“When laas yuh comb yuh hair?” (When was the last time you combed your hair?)
“Yuh cyanh comb yuh hair?” (Why can’t you comb your hair?)
I've always had what Jamaicans call “long hair”… in truth, it was probably more like medium length as my hair ranged from shoulder to mid-back length. In June 2017, hyped up on YouTube videos featuring women of color with waist-length hair, I embarked on a hair journey. I wanted to see if there was truth to the statement that black women could have long hair. Starting with freshly processed hair, I began my journey to dispel the myth.
Now, if you’ve been following along for a while you know I don’t do anything without research - lots and lots of research. My hair journey was no different. I quickly realized there were two groups of women growing their hair to waist-length:
A. Those who continued to process their hair
B. Those who said goodbye to chemical straighteners.
Those in group A had longer and longer stretches between relaxers, some going as long as six months instead of the recommended six weeks. Almost invariably, those in group A eventually transitioned to group B.
The more videos I watched, the more I researched, the more I realized that chemical processing of the hair was dangerous. Now for a girl with sensitive scalp and low porosity hair who loved bone-straight hair, this meant I was getting multiple scalp burns every relaxer, which was roughly every two months. Every time I sat in the chair getting a relaxer with my scalp on fire I thought, “This can't be healthy.”
Fast-forward to August 2017 when I decided to “go natural” - again. The first time I had lasted four years but that's a whole 'nother story. Initially, the plan was to transition using braids but for whatever reason, the braids were not sitting well with me. Weaves and wigs weren't an option because I couldn't tolerate any of them for any length of time… so big chop, here I come.
I had two hairdressers that normally processed my hair. These two ladies did an excellent job getting my hair bone-straight with minimal burns. One was off the island and the other refused to big chop me to my roots saying she was afraid of how I would react when I realized I had no hair. She cut half my hair saying I should start with that but, I couldn’t manage the two textures. After a couple of days walking around looking like a mad woman and my manager telling me to “do something” with my hair, I decided something drastic was in store.
After watching “big chop” videos on YouTube, I decided to do it myself. I lopped off my ends and went to the barber to have my hair cut into a fade. And then the storm began:
“Why did you cut off your beautiful hair?”
To my husband: “Why did you let her cut her hair?”
“God’s going to sin you for cutting your hair.” Translation: I had sinned against God by cutting off my processed hair ends.
Even with all the naysayers there were those who commended my move and complimented m new look. Until it started to grow - then my hair became “unkempt”, “untidy”, “uncombed”, “dry” (aka “nappy”). I’ll be honest and say that I had heard the stories about women being treated differently because their hair was no longer chemically straightened.
I had listened and sympathized but honestly never thought it would happen to me. I mean, come on, I live in Jamaica! The majority of people here are black! A woman here is as likely to be “natural” as she is to be in a weave/wig or to be chemically processed.
The most interesting thing of all? At least half these comments were coming from women who were natural themselves. How did we get back to this place where wearing the hair that God gave you opens you up to ridicule? Had we ever left it?
How do we get past the desire to conform to societal definitions of beauty? How do you speak truth to yourself when so many people are trying to make you feel ‘less than?
I don’t have the answers for most of those questions, but maybe together we can walk through the process of speaking truth to ourselves.
Maybe the challenge you're having with your image has nothing to do with the texture of your hair. Maybe it’s your weight or the way your nose is shaped. Whatever it is sweet friend I want to speak truth into your heart … our hearts.
1. We are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27). All of us. Not just the girls with the naturally straight hair or the ones that are svelte and look like models. Each one of us were made in the image of God and because we were, we are capable of reflecting him. His grace. His love. His heart.
2. God thinks about us. He does. Ps 139:17-18. There's nothing that God wants more than for us to know his great love for us and to accept the sacrifice he made on our behalf.
3. Don’t get caught up in living your life in the image of the world. It will never give you that sense of completion and true acceptance that you seek. Our sense of completeness comes from God ( Col 2:10). Only when we learn to rely on Jesus - truly rely on him - will we realize that we are fine the way we are.
Please don’t misunderstand me: if you are engaging in harmful practices like smoking or self-hurt, you are not fine. In fact, anything that we do that is counterproductive to keeping our bodies as Jehovah’s temple - a living sacrifice unto him - goes against God’s desire for us.
Jehovah wants us to respect our bodies and treat it properly.
What he does not want is for us to hurt ourselves trying to fit into mankind's sometimes impossible standard of beauty. He does not want us hating ourselves because we don’t fit in.
4. Learn to see yourself as God sees you. God has a complete picture of us. He sees everything, not just the physical I Sam 16:7. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, I know you've heard that verse quoted more times than you can remember… but what does it really mean? It means you're no accident of nature. A bunch of gases or cells did not “accidentally” collide and voila! You appeared.
There is a God who thought about who he wanted t make. He thought about the color of your eyes. The exact tone and shade of your skin. He planned the way your features would appear in your face. He designed the texture of your hair. None of your physical traits come as a surprise to him.
Does he want us to learn to take care of our bodies by giving it the proper nourishment and right amount of exercise? Yes. He designed our bodies and wants us to be in tip-top shape. Does he love us any less because we don’t? Absolutely not.
“Yet I will not forget you.’ says the Lord. ‘See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.’ Isa 49:15b-16. The scars in the palms of Jesus’ hands are there for you, for me, for us.
Isn't that awesome? I hope it encourages you sweet friend to remember that your Heavenly Father loves you … even if your physical appearance doesn't meet the approval of your peers.
Have you ever done the big chop? What was the response that you received? What physical trait do you feel most uncomfortable with? What promise are you claiming today?