Braid Boy: A Growth Anniversary
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Nothing without intention. Do nothing without intention.
Today, my weeks look like this. Sunday we wash and condition. Started with an early morning pick and comb out. Tuesday I’ll use my leave-in. Wednesdays are for co-washes. Thursday is a curling smoothie and a leave-in again. Friday we rest. Saturday we deep condition. For the past ten months, my only cuddle buddy has been a durag, then we upgraded to a bonnet. Do nothing without intention.
A year ago today, I came out to my family. It was a process that I wasn’t expecting to have to go through at that time, but I had to deal with it. Soon after, my relationship fell apart due to a lapse in trust and communication, and then my finances went through a serious overhaul. Through all of these events, I forwent a tradition that I’d had since I was a baby— getting a hair cut every two weeks.
Soon after the first major event happened, my soul needed a change. I decided that I’d grow out my hair. I got countless lectures about how much time it would take and how much work it was and how you needed to be consistent.
As I parted ways with a relationship rooted in inconsistency and dishonesty, I made an observation: Since 2013, I have always talked to someone. There’s always been a phone number to text, someone to go on a date with, somebody was always there to entertain. And after entertaining someone who did not deserve me at all, I made the executive decision to entertain myself.
The lesson goes: if you can take care of a plant, you can take care of a pet. From that notion, in September 2018, I wanted to have a relationship with myself. A real, authentic, open relationship. And when I thought about all of the ways to get there, the crossroad that I found myself at was the wildest point on my body: my head.
So it began. It was an adjustment. But, I stayed consistent. You have to. You succumb to routine. You wash. You condition. You co-wash. You leave in. You deep condition. You wash. Your calendar now has days dedicated to how you tend to your scalp. Your wallet budgets out the products you need to keep your head healthy. This is a process. This is time. This is intention.
Through the time it’s taken to grow, I’ve grown. I’ve had moments of frustration, of doubt, of joy, and extreme happiness all from the hair on my head. Sometimes it’s an enigma and sometimes it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Through care and observation, my hair has become my mirror. When I’m healthy, it’s healthy. When it flourishes, I do too. It’s been the direct embodiment and expression of myself, and though the growth process is not always fun— you learn these core values: patience, love, and intention.
So what’s the big deal? You’ve got oh so much love and oh so much patience… But the truth is, having hair puts you in a new category.
A family of people who’ve experienced the patience, the love, and the growth. A family that speaks a language of durags and headscarves. We have long discussions about how we condition. We have disagreements on products. We know what it's like to accept the switch up from brushes to picks.
A family that gives you an affirming nod of approval when your curls are popping because your head was wrapped up for 48 hours. A family that knows what it’s like to explain to white people that they can’t touch your hair. A family that deals with the commentary about switching up hairstyles frequently— from parts to cornrows to twists. A family of people that has to contemplate what their hair will look like the first time they meet a new group of people because the locks on your head are now an automatic extension of who you are because you’re colored.
Now, why do we go through it? Especially the brothas? What’s so fascinating and so deep about the relationship with our scalps?
In 2019, the most radically poetic thing a black man can do is grow out his hair. Think about it: black people, especially black men have always been conditioned to be well groomed. That’s always meant having a short, clean shaped hair cut. I’ve always been taught that having hair was unruly. Unacceptable. Unkempt. But who really started this image of what was acceptable and what was kept? We all know where it came from… But, breaking these societal rules and redefining what is acceptable is the goal and the objective.
I’ve been surrounded by so many black men who’ve taken this journey. And it’s honestly moving. Seeing black men in media who’ve also joined the club is even more reinforcing. What does it all mean? How did we get to the place where we all collectively decided to take on this journey, and enter a space where you’re forced to pay attention to the most important person: yourself.
We got tired of being told what to do.
Hair is one of the most interesting topics when it comes to masculinity. From the time I was a boy, I was always taught that it was weird for boys to have long hair. Let’s unpack that. It’s weird. For boys. To have long hair…. The image of what is masculine and what is acceptable has always been fed to us, especially men of color. Lots of people who take on this journey just get tired of people telling them how they're supposed to look. It’s time that we take that image of the acceptable man, and replace it with a real image of true masculinity, confidence, and diversity. Black men have hair too. Stop putting us in boxes.
It was time for a change.
When life throws you some curves, it just might be time to let your cousin braid your hair... or get a whole new haircut. It also might be time to step away from the clippers for a while.
I remember telling my barber that I was going to grow my hair out. It was weird going to the barber every two weeks and only getting a lining.
We learned what patience meant for us and listened to our guts.
This shit takes time, man. And a whole lot of money. But, stay the course. I know I want my hair to be a certain length, so I’m stuck letting it grow until it gets there. Some people know what that length is for them already and sometimes you just find out as the process goes on… But give it time. You’ll know what feels right.
You find a community that supports your goals and visions.
At about a four-month check in with my barber I was so close to just saying, “Man cut all this shit off.” I had an awful day, but he was like Nah. He lined me up and sent me home. Find someone who keeps you honest. Despite all the bad days. Don’t lose sight of your goal.
And.. we sat back and rode the ride as the unintentional became an intentionally long overdue glow up.
Sometimes the process starts unintentionally, but over time it begins to mean something. I’ve heard lots of people say I just started, then over time I grew to love my hair and it meant something deeper. The metamorphosis of that relationship is one of the most beautiful, organic feelings. If you know what that’s like, I salute you.
This is the first time in my life where I’ve been the most independent and sure of myself. This relationship with my hair has given me new confidence and has shown me who I am. So, if you wanna get closer to you, your answer might be on top of your head. Give it a go. And maybe a year later you can join the club, let your head hang out the fuckin’ window, and let your hair down.