whole thing because I had technically BEEN natural for sooooooo long before I decided to GO natural.
I’m pretty sure that all my hair that had ever experienced relaxer was gone before I ever embraced my natural texture as something to be desired. I never had to go through the dual texture/lack-of-length combo shocker. I never awkwardly had two different textures to deal with as I was transitioning–my relaxers never “took” like other people’s did; even with a relaxer in, if my hair came within inches of a drop of water it was back to poofing and curling. So I can commiserate about heat damage, or finding the right oil, or the benefits of co-washing and when shampoo is absolutely necessary. I can talk about styling and what products are healthy and what ingredients to avoid. I could write a BOOK about tangles/knots. But I can’t talk about curl definition, because my hair is just curly [thank you years of racial integration and the fact that I don’t really know wtf I am that produced this hair] and I don’t have to work very hard to define my curls. And I can’t speak to the particular challenges of big-chopping, but sometimes I really wish I could. I really wish I could have felt as intensely revolutionary as that must feel. Although people still saw my choice to stop straightening as revolutionary… Idk. Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. I have so much love and respect and admiration for my fellow naturalistas who rock TWAs. If I had known what big-chopping was when I was 13, I would have joined you. Now, I will just close my eyes and nod in deference when I see you, because my stumbled-upon fro and I don’t feel worthy.
It has come to my attention that some people don’t know what big-chopping it. It’s the act of cutting off all of one’s relaxed–chemically straightened–hair and leaving a very small amount of natural hair, commonly referred to as a TWA or teeny weeny afro. Here is an example:
|Some random internet woman.|