It's a question I haven't really figured out the answer to.
Is it "ok" to go the extra mile to grow your hair super long as a Black woman?
Does trying to grow your hair as long as possible indicate a lack of self esteem (I'm not good enough as is), a negative fixation (I must focus attention on percieved improvement of my outer self), too strong a focus on "European standards" of beauty (long hair is beautiful hair, whether "flowing" or not)?
Is it simply an experiment so to speak (to prove to ourselves/others that Black hair really does grow), a style preference (I just like long hair on me), or a side effect of healthy hair (healthy hair happens to grow long if you don't cut it)?
I must say that personally, I like to hear "your hair grows fast." It's not entirely true. My hair grows the average 1/4" or so per month. That means in a year, my hair will be about three inches long.
The reason I like it is because it is always said with a positive undertone. It is always said as a compliment, and I appreciate that.
Another reason I like it is because it is often said with hope and/or inspiration, by people who either a) are considering going natural or b) people who are uplifted by healthy natural hair. Some of those in the latter category are new naturals waiting for their hair to grow longer, and others are those whose hair is longer than mine who can reminisce on the length of my hair.
There is another reason I like that my hair is often percieved as growing fast. I do like the idea of proving that natural hair does grow. I like the thought that people see my hair growing and coming along just fine, new styles emerging, etc, not staying "sucked up" to my head as people sometimes envision natural hair does.
I really don't do much to encourage my hair to grow faster, though I have been tempted to do so. I have seen many people do "grow out challenges" online, and I am slightly curious as to how long I could get my hair to grow, in how little time. At the same time, at this point I'm just not interested enough.
Now that my hair has been long - by my standards - when I had my shoulder length locs, I'm really just not that interested. Though I didn't loc my hair in order to grow it long, I had grown accustomed to having what I considered a lot of hair. If I had never grown my locs to shoulder length, I'm not sure I wouldn't be more interested in growing my hair long right now. In fact, part of the reason I chopped it off was to make sure I was still ok with short hair; that I hadn't gotten caught up in the long hair = femininity trap.
Turns out, I struggled for the first month or more. After the newness of my ultra low cut wore off and reality set in, I did feel less feminine. I did feel insecure. I did find myself counting the number of heads that turned versus the number that did when I had longer hair. I did wish I could sew my locs back onto my head. I didn't feel any of these things all the time, but it was often enough.
After four years of naturalness and four years of locdom, I had not become immune to the fears that most women face with regard to our external beauty and femininity. Thankfully, after going through the internal transition (again), I have once again embraced my hair as is, just-about-bald short, shoulder-length long, or in between.
I will most likely loc my hair again, but my chop was a big part of my journey, due in part to my need to confirm that my self image is only attached to my hair to a degree that I'm comfortable with. After I did remove the facade, I took the time and effort to sure up the weak spots in the foundation. I am now more comfortable with me than ever.
Say it with me: me is me, and that's all I need to be.
I must admit that some of the websites dedicated to growing long hair make me cringe. Particularly those that I feel are misleading, those that play up the ability to swing and flip long hair (which the majority of natural hair just won't do, at least not as presented on the websites), and those that emphasize elaborate routines to grow long hair without ever discussing mental wellness and/or the overall health of the hair.
Though healthy hair may lead to long hair, long hair is not always healthy hair. Discussing mental wellness is of course my personal preference and not for everyone. Still, I believe the why (or why not) would be great to discuss, in addition to the how.