Some years ago, I decided that I was never again going to chemically relax my hair. Between the ages of eight and twenty it had been a regular occurrence for me, especially so during the teen years. And then one day, I just decided that I’d had enough of that nonsense. I vowed that I would never again destroy my beautiful Nubian curls just to look like my white friends. From that day forth, I’ve been rocking it natural.
I’ve put years into learning how to take care of my afro without taking the coward’s way out and relaxing it. I thought all that was behind me. I thought it was going to be smooth sailing from here out.
But let me tell you, they don’t call chemical relaxers “the creamy crack” for nothing. After all these years of sobriety, I found myself contending with a Hairstyle Crisis that had me struggling not to run for the relaxer like a recovering alcoholic trying not to reach for the bottle after a stressful day at the office.
You see, I recently got engaged. Which means figuring out, among other things, how exactly I’m going to wear my hair at my wedding. And as is true of most aspects of wedding planning, this has been like falling down a rabbit hole of insecurity and self-doubt.
After years of not even considering chemically relaxing my hair, it only took four months of researching bridal hairstyles for me to abandon my principles and buy a box of Dark & Lovely. I justified this purchase by getting the gentle, child-safe application kit and promising myself that it was just a little bit of relaxing, just to have some options for the wedding, not an actual relapse. You know, like the recovering alcoholic from my prior simile keeping a fifth of whiskey hidden in the nightstand just in case.
At the time of writing, my curls remain intact despite the box continuing to hang around my apartment and whisper in my ear like Emperor Palpatine luring me to the dark side. A couple of times I’ve thought it might be the day, but luckily it only takes opening up the box and reading three pages of “WARNING: PRODUCT CONTAINS DANGEROUS CHEMICALS THAT MAY UNDO THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE” to snap myself out of it.
When that happens, I like to take a second to think about the situation like a non-crazy person. If I didn’t feel all this societal pressure to Go Over The Top with my bridal look, and if I wasn’t distracted by battling my old foe, Western beauty standards, how would I be picturing myself on my big day? In a world where I’m not trying to make anyone happy but myself, what’s my look?
As it turns out, that look is a big, beautiful afro.
And why shouldn’t it be? It’s 2020 and I’m not falling back into that old, tired dogma about how natural hair isn’t appropriate for formal occasions. And I certainly didn’t spend years teaching myself to take pride in my curls only to decide that they aren’t good enough for my wedding.
Not this time, Society. Yes, I’ll still be cramming myself into the tightest dress and highest heels I’ve ever worn, and yes, I’ll be annoyed if I only lose ten pounds instead of twelve before the fact, and yes, I’ll probably give in to pressure and wear a veil even though I think they’re ridiculous- but goddammit, you’re not getting my afro.