Holding on to My Roots

Holding on to My Roots

I was never one to advertise or fully accept my history, which was partly because I never knew it. History lessons continually taught me that holding on to my roots was important, but I didn’t clearly understand. I acknowledged a few pieces of myself that I saw on television. But believed overall that being black was a burden when surrounded by non-blacks (in the context of appearance).

Who Am I?

Melissa with a long straight weave in January 2017.

January 2017 – Long Weave

I figured that my pedigree would be better if my blackness was mixed with a different race. Please don’t misinterpret me. I loved being black, but I didn’t think I was one of the “pretty blacks”. I equated beauty with complexion, eye color, and hair texture. The latter of which I struggled with up until this year.

Many girls looked like me but had completely different hair textures than what I had. I believed they had to be bi-racial. They had silky loose curls that could be tamed and smoothed with a paddle brush and a splash of water. While my hair was thick, nappy and unattractive, and sometimes the most durable gels could not keep it in place. 

January 2018 – Fresh Relaxer After Cutting All My Hair Off

The truth is, I didn’t see any women who looked like me on social media or television until a few years ago. And even then, they were few and far between. I took the word of society and allowed them to define my beauty and rank my blackness.

So for the last 10+ years, I’ve craved the attention of people, especially men, who fawned over the Instagram models with long silky hair. My natural hair didn’t grow the way theirs did. To get the look I wanted, I began wearing hair extensions (or weaves – as they are predominately called in the Black community). I played around with the long, short, wavy, straight and even cut my hair all off, until I found the hair that suited me perfectly; the full-bodied Brazilian Virgin curly hair


Melissa with a short wig back in July 2018.

July 2018 – Short Wig

For quite some time, I wore the same hairstyle. Eventually, it became my trademark – it was a part of my look, and it boosted my self-esteem. 

Earlier this year, I started getting tired of the high maintenance required to keep my hair looking as natural as possible. I started going to the gym heavily, in preparation for my nuptials next year (8 Things My Parent’s Marriage Taught Me) and all the sweats and smells that came with working out was forcing me to get my hair done more often than anticipated.

The Dilemma

Melissa with her Brazilian Virgin Curly Hair in 2019

November 2018 – The Brazilian Virgin Curly Hair

Back in June of this year, I scheduled an appointment with my stylist, and at the last minute, she canceled. I surfed the web for hours that day, looking for someone who I could not only trust with refreshing my weave but who could protect my now natural hair (chemical-free since January 2018). This was difficult as I told myself that I wouldn’t and couldn’t feel beautiful wearing my natural hair unless it was long and Nubian-isque. I didn’t see my beauty in my hair. 

August 2019 – No Perm, No Extensions

So when I couldn’t find a stylist at the last minute, I was tasked with a hard decision to make. Was I going to go back to my corporate job for another week with a stinky head of hair, and a tired lace front? Or was I going to take it all out and wear my hair in its natural glory? It was a mental fight. I wasn’t ready to wear my natural hair. But through much debate and persuasion from my fiancé, I decided to get rid of the weave. And almost instantly, I regretted it. I didn’t want to take pictures anymore, let alone look at my reflection in a mirror. My self-esteem plummetted because I no longer liked what I saw. 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

August 2019 – Growth Check

But as the days went on, something changed. Not only did I start getting warm compliments, but I was also secretly loving my hair, and loving myself a little more. I embraced my natural curls, started smiling more, and took pride in styling my hair. I was even able to find products that worked well with my 4C hair!

Learning to stick to my roots for these past few months has been challenging. It has taught me more about my hair, my skin, and who I am as a Black Woman. All these traits make me unique – a diamond in the rough. They make me no better or worse than the black girls with silky curls. If anything, it just reinforces that we come in all shades and hair types. There may not be as much cultural representation in society as I’d like to see, but I’m growing and understanding that not because I’m different, means I’m not good enough. 

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