My cousin’s graduation party was in a few hours. I needed to get dressed, and I needed to do my makeup. But, I had just finished washing my hair, and doing it was, of course, the top priority. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror wrapped in a towel and looked at myself. My locs were wet and dangling down, nearly sticking to my neck. I opened the bathroom cabinet, taking out the Black Vanilla oil and Shea Moisture Loc Butter, preparing myself for another re-twist that would surely last around 2–3 hours. I sighed, until the voice in my head spoke.
You should cut it off, it said. This was something I had been considering for quite awhile, but the only difference this time was that I would actually act on it.
For me, the big chop represented the closing of a chapter in my life that I didn’t know I needed to be over. While I always took pride in being natural and taking care of my hair properly, it was as stressful as ever. I was constantly worrying about appearing presentable and neat more than anything else. I’d spend long hours in the mirror striving for perfection and nearly driving myself crazy over it. I was trapped in an endless cycle that I didn’t want to be in. So, one day, I decided to take matters into my own hands with a pair of scissors. From there, I started to gain my freedom.
For such a long time my hair had been a large part of my identity as a black woman, and it still is. However, I needed to learn that I was more than just that. I wanted an escape from it all. Neither external not internal beauty can be defined by how much hair a person has on their head. When I cut my hair, I was apprehensive to say the least. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, or if I would even like it at all. But I told myself that I would teach myself to love it no matter how it came out. Surprisingly enough, I was more than pleased with how everything looked after my scissor happy moment. My personality didn’t revolve around what sat on top of my head, but rather, what was in my soul.
With each snip, I started to feel more and more relief.
With so much emphasis put on my hair over the years, I hadn’t found time to do much else. The culture that surrounded me taught me that it was completely normal to relentlessly braid, twist, comb, or brush. It taught me that the only thing worth worrying about was a long mane instead of a healthy scalp. Standing for hours and dealing with aches and pains meant that you were doing amazing, even though the long term effects weren’t necessarily good for you. I chose to ignore that and choose comfort for once, no matter what people would say. Sure, I got some not-so-positive reactions, but I didn’t care. My grandmother told me that she was disappointed in what I had done, and a friend of mine simply told me that I was “crazy” for doing something so erratic. Their words didn’t affect me. I had grown tired of trying to meet the expectations of others when it came to appearance. If I was going to appear as anyone, it would be myself. It was about time that I started to fall in love with all aspects of myself, from head to toe.
I was now practicing self-acceptance to the fullest extent and gaining the confidence that I needed to grow. With my hair out of the way, I could be more productive, carefree, and overall — happy. Instead of looking at beauty standards for something to aspire to, I looked at the stories of women who had gone against the grain with no regrets and ultimately changed their lives for the better. I stopped worrying about what was being pushed on social media or what was in magazines. I figured that as long as I retained my physical and mental health, then I couldn’t be brought down no matter what. The big chop was giving me the transformative experience that I needed before I started college — the character and maturity I required before taking that big jump into the ocean of adulthood.
(Featured Image: Sanaa Lathan in the Netflix Original ‘Nappily Ever After’)