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It was a day that changed my whole perception about myself
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Like we always do at this time, Carefree will take a quick summer break and be back in the fall with new stories to fall in love with. Until then, enjoy this one and you can catch up on past stories here.
I’ve been off from work for a week and it wasn’t until I got the Sunday scaries today that I remembered I even had a job—I was that unplugged. If you’re able, I highly recommend taking PTO that involves nothing but resting, sleeping, catching up on shows and general nothingness. You’re not lazy, you deserve it.
I really took the week off because, chile, I needed a vacation from my vacations. Over the past month, I got to annoyingly say “bruv” over and over in London, eat the most lush almond croissants in Paris, and sip endless rose in the French riviera. It was a whirlwind, and also why Carefree didn’t hit your inbox for the past few weeks (my pre-planning skills are terrible and I’m genuinely sorry!).
One of the highlights? I was in Cannes for work and we reached out to Yvonne Orji (*fan girls*) to do a talk for us on building connection between the diaspora globally. Yvonne is such a great conversationalist and really connected with the crowd—she did so well! Afterwards, a director was grabbing lunch with Yvonne and asked if I wanted to join—um, DUH?!?!
We spoke about relationships, travel, career aspirations, and, of course, being Nigerian all while sipping wine with a rainy day in France as our backdrop. I was so grateful. Overall, it was a lesson on patience and being in the right place at the right time. You’re going to meet the people you need to meet at the exact moment you need to meet them. And you’ll be in the places you need to be at the exact moment you need to be there. Trust in that.
This Week’s Story
I will always publish stories about natural hair because its the one area where a lot of Black women are still not carefree (myself included). We care deeply about how our hair looks and how it is presented, even when it’s to our detriment. This week’s author, Aida Solomon, writes about how she came to love her curls via a certain famous fro. Hoping all of us can experience the same liberation with our kinks and curls ❤️
The Evolution of Loving My Natural Hair
by Aida Solomon
I can remember the exact moment when I began hating my natural hair.
I was in kindergarten and our teacher Ms. Lee had us stand around in a circle to do the hokey pokey dance. For those who may not know, the dance is extremely straightforward with the lyrics directing you to move one limb of your body at a time— “you put your right foot in/you put your right foot out/you put your right foot in/and you shake it all about”.
I was always indifferent about the hokey pokey, but I enjoyed being a part of the collective. But just when I thought I didn’t have an issue with the dance, Ms. Lee told us to, “put our head in and shake it all about.” To give you a glimpse of the scene, I was the only Black child in the circle, in a class of 18 kids. And on that specific day, my hair was locked down in cornrows that my mom braided the night before. I didn’t have a problem with that either but when the time came to, “shake my head all about,” I noticed something upsetting. While all the other girls in my class had long and flowing locks of hair, which now plays back like a slow-motion montage, my hair was strapped to my head. I wanted my strands to sway and move like the other girls did, but it didn’t. It couldn’t. The only thing I could feel was the air hit my exposed scalp as I shook my head. From that point on, I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want to naturally be me.
The first time I ever straightened my hair was magical. It was the first time I had experienced wanting to change something about my appearance and making it happen in an instant. It felt like a cheat code, but I didn’t feel guilty whatsoever. I remember being a young girl, twirling in front of the mirror at the salon my mom took me to, and imagining I was Princess Jasmine or Pocahontas. I was living a dream. No painful detangling, no frizz, just straight, shiny jet black hair. For once, I only needed to use the soft bristle brush. But sadly, that all ended when it came time to wash my hair.
Finding out your beautiful straight hair puffs back to curls the instant it encounters a drop of water was a real Cinderella-clock-strikes-midnight type of situation. I settled back into braids and dreamt fondly of the magical memories. I would put in requests to my mom to take me back to the salon, but she didn’t think it was healthy for a young child to apply heat to her hair so often. After a major failed attempt at trying to take care of my own hair at the age of 10, which resulted in a massive dread nest forming in the middle of my scalp, my options seemed limited. And if straightening my hair wasn’t an option, then I would have to consider alternative solutions to keep my natural self at bay. It wasn’t until the stylist, who was cutting out that dreadful nest, asked my mom if I had considered perming my hair for easier maintenance. I was extremely curious as to what that meant. When she explained that my hair would be straight for up to six months, I was immediately convinced.
