What Does the “Big Chop” Mean to Me?

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When did I big chop?

So after nearly a year of transitioning to natural hair, I chopped my hair off on May 11th – three days before my move to Spain. This wasn’t planned at all and came as a surprise to me. Initially, the plan had been to transition for one more year and cut off my relaxed ends whenever I felt confident with my new length. But after wearing my hair in braids for a month, and struggling to wash my hair thereafter, when the hairdresser and my flatmate suggested I should just cut my relaxed hair off and start afresh in Spain, I decided to take the plunge. My hair is now the shortest it has ever been in years, and I am feeling all kind of ways.

My hair journey

As far as I can remember, I always had my hair chemically relaxed. I never questioned why my hair never grew past a certain length or why it always looked so dull and lifeless. To me, my hair never mattered, I just needed it to get my braids or weaves installed. I never put any thoughts into doing my hair. It was as if I was in auto-pilot mode, I would do my hair every 3 months when it’d become socially unacceptable to walk around with basically weeks of build up dirt on my head – glamorous I know. I would then make my way to any hairdressers I could find and begin the process again: wash (with no conditioning or treatment whatsoever) relax, install braid or weave, keep for months and start again.

Creating new role models

I often speak about the importance of having role models to look up to and learn from. My obvious lack of role models when it comes to hair care played a massive part in me neglecting my hair. My mum had no clue what to do with her hair, let alone mine. On top of that, I am on only child and all the women I could have looked up to in my family either lived abroad or did no really do much with their hair either. It wasn’t until I started paying an interest to other black women online that I discovered the whole new world of afro hair care.

As luck would have it, this also shortly coincided with me meeting what would be my future flatmate. Spending time with someone who had been natural for over 5 years and who could share her personal experience with me made it all a lot more achievable. With her I started unpicking the reasons why I never felt comfortable wearing my natural hair. With time, I realized that wearing my hair “straight” was a protection mechanism and a way to fit in. Although, I had always said I never wanted to wear my hair natural because of how difficult it would be to maintain it, deep down it was a lot more complex than that and fed into my insecurities.

In recent years, I've been so inspired seeing a lot more black women rocking their natural hair. Before that, there was some kind of a tacit understanding among the black community that straight hair was somewhat better. Not for everyone one of course, but in general straight hair was seen as more desirable I think. However, the new natural hair movement has been instrumental in getting me and other women to think about our hair and its hidden significance.

What big chop means to me

Having been natural for 24 hours now – albeit currently wearing braids as I was still not ready to rock my TWA – I thought I would sum up what the big chop means to me. In simple words, big chopping means finally embracing myself and unlearning a lot of bad habits when it comes to my perception of beauty. It also means making peace with myself and once and for all accepting and nurturing the legacy that comes with being African – my unruly afro hair.