On Afros and Evolution

September 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

In August of 2009 I cut my hair. I shaved it all off on an impulse, which is somewhat out of character for me. Usually a decision of this caliber would require days of agonizing, asking my best friends over and over whether or now I should do it, and waffling back and forth before any decision is formally made.

That was not how this happened. It was about a week before my first move abroad. I was 19 and completely overwhelmed with all of the preparations that had to be made before I could get on the plane and go. Among those preparations were provisions for my shoulder length curly hair. I was stocking up on natural black hair products and doing research on where I could go in Paris to find products, not to mention salons where my hair could be done. There is very little information on such things on the internet, or at least this was the case in 2009. I was getting frustrated and anxious. What if I couldn’t find anyone? What if I had to switch to all French products, was I confident in my abilities to read labels? (No.) Would I end up spending weeks wandering the streets of Paris, looking like Buckwheat until I finally figured things out?

..and then I found a picture. It was on accident. In all of my digging around natural black hair sites I stumbled upon a picture of Solange Knowles, who had shaved her head a couple of weeks before.

I can’t explain the feeling that shot through me in that moment. What I saw was not just a hairstyle, or a way to make my life a little easier…it was freedom. I thought to myself: How much time and energy will I spend researching and worrying about my hair instead of enjoying my time the city of Paris? My answer? Too much. 

I immediately picked up the phone and called my grandfather, asking him to lend me his clippers. Then I sent a text to my mother and told her that, first thing the next morning, I needed her to cut my hair. All of it. I told no one other than my mother about my plans. I knew what I had to do, I didn’t want anyone talking me out of it, and I didn’t want to make the process any longer than it had to be. The next morning I sat on a chair in my parents’ kitchen and my mother shaved my head.

This picture was taken of me in the winter of 2010, taken by a friend. It’s probably the longest I allowed my hair to grow that entire year.

I’ve been wearing this style for nearly three years now. Every few months I drag my hand through my hair, feel the thick, soft curls wrap around my fingers, and say to myself “Time to cut it!” and then promptly make my way to the nearest barbershop.

Only, the last time I pulled my hand through my head and thought “Time to cut it!” a curious thing happened: I didn’t cut it. Instead I bought a wide-tooth comb for the first time in probably a couple of years. A little voice said inside of me Let’s leave it for a little while longer. You can cut it later.

It’s been ten months. I have this very short curly afro that is growing into a bigger afro day by day, and I still haven’t cut it yet. I think I have unconsciously, or perhaps semi-consciously, entered into a new stage of my style revolution. A lot has happened in the last three years. It’s almost as if the ritual of going to the barber shop when the curls begin to spring up belongs to another person. A former version of myself. I’ve wandered into this style wilderness, in search of new territory. I haven’t quite figured out what I will do yet. Right now there is not a lot to do. My hair is only a few inches long. The thing about evolution is, it doesn’t happen all at once. There is still time to figure it all out.

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