Most on-the-go tips for naturals are pretty useful. A good guide typically starts off by telling you to dilute your favorite leave in conditioner in a mini spray bottle purchased at Walmart along with two cheap mini jars. One contains a twirling custard and the other an edge control that any 4B/4C coils would have to mix with the extremely drying Gorilla Snot. Don’t forget about hair ties for longer hair when the humidity wins. Not the thin Goody ouchless bands that enrage the scalp, but slightly stretched out cloth bands that are a little wider and comfier. Next, they tell you to add a mini brush to smooth back fallen curls and carry good hair days pins from Sally’s, the perfect thing to keep short stray hairs in place without irritation. Finally, whether staying overnight at a hospital or trying to save your hair from sudden rain, the guide lists a non-bedroom satin scarf, and you now have yourself a very practical, lightweight, emergency fix it kit. The only thing missing is a sort of mental armor that you have to pull out even on what you think are your best hair days. So here’s your not-so-practical guide.
- Get yourself some tough skin.
No matter how many puffs or kinky curly styles you run into on the street or on tv, you still have to get through the grabby hands of strangers, stares, and that occasional job discrimination that doesn’t seem to go away. The offenders don’t have to be white either. Their most common side comments could be, “Is that a wig,” or the infamous, “Going natural just isn’t for everyone,” but nothing measures up to the outright laughter. But no one just laughs out loud, right? 😒
Similar day to day criticisms can be external or internal, towards you or someone else, and your defense against that is probably the most vital tip that a more practical on-the-go hair guide might leave out. Choosing which battle to fight can be a tough one. Family members that reminisce about your straight hair days don’t change overnight. Challenging someone else’s desire to project their insecurities/ opinions on you can seem necessary sometimes, but realizing you were never the problem to begin with and moving on is freeing. The guide might not address how constant microaggressions from people can take a toll on you and how it’s a daily ritual of adding layers to tough skin just so you can make it through the day, but what happens when you just repeat the cycle? It’s not always the external voices, sometimes it ends up being your own. Try to strengthen that armor by affirming yourself. It’s not always the easiest task, but starting to notice how you speak to yourself and challenging the negativity is worth it.
- Have Patience/ Be realistic. Listen, Linda, listen! This journey takes patience. Not only for dealing with people that will probably never like your hair, but also learning to love and care for it in your own time. You can hold off on the daily length checks. Hair can only grow so fast, and frizz may be a life long companion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a routine that works for you. Rod sets may turn out perfectly when you have nowhere to be, and that other natural’s much simpler routine may be a nightmare for your own hair. Visible hair twins, unfortunately, don’t always get the same results. Those hair tutorials can only show you so much. Embrace the good results and not the failed attempts, but the often long trial and error process helps you find what’s unique to your hair and its needs. And when the same old hairstyle bores you, there’s still so much more you can do. With your own hands or a stylist’s, Black hair can be limitless.
- Find inspiration: Who is Leonardo without Mona Lisa? Sonny without Cher? Ike without Tina? I kid, but when in doubt, look for inspiration. Being surrounded by images of hair like yours can pull you out of a styling rut and even encourage you to love your hair the way it is. To avoid the comparison game, don’t just look for outside influences, take the time to notice what you love about your own hair. Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself of what went right. Taking pictures of the hairstyles you love can help counter the frustration that comes with a bad hair day or boredom. And when you reach your limit, having something to fall back on can be a real comfort. It’s a reminder that the rough hair day, with the right tools and products, really isn’t all that rough at all.
- Have an open mind: Blow the roof off your boundaries. Why limit yourself? Your hair might not be what you expected after the BC(Big Chop), but it’s yours. Don’t be afraid to try something new or shake up your routine a bit. Stretch it out and bump an updo. Throw in some colored extensions. Add a splash of highlights to your fro. Funk it up with some mini twists or a chunky twist out. Do a wet set, a dry set, or a twisted and rodded curly set. Whatever you do, keep pushing the envelope. And never, ever let your hair define you.
Remember that you’re more than just hair. When the braid out fails or the curls won’t stay in place, you can still walk through the day knowing that all that you are is worth loving. Perfection doesn’t have to be the goal; self acceptance is even better.