Upbraided — My Summer With Braids

Upbraided: To find fault with or reproach severely.

The last time I had braids George W. Bush was still president and I had yet to step foot in high school.

There’s a stigma with braids when a black girl pushes past puberty.

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I had braided extensions in the summer of 2007 when I was 13 and visited Los Angeles.

In our society where hair is expected to be flowing and long, tightly twisted cornrows or elaborately crafted individual braids fail to fit into the mold. And when you’re in high school and growing into your own, that’s the only thing a young black girl wants to do — fit into the mold.

So after the summer of 2008 I took out my braids for the last time and opted for getting my hair pressed about every three weeks. Yes, there were pockets of time where I wore my hair half cornrowed and half press or those three months of sophomore year where I had twists. Yet, those hairstyles were always temporary and while I had them done I was always counting down the hair appointments until I could get my hair pressed again.

As age 17 and 18 rolled by most of my closest friends had never seen me with any other hairstyle than my bone straight shoulder length, black hair, parted on the left side. It was simple yet so Jordyn. I was comfortable with that hairstyle. I found comfort in that hairstyle.

Then college came and so did the major changes to my hair. One bad hair appointment took away the natural length and healthiness of my hair. Because I had become so complacent in my regular hairstyle I failed to realize the changes.

I put so much trust in my hairstylists that I failed to question. I failed to learn about my hair. I felt like overall I just failed.

So upon arriving home for Thanksgiving break during my freshman year of college, my regular hair stylist recognized the changes to my hair – it looked like I was given a perm that I did not know about – and she tried to do damage control. But that meant cutting significant portions of my stringy hair. To say the least I was troubled. I was so accustomed to leaving the shop and having shiny shoulder length hair frame my face. Now I just had hair that barely went passed my ears.

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The length of my hair after my hair catastrophe freshman year.

After long contemplation, boatloads of tears and some deep soul-searching, I realized that I either choose the changes that were being made to my hair or let nature try to repair the damage of my past failures. After consulting every person with black hair under the sun, I went with the first option.

The braids were coming back.

I’ve been thinking about getting braids sense January. That’s six months. I was plotting and trying to plan the perfect opportunity to get my hair braided. Do I do it during the school year when I have limited time in my schedule? Or do I wait until summer when I’m around less people…less people who might judge me?

For a hairstyle that came so carefree when I was younger, I felt like I was making a political statement when I decided to get them. I did research. Thought about the work environment I was going to be in. Imagined what my friends’ reactions would be. And then finally thought about myself.

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The kanekalon hair used for box braids.

The night before my hair appointment (which would take 8 hours!) I went to the beauty supply store to pick up my several packs of 1B kanekalon hair, watched a few episodes of Moesha and took several pictures of my shoulder length (sew-in) pressed hair. I was going to do this. There was no turning back.

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Last photo of me before my braids.

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One thought on “Upbraided — My Summer With Braids

  1. Pingback: Dear Lecturer, Let Me Teach You A Lesson In Natural Hair | yapoliticks

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