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FEATURES Apr 28 2012 6:31PM
School Daze, "Good and Bad Hair"

To Relax or Not to Relax: That is the Question

by Shaunequa Brathwaite, Temple of Glam

When I think of natural-versus-relaxed hair, I think of freedom (a la jumping into a pool with no flat iron or blow dryer in sight). I also think of the Good and Bad Hair (“Straight and Nappy”) scene from “School Daze”. So, why do I debate going natural every three months?

Honestly, I don't know if there's an easy answer, but I can offer some of my thoughts on the topic.  And since “The List” works for super-important decisions like: Thai/Italian...break up/ stay together...do the laundry/buy a thong, this is a great time to use it. Welcome to my inner monologue.

Au Naturale

1. Natural Chicks Just Seem Happier

Call it a generalization. Go ahead; you don't scare me. Look, I recently found myself at a dinner party and I was the ONLY girl with a relaxer. No lie. The natural girls were so warm and inviting. I kinda' felt like getting my friend's clippers and doing "the big chop" as I crunched on crudités. Plus, just look at the ladies in the picture above. They’re happy...even in shiny, red spandex.

2. I Dig My Curls

As my curls grow in, I'm consistently enthralled by them. I play with my coiled locks as I think, work and watch old episodes of "Martin". I love the idea of working out and not thinking about my “edges”. And though I’ve been told natural hair can be as exhaustive as relaxed hair (one word: shrinkage), I still kinda’ dig the idea of exploring my natural hair.

3. My Scalp Is En Fuego 89% of the Time

There's a school of thought that seborrheic dermatitis is caused by relaxers. As the dinner-party-natural-hair crew surrounded me with their patchouli love, I revealed my skin disorder to them and one of the ladies assured me that she had it and it ceased as soon as she went natural. Could I possibly rid myself of the pain, relentless itching, hair shedding and grody, scaling skin forever? Um...why am I still relaxing my hair again? Oh yeah…here's why.

Oh, Relaxer!

1. Every Fashion Magazine Says I Should Keep My Bob

I’ve worn my hair in a bob style since my sophomore year in college. It’s like my thing. Every beauty guru since, like forever, has said that chicks with long faces should never have hair that is too short or too long. Think about it. Most women with buzz cuts and pixies (think Halle Berry and Natalie Portman) have heart-shaped faces. True, natural doesn’t have to mean super-short hair, but I’m an extremist; I’d start from scratch.

2. I’m a Creature of Habit

Let me keep it really, real. I know how to deal with my relaxed hair when it rains, when I have a comb and no wrapping pins and when my ends are crunchy. And as much as I joke about frolicking in a garden with other natural girls, I am a natural girl (on the inside). I am organic shea butter. I am tea tree oil. I am Whole Foods at lunch time. Iamnotmyhair!

3. Return of the Seborrheic Dermatitis

Some women with natural hair have seborrheic dermatitis. If I cut off all my relaxed hair and the symptoms persisted, I'd really be stuck. My gut tells me it's a lot easier to camouflage the symptoms with straight hair that can be pinned up and stuff. If I cut it all off, it’s like Boom: oily flakes and other follicular maladies.

Who knows? I’m pretty impetuous; there’s a chance that one day I’ll wake up and (literally) “chop it up”. If I go natural, it’ll be because that’s the look I want to rock…or because my seborrheic dermatitis won the war. It will not be because I truly believe cultural/gender liberation lies in the state of one’s hair.

Maybe you've been in my shoes. Maybe you know someone who has. Got any advice for me? Either way, muse on this little ditty with me!


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