The big chop vs. the gradual transition. This was the question back in 2007. I had been perusing a number of American-based websites (Curly Nikki, Afrobella, and Black Girl With Long Hair to name a few), who discussed and extolled the virtues of transitioning, either through a dramatic "big chop" (cutting off ALL your hair to a style similar to this), or the gradual method (styling your hair in a manner that allowed you to grow your hair out naturally, such as this, this, or this)
I had relatively long hair my whole life. When I was 16 and wanted to do a Halle Berry pixie cut, my hairdresser flat out REFUSED to cut "all that good hair" - eye roll inserted here - so I never got to experience short hair. By the time I was considering the transition, I wasn't willing to give up my length AND my relaxer. So gradual transition it was.
I had a love/hate relationship with braids growing up. Most were good experiences, but there was that one time my micro braids were done too tightly and with too heavy extensions...so my braids fell out. Of my head. From the root. Then there was the time I tried to do sew-in braids - I had my own hair cornrowed, and had the hair dresser sew in braided extensions. Took half the time, and looked just as good - until I was at a school basketball game, shook my hair out of the elastic that held it in a low bun, and had about 3 or 4 fall out on the bleacher floor. I scooped those bad boys up before anyone could see, and stuffed them in my purse, mortified as all hell. So I ixnayed the braid thing for a while, and moved to Plan B - the "kinky twist".
Kinky twists are what I call the style I wore for a year or so. The hair is twisted instead of braided, and I used extensions that matched the texture of natural hair to add some length. It was a great move - didn't take long to do, was just as versatile as braids, and I didn't have to spend HOURS taking down the twists like I did with braids. Here are a few pics:
Swept to the side
Needed some heavy duty bobby pins, but pinning up was very possible
Maintenance was very lowkey - every week to two weeks I'd shampoo and condition my hair and let it air dry. Oil my scalp with whatever was handy (mainly products that were heavy with petroleum - bad choice for me now), and keep it movin'. I'd keep the twists in for about 3 months, then spend a day or two taking them down. Before I had them re-done, I'd do a really thorough deep condition (usually with V05 hot oils), cut a bit of the scraggly relaxed ends off, and peruse my new growth.
What was interesting to me was my shifting paradigm. During my relaxer days, signs of new growth were red alarms that something wasn't right. As soon as my roots would get a bit puffy, and as soon as my edges didn't lay as flat as I liked, I'd have my hair dresser on speed dial. However, when I really settled into the transition, I became very curious and always looked forward to peeking at these new kinks and curls taking over my head.
As curious and interested as I was, I still had some serious doubts. I hadn't been reconnected with these curls since my childhood, and I didn't even want them then. What was I going to do with my head NOW? I'll admit - at times I hoped my hair would come out looking like Joan Clayton's. I wished that it would just grow out of my head looking cute. And I hoped that I would somehow magically develop fingers that could do cute cornrows and flat twists - all the girls who I read about online would throw in a cornrow or two when their hair didn't behave...but then I remembered I was born with two left hands full of thumbs and had NO SKILL in that area WHATSOEVER. As frustrated as I got, I was always up for the challenge, even in light of chuckles and negativity from family and friends. The end result (which I couldn't even define then) would be worth it, I thought, so I stuck to my guns.
Finally, in mid-August 2008, I hit up a Toronto-based salon (not naming names, because the experience was quite uncomfortable and I believe they're out of business now) to cut off the remaining relaxed ends...and was left with this:
And here is me...almost 3 years later, in June 2011:
In part 3 of this series, I'll talk about how I got from August 2008 to now...one of the most eye-opening periods of my life...stay tuned!