What hair I wear is none of your business
If you’ve seen me around, you might notice I look differently depending on the week, sometimes depending on the day. My makeup, my clothes, all things that may be used to tell me apart from others. But one thing I enjoy changing up is something that has always been a big identifier of who I am: my hair.
I haven’t always been confident in my hair. My mother tried, but growing up when the natural hair movement hadn’t quite taken hold, I found myself longing for hair that was the opposite to mine. I remember when my mom had washed my hair and asked me if I wanted to go to school with it just out, and I got so excited to see how everyone would react, since at that point, my hair was always twists or ponytails or braids. But my excitement vanished when I got so many dirty looks, with people asking me when I’m going to wash it, or what I’m going to do with it. This is what prompted my first hair relaxer, a painful process which continued until later in my high school time.
For me, going natural was less of a conscious decision and more of a desire to have my hair to be healthy, which doesn’t mean that you have to be natural to have healthy hair. My issue was that at that point in time, through doing my own hair and using box dye, my hair was damaged beyond repair, and it wasn’t helping in terms of styling it. So in December of 2014, after letting my hair grow out a little bit more, I decided to do what was best for the health of my hair and cut off the damaged parts of my hair, making me officially #TeamNatural.
I love my hair now, and I love the process of growing out my hair, but like every other person, I like changing things up. I enjoy being able to change the style, the length, the color, in just a blink of the eye (I think part of that came from all those cheesy spy movies I got to watch). But I didn’t want to damage my hair again, especially now that I’ve gotten in a healthy state. So I found a compromise. Wigs, extensions, and the like. It’s also very convenient in my busy life being able to pop my hair on when I need to go. But I’ve noticed how differently I’ve been addressed while wearing my wigs as opposed to my natural hair.
My white gay coworker came up to me the other day to ask if I got a new wig. I smiled at him as best I could, but it felt so uncomfortable. ‘Why are you obsessed with what hair I have on my hair?’ I remember thinking to myself. Of course, being that we were at work, I told him I did and went about my business. But I couldn’t help but sit with that feeling of being Othered, and how weird that was to feel the same way I did all those years ago, when I got those dirty looks in elementary school.
My hair is something I’m proud of, whether it grows out of my scalp or not. I don’t buy into the stigmas of people who don’t wear their natural hair out every day, because I realize that in our society, it’s not actually an option for a lot of people. But there’s something to be said when every conversation I have to have becomes prefaced by what hair I’m wearing and where I got it. I love my hair, and I’m glad to see that it’s something that can start a conversation. But part of my pride is also the desire to wear it without it being detrimental to my normal day. If that’s too much to ask, then maybe a conversation with me might not be best at all times.