I got my first relaxer so long ago that I don’t even remember the details. The who/what/when/where and why of my first relaxer are completely unknown to me.
What I do know, however, is that for whatever reason (probably work and health related) my struggling single mother did not have the time, resources or energy to pour into maintaining my hair in its natural state. I’m sure she had at least some of the knowledge considering her background in cosmetology, but that knowledge probably didn’t make hair care much easier, especially considering how “tender-headed” I was as a child.
Although I can’t pin point the exact age at which I received my first relaxer, I do have pictures of myself as a child with what appear to be “natural” twists and braids AND pictures of me with chemically straightened hair. For the most part, however, I wore braids.
As a result of these “protective-styling” practices I had relatively long hair (for a black girl) that seemed to experience decent length retention throughout the majority of my adolescence.
As I grew up I began to grow tired of the braids that had kept my hair somewhat healthy despite the lack of regular washing, almost nonexistent conditioning and absent moisturizing. I began to develop more interest in “loose” hair styles that (I thought) were a little more mature and attractive than the signature box braids that I wore growing up that were falling out of style and becoming more and more stigmatized by my peers who saw the style as ghetto, urban, overly “ethnic”, “too black” and other comments that make me want to VOMIT at this point in my life. I vividly recall one friend telling me I looked like Medusa when I was wearing bix braids. As a result, I wore my hair out almost as much as I wore braids and I was not retaining length like I did when I was younger.
I had no concept of “hair care” beyond the knowledge that using rubber bands to hold a ponytail would break my hair off -__-
But then I got my first weave….