Hair: a woman's crown and glory.
As a little girl, I could not wait until I got to the eighth grade. For my eighth-grade graduation, my mother finally straightened my hair. To me, that meant I was a big girl. I can now do all those fun styles, rather than wear my hair in a more conservative braided style.
For six years after that, I struggled with my straightened hair. I roller set it, I did an "S" Curl (cousin to the Jheri curl) and did a variety of styles, none of which made me happy. Finally, in my junior year of college, I found braids. The heavens opened up and angels sang -- what liberation! Other than the 14 hours I spent in the salon getting the braids done, I felt so free! Finally, I could wash and go. No curling irons, no blowdryers, no horrible smell of chemicals burning my scalp in an effort to conform.
As I approached graduation from law school, the well-meaning older women of color in my circle told me "Melba, you cannot interview and get a job with braids. That is not what they want to see." So, I took their advice, and put the chemicals back at my hair to straighten it. After doing so, I interviewed and I got the job... but I couldn't take the upkeep that straight hair required. Once I had been liberated, I did not want to go back into the bondage of dealing with straight hair. So I took a chance, and put my hair back in braids. When I arrived at work, no one batted an eyelid. I was so relieved.
Then, nine years ago, I made the decision to lock my hair. Again, that was a big decision, because dreadlocks were at the verge of being trendy. No one in a professional capacity that I knew had dreadlocks. But, I was tired of spending so many hours in the chair at the salon when I had a high-pressure job that I needed to attend to, and wanted something different.
The feeling of liberation that I felt when I first did braids multiplied a hundredfold. Having dreadlocks has been so wonderful from a maintenance standpoint, and it does make a statement. I have encountered the ignorance; the "how do you wash that", or "do you wash it"; or ignorant statements being made because of my Jamaican/Trinidadian heritage, "surely you must smoke marijuana."
As I traveled in my loc'd journey, I learned to make my own moisturizing oil combinations, and take a more holistic approach towards my hair. After seeing my mother die from cancer, I started to eat in a clean manner, beginning with becoming a pescatarian, and continuing with my hair. I figured if it's something I couldn't eat, it shouldn't go on my head.
In a way, in those early years, I became an ambassador for natural hair in my circle. It's had a profound effect on others, because when other people of color saw a professional woman in a managerial capacity wearing natural hair, they felt empowered -- the same way I felt empowered.
It is exhausting and stressful to match up to someone else's image of what beauty is. It is liberating when you're able to embrace what is truly yours.
I'm Melba with the good, no, great hair.
Pleased to meet you.
Melba Pearson is an attorney, writer, speaker, wife and Resident Legal Diva. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva. Visit her blog at www.melbapearsonesq.com.
This post is part of HuffPost's My Natural Hair Journey blog series. Embracing one's natural hair -- especially after years of heavily styling it -- can be a truly liberating and exciting experience. It's more than just a "trend." It's a way of life. If you have a story you'd like to share, please email us at MyNaturalHairJourney@huffingtonpost.com.