As Black women, a lot of our power and perception comes from our crown, our hair. Unfortunately, we are scrutinized to a higher degree because we’re Black and female. While we have so many options (natural, faux locs, dreadlocks, perm, straight, weave/extensions, bald, braids, etc.), we tend to worry about how our hair affects us in the workplace. If we wear braids or locs or natural, we are perceived as “too Black” or unprofessional. If we wear a weave, it can be a sign that we are not proud of our natural hair. These ideas and myths can go on and on and on. While others can proclaim that it’s “just hair,” for Black women, it’s a bit more. It’s how people form their first opinions of us, and our hair proclaims how we feel about ourselves. For some, it’s a political statement that Black hair matters and is not a fad to be used when people want to feel “edgy.”
At the start of the semester, I wore a weave. I’m not the “20-inch Brazilian” type, so it looked natural. It was the same length as my own hair, but without the fuss of sweating it out when working out. The students had no idea it was a weave. When I took it out in October/November, I wore it curly to avoid putting heat in it. During Christmas vacation, I became obsessed with going natural. I decided to cut back on putting heat in my hair. From about December until March, I straightened it maybe once a month. Whenever it was straight, the students would “ooh” and “aah” until I curled it again. Throughout March and April, I did not put heat in it at all. My hair was almost to the middle of my back. I had worked hard to nurture my hair back to health from 2013, when I royally messed it up. My length was LIFE-GIVING, but I knew it was heat damaged from at least my shoulders and down.
Throughout April and May, I had watched so many YouTube videos about the “Big Chop,” but I was not ready at all. One of my first thoughts was, “What would my students think?!” Another thought was, “I’m not going to be able to hair flip anymore!” By then, I had already talked myself out of it. Maybe going natural wasn’t for me. However, I knew that I enjoyed my perm and flexi-rod curls. My stringy heat damaged ends wasn’t doing my hair justice. Then I discovered that I could transition instead of doing a Big Chop.
My transition would remove about six inches, but it would be the road to hair recovery. It’s easier to explain a bob to my students than a whole new Ms. B. My heat damage was not all the way to the top of my head. The bob almost completely removed all of the damage. Since I did an asymmetrical bob, I still have some heat damage on one side, but it’s a start.
My lessons throughout each school year have always been focused on identity and empathy. In cutting my hair, I’ve learned that my hair is a part of my identity. I still remember that day in 2013 when I took out my weave and made a bad hair decision, which led to my hair being chin-length. I cried to my significant other, “Babe, I’m bald!!!” I was substitute teaching at the time, and I was terrified of going to work the next day, afraid of how I was going to be seen with my tiny strands of hair. I survived and none of the students batted an eyelash. As I braced for the scissors to free me of pounds of dead hair, I realized that the cut was not the end; it was the beginning of a new journey. I had to tell myself that, like the students in 2013, my students weren’t going to blink any differently… and if they did, who cares? It’s my hair. It’s my political statement that I am still a strong Black woman whether or not I have a bob, a weave, braids, faux locs, dreadlocks, or no hair at all.