Picture this: I’m standing in line at the supermarket last night, about to pay for my groceries. The casher and bagger are both young African American females with relaxed hair. One of them appears frustrated with her hair (judging from the haphazard way in which it was styled).
The bagger turns to me while bagging my groceries.
“Is that your natural hair?”
“But you use a chemical to get it like that, right?”
“Cause I saw on the Tyra show…”
You can just imagine my expression at that point. I bit back the “Lawdamercy” that wanted to come out of my mouth, and tried to engage the girls in conversation without being preachy. The cashier started to tell me that she was interested in going natural, but “can’t deal with nappy hair.” I tried to explain to her that it takes time to completely grow out a relaxer and transition to natural hair, it takes commitment and patience, and part of that means learning to love your hair’s real texture, regardless of how “nappy” it may be, it’s yours and it’s beautiful…but of course at that point I was holding up the line, my groceries were bagged and it was time to end the conversation. So I just let them know about Afrobella and BVHairTalk.com, and went on my way.
But I keep thinking about the reaction natural hair inspires.
Every week without fail, I get questions from someone.
What products do you use? How long have you been natural? What made you decide to do *that* to your hair? And these questions are usually followed by an explanation. I like your hair but mine would never look like that. It looks good on you but I can’t deal with my natural hair. My texture is too difficult to deal with. Or, I used to be natural but I wear a weave/use a relaxer now because… (like I’m some kinda natural hair police who is silently judging them for their own hair choices).
To which my response is usually, girl do YOU! Please know that you are beautiful. And if you ever have questions, or feel ready to make the transition — visit my blog or e mail me. Then I usually hand them a business card if I feel so inspired (or if I have some in my purse at the time). I try to respond with warmth, candor, and encouragement… but sometimes the questions get me down. Not because I don’t like talking to people about my hair, but just because I find the ignorance about natural hair to be so depressing. It’s astounding how many beautiful, bright women of color have no idea what the natural texture of their hair truly looks like, and just assume that it’s unattractive and uncontrollable without the use of chemical means.
I was inspired to title this post from a previous one — Natural Attitudes, which I wrote in 2007 about the reaction my hair gets in Trinidad. My location and life circumstances have changed quite a bit, but some things still remain the same.
What’s the typical reaction you get to your natural hair? How do you respond to it?