Inches to Progress: My Journey Back to Natural Hair — Depression

“The first recipe for happiness is: avoid too lengthy meditation on the past.” 

— Andre Maurois

I still wasn’t sure what I had signed up for when I sat down in the chair to get my hair washed. I had done it so many times before — as any African American woman surely has — with extreme nervousness and uncontrollable anticipation.

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My hair the morning before my sew-in (front view).

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My hair the morning before my sew-in (side view).

But today I was not just getting my usual wash and a press. Instead, today would be the day I was getting my first weave.

“So what exactly happened with your hair?” the hairdresser asked me as she tested the water temperature on my hair. The cool water running through my damaged hair was comforting, but the familiar question was not.

I don’t think I will ever be able to definitively and confidently answer someone’s question when they ask, “So what happened?” Part of it is my pride. Another part is my annoyance at receiving the now too familiar inquiry. The final, and probably most significant, part about it is my utter disillusion at the situation.

I took a deep breath and let the water cool me down.

“They gave me a perm in L.A. and my hair just didn’t like it,” I said and chuckled, hoping we would move off of the subject quickly.

“That has got to be one of the most disrespectful things a hairdresser could do to a client,” my hairdresser said, referring to my unwanted perm.

“Tell me about it,” I scoffed under my breath. But all that was going through my head at the moment was I knew I shouldn’t have let them touch my hair.

Since beginning my perm fiasco back in late 2012, I had never found a week when I didn’t find something to complain about with my hair. It was either too thin, or too short, or too ugly, or too difficult. For just being dead strands, my hair caused me much worry and stress.

Through it all I just wanted my hair back. And now, in a way, I was getting it back — albeit it was not my natural hair. I had gotten the idea to get a sew-in from the Internet. Many websites said that my hair would grow back quicker and healthier when it was braided and no heat was applied to it. My intuition told me I needed to get a weave to get my natural hair back.

I scheduled an appointment for December 18 — two days after I got back from school — and when I would be back in Chicago and in my comfort zone.

To me, getting a weave was uncharted waters. When I was younger all I heard was that I had beautiful long hair. Everyone told me I would never need a weave. My grandmother always shook her head when someone suggested it. The message came across loud and clear: Jordyn would never need a weave.

IMG_2332And now here I was in the hairstylist’s chair with two packets of 10 inches of Remy 1B hair to be sewn into my scalp. The process seemed simple: my hairdresser would braid my hair in cornrows, leave the top part of my hair out so I could part it and then thread the weave into my cornrows. After three hours and more than $200 I would have the hair that I had been wishing back.

But something didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t want to feel like I was adding hair because I had to. I wanted to feel like this was an option I chose.

But did I choose this?

I didn’t choose to get the perm. I didn’t choose to have damaged hair. So for those reasons I guess I should use this situation as opportunity to try out new hairstyles. Sew-ins, box braids, chop it all off.

But I would never got that extreme. Getting rid of all my hair? No.

Ow. My scalp was tender as she braided my hair. I wasn’t sure if I was making the right decision, but I knew I had to make one.

Then the threading process began. My hairdresser talked me as she added inches of hair to my braids. We talked about life, my plans for the upcoming semester, and we listened to the new Beyonce album.

My chair was turned away from the mirror so I wasn’t able to see what my hair looked like. Instead I focused on our conversation. She asked me for my goals for the future. Where I saw myself working when I became a professional journalist. She asked me about my friends.

During our three hours together we weaved together stories of our lives. I grew to know her. She grew to know me.

Before I came to the hairdresser today I looked at old pictures of myself. My hair was long and flowing. I was happy. Part of me, hoped that getting hair installed would bring back that happiness. The other part knew sadly that the extra hair wouldn’t change my disposition.

Despite the confidence that I attempted to project, deep down I was heartbroken. I was always positive and personable, but my hair definitely gave me extra confidence. It’s easy to feel beautiful when the world reinforces it to you everyday when your hair looks full and long and flowing.

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My hair after I got my weave installed. This was my first time my hair was weaved.

“Here, you go beautiful,” my hairdresser said as she spun my chair around towards the mirror. “What do you think?”

I took a look at my hair. It flowed past my shoulders and was laid to perfection. I loved it. But did I love it because it was hair or because the change was my decision?

“It’s perfect,” I said beaming. “Just what I wanted.”

But in my head, under all this new hair, I knew the confidence was weaved in with it as well.

This is the fourth part of my series on growing my natural hair back. Though seemingly trivial, this journey has shaped me as a young adult in many profound ways and in several facets of my life. The next one will run on Saturday, February 1, 2014.

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