As I've been finding old photos, all the stories behind each style come back to me. Every style I tried was an attempt to find the style: A 'do I could maintain, that would make my hair grow, and that I could feel good about wearing. This hair style was one of those stories:
It started out during 10th grade. I had recently gone after my hair with kitchen scissors and cut it short except for five braids I liked to put beads in. I loved the clink of the beads, but if I turned my head too fast, they'd swing around and hit me in the teeth.
I decided that in order to grow my hair, I needed to choose between either coloring it, or relaxing it (not realizing that because my hair is so fragile, neither is an option). Since I'd been relaxing it and that didn't seem to work to get it to grow, I thought maybe coloring it without relaxing might be the key. At the time, I didn't realize that lightening hair was nearly as damaging as relaxing. Looking back on it, I see how unhappy I was with just about everything my hair was. I wanted honey-brown hair, and I wanted it straight. I couldn't imagine wearing my own dark and curly hair (funny how things have changed, because I now can't imagine wearing my hair any other way).
So I lightened my hair with store bought color until it was a honey brown color, and wore it curly that school year (photo on the left). I actually began to enjoy those little curls, and I even started to think that maybe having curly hair wasn't so bad.
That summer I visited my mom in Kentucky. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my grandmother, who lived two houses down from us. I didn't know this at the time, but my African-American grandmother did not like curly hair. She tried to talk me out of the curls. I told her I actually liked them, and my hair was easier to take care of this way. For weeks she tried to talk me out of the curls, but I held firm. I wanted to keep them. They were my curls, and I saw nothing wrong with wearing the hair I was born with (I still wasn't quite there with wearing the hair color I was born with, but this was a big step in the right direction).
Then one day she tried a new approach. She asked me if there was anything about my hair I'd like to change. I said I did wish it was easier to comb. And then she had me. She said she knew how I could keep my curls, but would make it possible for a comb to just glide through them. That sounded heavenly, but I was worried it would take away the curls. And she said to me "You see, hair like yours can never have all the curls taken away no matter what. The only thing that will happen is that they will just get softer and easier to comb." Those were the magic words. I believed her, and I agreed.
My grandmother got a family friend to put the chemicals on my hair. Throughout the process I asked several times if I'd still have my curls, and she said yes. It wasn't until the process was over, and I was standing in the shower running water over my hair that it began to dawn on me what had happened. My hair hung down like a defeated cloth. I tried scrunching in curls as it dried. Nothing. My hair just fell back down. It lay there. The joyful curls were gone, and in their place hung crinkly orange straw.
Soon after, 11th grade started. The stringy hair hung in my face, so I cut the front down to about an inch with kitchen scissors (photo on the right after lots of scrunching. My hair was much lighter than it looks in the photo). Damaged beyond hope, the ends got lighter and lighter. When they approached a platinum color I'd cut them off.
I have since learned many things about my hair. One of them is that our hair is not lay down hair. Combs do not pass easily through spirited coils. That's just a fact. But the rewards for spending the time it takes to gently comb through wet and well conditioned hair is enormous. It is worth every minute of time I spend with the Denman to have the hair I have now. Hair with spirit means that it is happy and healthy. It sure beats limp and broken every time.