Tuesday, March 27, 2012

StoryTime: I Wasn't Ready...But I'm Still Me

I love my hair. I love it when it's wet and fluffy, retaining water enough to soak two towels. I love it when I'm detangling it in the shower. I love it when it's twisted and kinky, or in a slightly lop-sided afro, and I love it when it's straight; I love it because it makes me proud, because it's mine. What I do not love is the responsibility, the burden, the unwanted and unwarranted advice that comes with being a natural haired girl who will occasionally straighten her hair.

Last weekend I finally went into a salon to get my ends trimmed. I've been natural almost a year now and had done most of my hacking trimming on my own; whenever I got out the shower from shampooing and I saw straight, annoying ends, I cut them and kept it moving. I hadn't done more than pick my hair the three days leading up to it and so I walked in with a cloud of curled, kinky hair six inches tall.

When explaining to the receptionist what I needed her blue eyes widened and went from my face to my hair. The stylist I ended up with knew exactly what I was talking about and lead me right over to the basin. Before washing she delved her hands deep in my mass of waves, an admiring smile on her face. She asked me what I did to it and I told her. Soon a few other stylists came over and touched, petted, fawned, and asked general questions. I felt more proud of my hair than I ever had before; these were professionals and they said I'd done a good job so far with the transition (could they have been lying? Sure, but we all know that look stylists give one another that say "Chile, please." None of that occurred.)

Leaving the salon with bouncing, blowing hair, I felt hot. Like literally, my hair rarely laid flat on my neck when in it's normal texture and now it was surrounding my neck and shoulders; this is Texas, it gets hot. It was longer than I ever remember it being; for a year of growth I'd surpassed my relaxed length by nearly two inches. I was proud. I felt beautiful, just as I had when I walked in. It wasn't a big deal; it was still my hair and I was still me.

It didn't become a big deal until I went into work that next day. I'm not too fond of a lot of attention, but with straight hair, I was suddenly a star, bombarded with "Ooohs" and "Aaahs." Everyone wanted to touch it, sifting it through their fingers like silky gold, eyes wide and admiring. Others wanted me to flip it over my shoulder or shake it out. And suddenly it wasn't just the attention I was weary of.

Comments starting flying in. "Why don't you wear your hair like that all the time?" "Your hair is so beautiful like that!" "I'm glad you finally did something with your hair." One woman even told me that I was much more attractive than when I had my hair in that "Afrocentric mess" I usually kept it in. And I kept silent; everyone has opinions, but damn did these hurt.

You see, I don't get complimented on my natural texture much, if at all. Other natural women will smile when they see me, or ask what I use, and brothas love to tell me "Right on, sista," but otherwise? All's quiet on the western front. But these people who saw me everyday were suddenly lauding and in awe of my beauty as if they'd never seen it before, as if with my hair the way I love it, the way God intended it, I was so much less than beautiful. And it hurt deep in the part of me that craves acceptance and understanding. I was the same girl last week, was I not beautiful then?

I wasn't ready. I love the way my hair is, in any form, don't get me wrong, but I wasn't ready for the backlash. I didn't know it would be such a big deal to so many people what I did with what God gave me. And that's when it clicked; these people don't know me and don't give three damns about me, they're just spouting opinions. If they did know me or care, they'd know how sensitive I am about physical critiques. They'd know I wasn't as hung up on my hair as they were and keep it moving with a simple compliments, not ones that made me feel as if I'd been petted and slapped simultaneously.

I won't be ready next week either, when I wash away the silky straight strands and replace them with coiling, twisting tendrils. I already know the questions are going to come. The looks are going to follow. And no one will be wanting to pet my hair, or run their fingers through it as, indeed, they may lose jewelry in it. Instead they'll shake their heads, "tsk" and go on critiquing someone else.

And you know what? I'll still be me. And that is more beautiful than any head adornment one could ever wear.


Anonymous said...

I started on my twitter stream and a number of clicks later I somehow ended up on your blog. I really enjoyed reading your very well written post and thought I had to leave a comment.

As a man, it gave me a perspective that I would have never thought of.

I felt sad as you thought of your colleagues reactions when you "wash away the silky straight strands and replace them with coiling, twisting tendrils". I felt happy that you are comfortable with who you are and that you are strong enough to do as your heart desires.

Keep writing and this guy will keep reading.


I Am Your People said...

This is definitely a post that begs for a hair pic! Congrats on having an easy transition to #teamnatural