I live in a somewhat insulated world. In many senses. I have a job, I have a home, I have transportation and a means to afford lots of things I don't need.
I am reminded of these privileges and freedoms quite regularly just by interacting superficially with strangers, or even just riding the city bus, which I do almost every day. I feel proud, and blessed and sometimes even guilty.
But the insulation regarding my natural hair is much more complete and omnipresent. Aside from side-eyes and a few snide comments- which I have built defenses for, I seldom feeeeel that I am actively doing something different any longer. Especially now that I live in DC, and so many other women have gone natural. Only when I travel do I become self aware. Plus who's really going to ask you in depth, challenging questions about your hair, or furthermore the hair of black women in general?? (who gon check us??)
BUT this weekend I was in an unusual set up where I was working the cash box at an event and flanked by two security guards. We were there for 2 hours with nothing to do but entertain each other with diluted philosophic conversations. We spoke of eating pork (I do lol), Greek life (I'm not) and natural hair ( I have).
I also had a previous convo to reference as I dived in. About 4 months ago I was giving two fellas a ride to their car, talking about my blog (again lol,) and one remarks... "how you gon blog about natural hair when you got good hair??!" I tried to explain then that its not so much about what kind of hair you have, its about accepting WHATEVER you have and learning about it. I don't know if I got through to them but I filed the comment in my awareness file. lol
So this weekend past, the same sort of thing started floating just below the surface. One guy was telling me why some women he knows were not embracing the natural movement (time effort difficulty) and I was doing some debunking. But who told me to say that "much of the time we can workout or shower and still be ready to go in 20 min."
The disbelief and doubt that washed over their faces alerted me to the fact that I had just made a leap over several factors they would not easily understand. I had also put myself in a "we" that is probably visually questionable. But I began to try my best.
So the very first aspect of going natural that us women and the men who support us must grapple with is the radical difference between our natural texture and our chemically or heat altered texture. The goal is to grow to love and respect WHATEVER it is. "Kinks, napps, beadybeads, peazy-headedness"... whatever we have been badmouthing, hiding and altering has to be allowed to live. and hopefully flourish. This change in mind-state is very difficult for some folks. Some are not ready to see things so differently- that there is nothing WRONG with what they have. Some go back to chemicals or heat or just constant manipulation. So imagine, these men live in a perpetual state of having gone natural but not accepting their hair, lol. One guy said he keeps it super low because his hair is so nappy. He was like "u will never see me with more than this much hair". And they transfer that feeling to others. They also mentioned a friend who had gone natural and didn't "do anything to her hair." Just oil and life. And they had a disdain in their voices as they explained her behavior.
I explained that she likes her hair texture- that is the missing link. I told him "you just don't like your hair. There is nothing wrong with it, you just don't appreciate the way it looks." So I was like imagine- she has no problem with the way her hair simply IS. She accepts it and thus does not feel the need to "fix" or hide it.
(I didn't get all into the actual care aspects, like texture and length and detangling and products- indeed quite complicated to figure out)
SO I finally pointed to my own hair. I said this is a wash and go with product being used to keep the curls defined. This is what I got in the hair grab bag. I like it. Me liking my hair, and YOU liking my hair does not preclude other textures from similarly liking and accepting their own hair. And other people like their hair too, maybe not you, but hopefully the men in their life. Nothing needs to be done to "fix" it, thus its easy to take care of in that regard. They mulled over that - the change in mind-state.
I did also show them a picture of a friend with much tighter curls than mine who also wears her hair loose and he said- "See... that looks like it's about to dread up (distain)." I said, no it's just her hair, she cares for it and detangles it regularly and it's healthy and long. You don't need to continuously comb the kinks out so that it loooks untangled. It wont lock up in a few days. It just looks different- its how u think. And he was like "yeah, see, I just don't think that way I guess."
The convo died and 20 min passed. Lucky for me another guy came out that we all knew and just then a beautiful woman walked by with tight, compact natural hair, full of sheen and with color dipped ends. This third guy was randomly like "hey sister, you have beautiful hair! *smiles* go head!" (something like that lol) And I was like SEEEEE, some men appreciate it for just what it is! And I was like damn where were you 20 min ago!!? lol. I rehashed the convo and third guy concurred with what I was saying, and then some lol. We both spoke of how black people are still in a texture war, and people would like MY hair, but not other hair textures and it was a shame. They SHOULD but they don't.
Early on when starting my blog I wanted to feature girls with
lots of different hair types (see You Go Curl girls in the sidebar). My
coils are fairly loose on the kinky scale and I don't often let the
kinky elements of my texture shine through my gels and goops. Thus I
used to encounter women who thought my advice would ring hollow to them,
or that their process going natural would vary so radically from mine
that I could not offer encouraging words or advice. Turns out that was largely
not true. My fears have proven frivolous and I have abandoned that effort at diversifying the
representation here (there are a lot of OTHER things besides curl size
that us naturals have in common- duh! we learn with time lol). But the
Please tell your brothers and sons and husbands all about your hair. Let them play with it, let them see you wash it and style it. We need more men to accept what we have going on, and what they have going on in and on their own heads as well.