My afro is a strong-willed, temperamental, beautiful being with a mind of her own. She goes any direction she pleases, shrinks when water touches her, and stretches only when she has been relaxing under braids or twists for a couple of days. She can turn my outfit upside-down, or she can turn it all the way up.
After experiencing a lifetime of chemical straightening, my afro refuses to be tamed. I let her loose six years ago by chopping off all of the permed ends and allowing her to grow out into kinks and coils. I won't hold her back anymore—now I strive to understand her, rather than suppress her.
We've haven't always been close, but we've come a long way since my big chop, and I learn more about her everyday. Here's what I love about her now:
1. She's Not as Difficult to Manage as My Mom Thought
When I was a little girl, I dreaded getting my hair done. My mom pulled and tugged at my relentless locks with a large pink comb. It didn't help that it had long, close-knit teeth, and that it was accompanied with a harsh grease meant to "soften" my hair. What's worse is that my mom complained about my hair while doing it, so along with the pain, I began to think there was something wrong with me.
Now that I am the number-one caretaker of my mane, I've realized that my afro isn't as coarse as my mom believed. The greases she put in my hair actually *increased* the rough texture. Now I use gentle, all-natural oils and moisturizers that work with my strands rather than against them.
2. She Has Good Taste in Products
She only wants to be touched by the gentlest products. She glides willingly at the touch of extra virgin olive oil, molds herself into any shape with the help of shea butter. She sings sweetly when I massage her with a creamy, all-natural conditioner and calmly detangles herself with the help of my fingers or my Wet brush.
Her tresses hug each other and release into perfect spirals when I unravel them the next day.
3. She Takes Many Forms
It's no secret that natural hair shrinks, sometimes up to 10 times the actual length. My hair is no exception. On wash day, I watch her transform from her lengthy, seven-day-old true form, to a shriveled up pixie–after just one rinse. She springs back and forth when I tug at her wet coils, ecstatic to be close to my scalp again. Her ability to shrink fascinates me.
But, more importantly, I've learned to love my teeny weenie afro as much as my seven-day-old full-size one.
4. She Loves to Be Styled
I love rocking two playful pom-poms, or one large, mountainous puff at the top of my head. High buns and faux bangs are fun, as well as twists with an intricate headwrap style. Styling her is not only exciting and experimental, but necessary—protective styles help maintain her length by preventing breakage.
5. She Is Like a Plant
Her roots grow from deep within my scalp–emerging into an abundance of leaves, developing into a bush of wonder. She needs to be watered and loved to become her best self. She also loves being around other afros. Together they become a garden of kinks, curls, and coils.
6. She Doesn't Like to Be Over-Touched
This goes for me and everyone else. The less I touch her, the more she thrives. The more I touch her, the better chance she has of breaking. Nonetheless, the best thing to do to her at night is to wrap her in a satin bonnet or scarf. She likes to sleep in soft sheets.
7. She Teaches Me How to Take Care of Other Afros
By taking care of my hair, I've learned to style and care for the manes of those closest to me. I enjoy doing my grandmother, cousin, and partner's hair. It's an intimate moment for us to bond over our diverse textures of beauty.
8. She Is My Crown
She is a physical manifestation of my queendom, a bodily extension of my royalty. She reigns triumphantly over my personal style. Through her, I've discovered a new level of self love.