Getting my first perm when I was 11 wasn’t as horrific as I imagine it would be today. I remember being so excited to see what beautiful, luscious hair I was preparing to don. The stylist explained to me that the chemicals she’d be putting on my head are strong and that if I felt any burning on my scalp, to let her know immediately. Here I was, a ten-year-old, unaware of how intense a process like this was. All I understood was, soon you’ll have better hair. She lathered my scalp with dollops of Vaseline for protection, applied the mixture of chemicals to set in and told me to let her know when I felt the tingling burning sensation. Once I was all rinsed out, my hair went from full frizz to a Brazilian wet and wavy wig. I was so happy. It began to behave like “normal” hair should. Those six months flew by and as anyone who’s had a chemical treatment like this knows, I was starting to see the stark contrast in curl pattern; the frizzy puff on top immediately followed by the sickly straight stands on the bottom. Once I began to show, I begged my mom to get a touch up. She didn’t feel comfortable with me getting another perm due to its intensity, so we settled for relaxers instead. Relaxers weren’t all that safe either, but from my understanding at the time they were less intense and lasted about 3 months. As long as I didn’t have to face my real hair, I was happy.
As I continued into my teens, I was well into the phase of fitting in. I managed to get my hair straightened every two weeks for the first couple of years of high school. And mind you, I was living in Seattle, Washington—the gloomy, rainy capital of the nation. I was dodging raindrops like my life depended on it. In those first two years, you could not find a single picture of me wearing my natural hair. I was committed but I must admit, exhausted. Worrying about keeping my hair straight all the time, wearing the latest trendy clothes that were way too expensive; I felt the pressure and dread of conformity. But little did I know, the relationship I had with my hair was about to drastically change.
It was junior year of high school, and we were celebrating homecoming week. Each day there was a theme for each class to dress up for. It was Decades Day, and our class was assigned to the 1970s. I was very involved with these spirit days as I was the class president, so I wanted my outfit to blow everyone away. I googled, “Black women in the 70s.” Of all the beautiful images, one singular photo stood out to me, Ms. Angela Davis. Her perfectly circular afro was just the inspiration I needed. I woke up extra early that spirit day. I remember not even knowing how to create an afro but intuitively just feeling my way through.
With the help of some water and my afro pick, I achieved a big, beautiful, and round afro. I walked down those halls with absolute pride. I was still in disbelief that I could get my hair like this. I could only imagine what my peers were thinking. Most thought I was wearing a wig. Unfortunately, I was the ultimate target for random hair grabs, but I was so high from the praise that my focus was solely on how happy I was about wearing my natural hair at school. It was a day that changed my whole perception about myself. Where I truly felt like I was beginning to embrace a new part of who I was. For the first time, I felt proud and accepted by my natural locks. And yes, it was under the act of wearing a “costume”, but it was a beginning that stopped the distaste I had towards my hair.
From that day on, I wore my natural almost exclusively. Braids, twist outs, wash ‘n gos, and yes even my once hated style, cornrows that I ultimately fell in love with. I wasn’t doing it to receive praise or acknowledgement, it was a shift that organically occurred, and I couldn’t feel more grateful for it.
Fast forward to 2020, I had the unique opportunity to partner with the largest Black-owned online store for beauty and haircare, 4th Ave Market, and develop a short video hair series. I called the series, “Discovering My Hair Identity.” After years of wearing my natural hair, I felt that I had yet to truly understand my natural locks and all the sustenance it needed to be healthy and beautiful. This was where I went back to the drawing board and learned about curl types, porosity levels, density, width, humectants and so many other words that, at first, seemed like a foreign language. This journey allowed me to become so much closer to myself and I truly am so much better for it.
While this story is all about the acceptance towards my hair, it really represents the journey we each have to love who we are. It takes time, it will leave you with funny, terrible, and confusing memories. Just remember that they collectively helped you to get you where you are today. Be patient and love your evolutionary journey.
Aida Solomon is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and digital marketing specialist, whose career spans over eight years and two continents. Originating from Seattle, Washington, Aida's work at the Seattle Globalist awarded her Apprentice of the Year in 2014 for her enthralling video series, "I AM ETHIOPIA." Aida loves to explore the many ways that creativity has the power of bridging the world together. She currently works as a freelance writer and marketing strategist for clients in the beauty, wellness, tech, and food industries. When she's offline, she loves to travel through new recipes, and run long distances - paying homage to her Ethiopian roots.