"I undertook a process of straightening, burning and relaxing - assimilating myself into something I, and my school, deemed acceptable"
If I close my eyes, I can still smell the acrid chemical fuzz of Dark and Lovely. I am 15 years old, sat in my mum’s bathroom, waiting for the slightly warming heat of the No-Lye Super Strength relaxer to do its thing and transition into a burning sting. That’s when I’ll know it’s ready. The di-sulphide bonds in the strands of my hair will be broken down and re-set. Re-aligned. Ready for school.
There are many things difficult about being 15, but for me, being the only student with Afro-textured hair in my entire school (read: town), was certainly one of them. I undertook a process of straightening, burning and relaxing - assimilating myself into something I, and my school, deemed acceptable.
The day I broke free (kind of - I washed my hair and let it drip dry), my curls began to break through their chemical bars, on day release - slightly less restricted. They bounced, sheepishly, about my shoulders.
“You look…weird?” my form tutor uttered, bemused at best. Three words that had me grappling for the Dark and Lovely relaxer box quicker than you can say ‘uniform violation’.
It took a whole generation later for me to drop the relaxer box and embrace my natural hair. Halo would have been my saviour at 15. To be part of this collective is an honour.