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Thursday, 10 July 2014

How dare you cut your hair?! My reflections on doing the Big Chop - #ORSHAIRvolution


"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” 

Coco Chanel
 I've always been known as the girl with the long hair.

Of course, I have other attributes, other distinguishing features. But my hair has always been one of the things that others have noticed about me and commented on. Whilst growing up, I heard lots of messages about what I should or should not do with the strands on my head. 


"You have beautiful hair, don't put any chemicals in it!"

"Don't perm your hair and ruin it, like I did mine." 

"You know if you cut it, it won't grow back..."  

And of course, there is the classic line from my dad that echoes in my mind from time to time, laced with religious undertones:

"Women are supposed to have long hair!"

And on, and on. It's always been interesting to me how the hopes and expectations of others seem to focus on those with seemingly "longer" strands. In the grand scheme of things, my hair is not that long. But in my community and culture, hair beyond shoulder length can be seen as elusive for the majority, hence the spotlight on those who get beyond that point, and therefore, on me. I've always had the feeling that having longer hair in my community is a double-edged sword: it's a source of praise and affirmation but it can also be viewed as public property - everyone else feels that they have the right to tell you what to do with it, simply because it's such a focus of attention for them. And the worst thing you can do in their eyes, the ultimate betrayal... is to cut it short.

When I was 28 years old I went through a personal metamorphosis. I was questioning my faith in God, my role in my family and the "good girl " that I'd always been. I decided that I was going to be more real about who I really was and what I wanted from my life. And as a part of that, I decided that I would texturise my hair. My virgin, natural hair. I wanted to experiment more. I wanted the ability to do more sleek styles with less effort and without my hairstyle beung ruined at the mere suggestion of humidity in the air. I wanted to look more grown up (at least in my eyes). So I went to the hairdresser's, inviting one of my best friends to see my transformation. 

November 2008, just after my first ever texturiser


I was totally happy with the end result and the start of a new era for me. I definitely had fun experimenting with my newest accessory! I curled my hair with tongs. I cut a blunt fringe. I dyed my hair for the first time... and again. And again. 


This was how I looked when I curled my texturised hair - and in fancy dress!

This was me pre-hair colouring days with my fringe! I loved this look on me.


I really loved my hair with Red Hot Rhyhm by Dark & Lovely


With little knowledge about how to care for double processed hair, however, my locks suffered and broke. I cut my hair into an asymmetrical bob due to the damage. This was the beginning of my hair journey.

30 September 2010, the start of my hair journey

Four years later, here I am having decided on another major change: doing the Big Chop. This video explains a bit more about this decision: 


 

Ive never had a TWA before... Very few of my closest friends or family even have a concept of what the grown up me looks like with short hair. Much less me. Reactions to the news of my pending big chop have varied from expectant excitement to shock, disbelief, disapproval and sheer horror. So why on earth am I taking this step? 


For one, I miss the health of my virgin hair. When I see my new growth, my natural hair always has a gorgeous shine to it that the coloured and texturised sections just don't have. I use oils to add shine but its not quite the same. I wonder what it would be like to get reacquainted with the shiny waves I remember having, much like wanting to reconnect with a good friend you lost touch with a few years back. 

When I was natural the first time, my hair was always in protective styles (before I even knew what protective styling was): buns, mini plaits, twists and mini-twists were my staples. I never wore my hair out apart from special occasions and had no idea about the online world of information that was available about hair styling and care. Now I know more about natural hair styling options and products. I know more about how to use gels and oils, about defining curls, about curl patterns and the lack thereof. I know more about protein and moisture, and how to keep chemically processed and natural hair healthy. It will be a whole new phase of experimentation to revisit the hair I always had but armed with new knowledge and a fresh perspective. 

Maybe the most significant reason is that it just feels right. I always said I would go back to natural when I got pregnant with my first child at some point in the future. But then it occurred to me: why wait until some unspecified future time to do what I simply want to do? Why do we always put off our hearts' desires for another time? The time is now!

It is difficult to make a decision like this if you are firmly attached to getting the approval of others. And the good girl in me wants that - she wants to glow with pride from hearing comments about how beautiful she looks. But the grown up me knows deep inside that I am beautiful with or without my hair. That beauty truly comes from within. 

This is the current me, just before my Big Chop for Charity! Please donate HERE!

It will definitely be a visual adjustment to myself and everyone who knows me. But the lovely thing about the human mind is just that - it adjusts. We human beings are afraid of change, whether that be in ourselves or in others - in reality, though, it's the only certain thing in life. I'm looking forward to embracing this change; not for anyone else but myself because, after all, it is my hair.

I'm not claiming an indefinite return to natural hair. What I am claiming instead is the courage to carry out a desire I've had for a few years, with no specific plan as to what will happen next! Much like my life, I am not sure exactly what the future holds for me or my hair. But life is meant to be lived and experienced, not restricted by the boxes that we or others create. So I'm stepping out and creating a new beginning. I'm excited for this new adventure and what it holds and I'd love it if you'd join me. 

Love, 

Mary. x 

P.S. I am doing my big chop in aid of the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT). They work to promote bone marrow and blood donation from all communities, but in particular those from ethnic minorities. I'd be honoured if you'd support my goal by donating HERE. Thank you.