It was his birthday weekend. And we had a great time despite the unsettling attention. We let it roll off!I used to wonder why @Nisus seemed so obsessed with her hair. Being the supportive boyfriend I am, I just got used to it. I didn’t ask many questions about why; instead I chose to accept it as something she is in to. But this weekend I caught a glimpse into the why. I always thought it’s just hair, but this weekend I learned, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s more than just hair, maybe it’s how Nisus is perceived and representative of how all people who sit outside expected norms are perceived: with curiosity, sometimes, with amusement, and mostly, with a healthy dose of ignorance.
The first interaction was when we checked in the Bed and Breakfast. At first she was amused by Nisus hair. She loved it. In fact, this older white woman had a daughter with hair just like it, curly and everything, except her daughter’s hair always looked horrible. She wished her daughter could get her hair to behave like Nisus’ hair. Nisus suggested some products her daughter could use but, no, her daughter had tried them all and it was just a curly mess. All the time. I’m used to people checking Nisus’ hair out so I didn’t think anything of it. Plus the innkeeper seemed nice enough. But after the trip, I wonder, is it that her daughter looked a mess or was it the simple fact she had curly hair that created the disapproval? Was it the shock that curly hair could actually look good as it did on Nisus head, which led to her loving Nisus’ do? Or was it that she truly appreciated Nisus hair?
Later that evening we encountered a most obnoxious couple at the bar. The man sat down and the first thing he said was “Your hair is kick ass!”. Macho Man Randy Savage voice and everything. I kid you not. The woman co-signed. Oh, yeah, she loved it too. The man said “I love it, but really, how long does it take you. It looks great but you must spend all day on it. Like, you wouldn’t get in the water with that.” I’m thinking you’ve got to be kidding me. This man has got it all twisted. I thought about my ex girlfriends with weaves and perms etc and how they would never get in the water and might even dread walking on the beach because of the heat and wind, and water in the air, and how those girls sometimes spent hours getting it “right”. And this dude thinks Nisus’ ten minute wash and go is labor intensive. The irony of it all…
Nisus assured him she would get in the water with it. Maybe she’d twist it or put a braid in or something like that, but she’d get in, no problem. He must’ve heard somewhere black women spend hours on their hair (lots do) just for some delicate “do” quickly undone by the elements, and since Nia was black and had curly “black hair”, she must’ve spent hours too. But dude, you got it all wrong. He looked at me to co-sign. “How long does she take? Seriously?” I assured him it wasn’t long. I wanted to shake the guy. So if you are out there straightening and perming your hair, at least one white man out there thinks that’s how it comes out your head because the high maintenance “do’s” which require extra work are curly fyi.
Then there were restaurant patrons or passersby interrupting our meals or beach strolls to say how they just had to say something about Nisus’ hair; the woman who rolled her car window down to say “Oh my god I LOVE your hair”. Then, of course, there were the obnoxious teenagers which screamed “AFRO!” as they drove by.
It got really weird.
Shortly after we were looking for a bank and Nisus was rushing ahead of me because I like to take my time on vacation. I noticed people were passing her, turning around as they passed her, and then talking amongst themselves like “did you see that?” A lot of people were doing this. So much so I took to making faces at the people when they emerged from the spectacle that was Nisus’ hair by sticking my tongue out, making googly eyes, and displaying other manners of silliness.
Cool as Cape May was, it was a bit unsettling to me. And I wasn’t even the one being gawked over. I guess the reason for my discomfort is these people know very little about us—black people. If they can’t grasp our hair is different and it is indeed just hair and should not under any circumstance evoke such strong emotion, positive or otherwise, what hope is there for understanding in some of the more nuanced cultural aspects which make black people unique. I kept waiting for someone to comment on how well spoken, articulate, and clean we were a la Joe Biden. But then again, maybe I’m over-reacting. Either way, Nisus and I just wanted to enjoy the vacay and the constant commentary got tired after the—no exaggeration— 11th remark in two days. I kept track, though I wish I had counted sunsets or Seagulls.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My Man- vs the masses
Guest post by my Boyfriend :-) ♥♥
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You said it well! I am glad you had a chance to observe what it means to walk in her shoes, or at least to wear her curls. I love supportive boyfriends/husbands. I'm smiles all day after this post :)ReplyDelete
This perspective was really refreshing and honest! Thanks for sharing, don't know too many boyfriends/husbands who would delve into such a heated topic. I love Nisus' hair, think it's beautiful in shape and texture, shame other folks can't equate this sense of beauty with ppl of color.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed reading this post... black men blog?! how long did it take you to do this?! (kidding) For real, though, this was well-said. It's great to get the male/boyfriend/husband perspective.ReplyDelete
Loved this post! It's so nice to see a black man supportive of his woman's natural hair. I'm single, and so many times I've been asked if I think my being natural has anything to do with that. Uhhh, no! There are natural women with husbands & boyfriends. When my prince comes along, if he is the one, he will love me, kinks & all.ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed reading this post. I have not had quite as many comments, but I did have my boss tell me I had big crazy hair. (He is white and I am the only black woman in the office) I merely said thank you and we moved on. As more women embrace their curls maybe we won't be an anomoly. That said I, the post made me smile as I enjoyed having a black man's perspective. :)ReplyDelete
Sorry, but I think I would be more offended if someone whom I had just met made a random remark about how 'clean' or 'well spoken' I was, as if it's surprising or rare that a person of color could be that way.ReplyDelete
I can definitely understand how it would feel awkward to have people turning around and gawking at your hair, as if they thought they had just spotted an alien or something. However, lets face it, there AREN'T a ton of naturals out there. Your hair (which is fabulous!) is something that people don't encounter every day, and the fact that so many people loved it is just further proof that natural women who don't have loose waves or Tracy Ellis Ross hair can be accepted in society just as they are. I'm not sure why you would be upset by people just telling you that they like your hair (instead of the gawking that was described earlier, that is just rude)-- just say 'thanks' and keep it moving? I'm not trying to be critical, just saying.
Where I live, white people stare at black people all the time, regardless of our hair texture or style. I completely relate to how annoying it is to be stared at like some type of exhibit.ReplyDelete
What was up with the white guy dismissing what Nisus had to say after she said her hair didn't take a lot of time? As if *he* knew better than she would about her own hair and how long it would take to style it, as if she was lying. Why couldn't he have taken her at her word? Dismissing her answer was rude. Looking to you to confirm his perception of her as a liar was extra rude. Ah, the joys of micro-aggressions. Some people take the cake.
What a wonderful commentary!!!.Thank you for sharing your views...its always good to get a man's prospective....Im sure you see this hair journey we women go through so differently now!ReplyDelete
You know we can wonder how long it will take other races to understand black hair but it's difficult when our men and women don't even understand it. Natural black hair meets the most confrontation from black men and women. Seriously, having a partner that can understand how difficult it is for a black person to be natural in such a critical world is quite a blessing. *finger snaps* Great post!ReplyDelete
Thanks for this commentary! The entire time I was reading I was wondering where you vacationed, but when I saw Cape May, I wasn't surprised. No disrespect to NJ, but I am from South Jersey and some people act like Black people are aliens.ReplyDelete
very interesting post!!!! It's always go to hear about our natural hair from a man's perspective that truly understand US. LOVELY!!ReplyDelete