I shaved my head and it healed my relationship with my hair

Tea Mutonji. Photographed by TEAUNNA GRAY.

Welcome to Texture Talk, a column that dives into the dynamic world of curly hair, from free-falling crown curls to neatly tucked up guarded curls.

This article was originally published in March 2022

When the world is exploding, you have two choices: Blow it up or take shelter. For me, the shelter has become hours and hours to digest Instagram infographics, mostly from Black women writing about racism, anti black and, best of all, radical self-love. As I repost, champion, and connect with these women from around the world, a voice inside of me constantly says, “Radical means doing something that scares you.” So I grabbed a pair of scissors and started. Ten minutes later, not knowing what I was doing, I asked my sister to finish the job. An hour later, terrified and crying on the keyboard after seeing my scalp for the first time in my life, I ordered my first wig.

It’s not that I regret shaving my head; that is I was feeling naked. My hair has been completely damaged from years of perm, treatment, and tight braids. I have tried every home remedy to deal with the intensely dry patches of skin that sometimes bleed when I scratch. I visited the dermatologist. But, deep down, I know that big chop is a tried-and-true defense, like rubbing Vicks into my chest when I’m sick with a cold or a broken heart. However, while I wait for my wig, I wear a hat and scarf whenever I go grocery shopping. I won’t answer any Zoom or FaceTime requests unless I’m hiding under a coat. I feel like anyone who sees me bald knows I’m going through something big, and sometimes I can’t help but feel like a cliché: “Black girl messing up her hair. so much so that she had to start all over again.”

Then, right before my birthday, toupee arrive. It was long and sleek and went all the way down to my butt. I feel like a serious, stylish adult drinking coffee after dinner. Actually, I’m a burger and beer girl. Until then, the most expensive thing I own was my work laptop; suddenly I’m wearing something that costs eight hundred dollars. The wig had an immediate effect on me. I feel strong. It’s like a cape, and with it, I can fly anywhere. “Tonight, I’m a different person,” I tell my friends and then flip my skirt over my shoulder like I saw in the movie and order a martini.

Suddenly, I fell in love with the process of preparing for my Zoom calls. I would put out some really cool music and use spray and wax to melt the lace part of the wig on my forehead. I let it dry and then spent another 30 minutes styling my new strands. My definition of self-care used to be seeing a therapist and taking a daily vitamin. But this new beauty routine and action makes me feel like a famous Youtuber asked to guide viewers on her morning routine. It took a lot of care and patience. It forced me to spend quality time with myself in a way that I haven’t done in recent memory.

Three months later, I have seven wigs. They all come in different styles, textures, colors and shapes. I feel special Vietnamese in my blonde wig – a bold choice for a woman who wears only black. It’s surreal. Before long, I no longer felt watched; I feel seen. Get Ready Continues is a fun show for one woman that I have recommended to everyone on my Instagram “best friends” list. But at the end of the day, taking off my wig and seeing myself again, with hurt and patience, is where the real healing takes place.

The first time you see the scalp, you should introduce yourself: “Hello, scalp, my name is…” After carefully removing the wig – always spray warm water on the lace first and then rub, not pull – I’ve learned to take a moment to appreciate my bare scalp and how far I’ll go. I have learned to take care of this part of my body in a way that I never did before. I feed her a homemade moisturizer and mask with mashed avocado, eggs, and oil. It doesn’t last. Contrary to what I thought, my 4C hair grow back in the blink of an eye. I pay more attention to the small coils; I’ve watched them change shape and curl. I feel confident when I go out. When your baby’s hair grows back enough to be braided into a bunch, remember to do it gently and don’t rush it. I learned that my hair is not stiff or tough. It is subtle, like me.

This article first appeared in ‘S FASHION March number. Learn more here.


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