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July 6, 2012

Girls with Curls

lauren n. williams

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Subject

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By Lauren N. Williams

It was pouring rain on a miserable summer morning, and I could barely muster up the energy to peel myself out of bed, let alone wrestle with my hair. Every day I pressed my naturally kinky pixie cut with a flatiron, regardless of the forecast. Though I'd had the help of a chemical relaxer to straighten my coarse curls, I still felt the need to fry my hair into submission.

My hair epiphany: All of this prep in the middle of a monsoon felt, in a word, absurd. I knew the minute I stepped outside that the humidity alone would have its way with me. I glared at the mirror and wondered, Would it really be that bad to ditch all this maintenance? Fed up with my exhausting regimen, I made the decision to divorce my relaxer and, for the first time since I was 10, go au naturel.

As a child, I believed that straight hair was more beautiful and kempt. Black women with nappy hair weren't represented positively in the media, and most of my family and friends used relaxers like a rite of passage.

The first step of my transition was to stop getting a chemical touch-up every month. After four weeks passed, as my hair began to show a striking difference between the newly grown curly locks and the straight ends (kind of like dark roots on a blonde), I stopped fearing the elements and even began exercising, no longer worried about mussing up my style. I felt so liberated by the new look that one day, armed with shears, a Beyoncé album, and my best friend, I chopped off the remaining four inches of my permed ends. What was left was a baby-soft mini Afro, uncompromised by processed hair. I wanted to celebrate over cocktails, so I put on my highest heels, whipped my new head of hair around, and embraced a new me.

Sure, I had doubts. But despite my worries, everyone raved about my hair. The feedback was so overwhelmingly positive that it made me question why I'd had such a hard time embracing it in the first place. I had to challenge my own ideas of beauty before I could accept a new standard for myself.

Watching my hair change over the past year has been an exercise in self-love. Mustering up the courage to let my natural hair grow out is honestly one of the bravest things I've ever done, and I'm happy I stuck with it. Bring on the monsoons.

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