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Fearing the 'Fro

Can you wear you afro without adornment? WIthout a headband / scarf or hair combs? After years of using chemical relaxers, can you really enjoy every part of the process of going natural?  If you can't, you're not alone. Let's examine why.

No more head slapping, no more burning scalp, no more toxic smell. And that should be all you need to know, right?

Maybe not so fast... After making that decision and beginning the process, you get excited and apprehensive as you watch your new, natural hair growing in. Then what? You go through the processes of examining the new texture for coils, curls and waves, and evaluating against other women’s textures and experimenting with products, looking for ways to enhance and define every coil curl or wave you can find up there. You may even experience “hand in fro” syndrome: the state of being unable to keep your hands out of your hair because you love the way it feels. But eventually, and if you are napptural for long enough, you will let all that go and simply enjoy styling and wearing your natural hair, defined or undefined in all its natural glory.

But before then, there is a time when you start to think about putting away the headwraps, headbands and transitioning tools you have used to tame, hold back or cover your hair.

That’s right, to wear your afro. And that’s when you may experience a little. .. apprehension out of insecurity. And then if you let it, even fear may overwhelm you and you just won't wear your 'fro. You may justify it with things like "my head is too big" or "my forehead is to high" or "my hair is too nappy" or "it's not appropriate for work" (even though you only have a short 'fro)... but in reality and basically, it's fear.

When I first tried to wear my hair “out” to work for the first time, I couldn’t do it either. I “needed” something – a headband, wrap scarf, combs, a ribbon, flower… SOMETHING. And I needed to wear big earrings and needed a lot of makeup so I look feminine enough. I needed to wear something sharp. I needed mousse, gel and spritz with shine. I needed to smooth my edges and add some twists. I needed to define my coils, even it out, make the texture more... something. But I could NOT walk out of the house with just my ‘plain old ‘hair’ and I asked myself why. 

This is where something interesting happened in my mind.  Why does a grown woman need a security blanket for her hair? Because I thought people would point at my hair and insult me. People would stare and make me uncomfortable. There'd be questions asked and unwanted attention.

Every day, all over the world, hundreds of millions of women with Euro-straight hair walk out of their homes with their ‘plain old hair.’ No one talks about their natural hair. It’s just the way their hair is. No one really looks twice and it's accepted as the norm.

But let ME try that, wear MY type of natural hair in an afro, (the way it is naturally) and all of a sudden everybody has something to say about it and judgments to make about ME for wearing it.

This is because our afro-type hair is seen as a curiosity at best and inferior to all other hair types at worst. And much of this comes from within the Black culture in the USA. We don't wear OUR natural hair enough to make it the norm.

Ironic, isn’t it? Here we are fighting for respect, equality and talking about having so much pride in ourselves and our achievements, yet we reject our own hair for another's. What makes it feel OK for a Black woman wearing a straight blond wig manufactured in Korea using hair from India to front up to me and tell me to straighten it or get a relaxer. 

When did I stop ‘fearing the ‘fro’?

I stopped when I confronted my feelings of fear and inferiority for what they were and it was a difficult thing to admit to myself. I had to reject the implants impressed onto me by misguided, brainwashed people, some well-intentioned, who are still caught up in the belief that the European type of hair is superior to ours.

I hold on to the hope that one day, wearing our natural hair will be as much the norm as wearing relaxers, wigs and weaves are now, but I know it won't be in my lifetime.

My advice to anyone going through a little fear over their natural hair is to take it slowly. Do not force yourself into moving faster than you are comfortable with. Everyone works at their own individual pace.

We base a lot of our self-esteem on our outward looks (not a very good thing) and take people's opinions to heart (also not always a good thing). Seek help and advice from others who have gone through the natural process and don't be afraid to ask questions about it.

Nappturality.com has a forum where there are millions of posts and advice for you to read. Napptural women are a very supportive group and we will help you out whenever we can. Sometimes online is the only place where you can get the support you need.

Last modified on Saturday, 18 November 2017 06:05
Patricia Gaines

Patricia Gaines aka Deecoily is the founder and creator of Nappturality in 2002, the beginning of the natural hair movement. Since 2000 she has been blogging on all things natural hair, Black culture and politics.

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