Featured Hair

The Glaring Beauty of Shrinkage

By: Angel Okwuosa

As I stand in front of the mirror, I realise that I can no longer avoid the inevitable. I pull my hair and hear its cries for attention. So with reluctance, I bring out my products. It’s Wash Day.

I am very hesitant when it comes to washing my natural, 4c hair. It’s not that I don’t like the smell of my shampoo (which alternates between Cantu and Dark ‘n’ Lovely) or the rejuvenating feel of water reaching the nooks and crannies of my roots, scalp and tips. It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing my coils pop. And trust me, my hair needs all the moisture that it can get, especially at this time of the year. It’s just that…that…um…

I’ve never really been a fan of shrinkage.

I feel like most naturalistas can agree with that, no matter their hair type. Bring up shrinkage in a conversation and suddenly tones become animated as we bemoan our shared pain and ways we tackle it without hurting our tresses. Yet even in the shrinkage, I am encouraged and fascinated.

It was while my crown of coils was out and about that I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled genuinely and without restriction. Suddenly my features made sense.I feel that my hair represents the struggle of my people- my strong brothers and sisters who passed through the door of return and the ones who stayed behind and were treated as disposable servants in their own home.

It represents resilience- despite the times I have mistreated it or taken it for granted it always bounces back. It represents variety- straight, wavy, puffy- I can wear it however I want because there are no limits. My hair represents uniqueness- it’s beautiful how no two heads bear the same strand. And what the shrinkage does is remind me that even though I may veer off track, there is always hope.

I can always go back to my original natural state and start again. If the damage proves too much that water cannot fix, I can just clip it all off- whether it is damaged hair strands or insecurities attached to my physical appearance. I have the power.

I am not my hair…Actually, I think I am to an extent. My hair doesn’t give a full definition of me but it lends a helping hand to those who cannot interpret the complexity I embody.

As my hair grows, I get all sorts of comments about protective hair styling and the dangers of winter, but I am not perturbed. I know that there are consequences to me not moisturizing my hair every second, but I’m willing to bear it all because I run away from the very thing that fascinates yet irritates me at the same time.

I want to be able to style my hair, to be able to tame it to my will, to show different layers of my personality and moods and when I wash my hair, I strip away the fancy twist-outs or blowouts and am faced to look at myself for who I truly am, no longer having the puffiness to hide behind.

As I go under the shower-head, I feel the water permeate my hair, bringing alive the curls that I sometimes cannot believe are even mine. Some times I just pull them down and admire how they bounce back up defiantly, refusing to be put down by anything, not even the bearer.

I never realized my hair’s beautiful potential until a year after the Big Chop. And sure, my motives for going natural were not necessarily afro-centric, but my hair has made me so much more aware of the euro-centric standards that I no longer aim to appease or embody- standards that I had unknowingly or should I say subconsciously been pursuing with futile gusto.

My natural hair makes me feel like a child, like this was who I was truly mean to be. It gives me a glimpse of what the hair represents, of what it really means to take a stand and say to the world, “Imma let you finish with your dictations, but I think I’d much rather stick with what I got, because God doesn’t make mistakes.”

And this includes shrinkage.

Sure, sometimes shrinkage gets in the way of some of my desired styles, and I’m certainly not saying that I will rock my hair in its shrunken stage (because I am not that confident and I have preferences). What I’m saying is that every aspect of my hair is symbolic, including the somewhat problematic yet powerful shrinkage. I am learning to love my shrinkage by looking at the bright side to it. It truly is a blessing within a ‘curse’. I see the beauty in the ashes.

Read more of Angel’s writing on her blog angelokwuosa.com

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Nice to read your piece here Angel! I follow your blog and I must say once again i’m wowed! Great job


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