A few days ago, I was a little distressed to realize the biggest Afro comb sold by Pak Cosmetics was already in my bathroom, and that I'd wasted my time browsing through the shop looking for the next size up. Distressed, because I'm now in possession of an Afro, which, while still a teeny weeny halo, likes to declare a tug of war every time I try to comb it. While still in the shop, I paused by a row of leave-in conditioners and was startled to feel a hand experimentally rubbing the back of my head.
''Your hair looks so healthy,'' cooed an older woman with a Caribbean accent while her friend chuckled approvingly next to her. ''Do you use olive oil?''
I jerked my head out of her grasp.
''No,'' I said shortly.
''You should!'' The woman nodded knowingly and walked away before I could respond.
I have been here before, I thought, these nameless interactions when someone tugs on my hair for one reason or other. It is irksome because it is one of those things I don't know about until it's actually happened and my hair sticks out in odd ridges. I am baffled how since cutting my hair, others haven't hesitated in passing judgement on it as though I'd personally walked up to them and requested it. Who'd have thought that my hair would trigger conversations that have amused, engaged and annoyed me in different ways. Here are a few:
- Some people erroneously think that the new state of my roots means I want to join in a collective weave-bashing rant. They go from complimenting my hair to a one-sided diatribe against women who use extensions in one or other. Jaysus, I get it! Now you may go rant elsewhere. Because here's the kicker: I really don't care what other women do to their hair. It is their business just as my tresses are mine.
- Interestingly, a few men have linked my hair to a romance gone sour. ''Who broke your heart to make you do this?''
Now I'm generally familiar with the concept happening to others, but, personally it is so alien to me that any time it comes up, I laugh with genuine mirth. I am amused that these men would think there is a correlation between my hair and my relationships. My heart has also never been broken, but thanks for the concern.
- There has also been the sub-section that subscribes to ''Is this some kind of black empowerment political statement sort of thing?''
Oh boy, that old hot potato.
I laughed at this via email to my friend who also has natural hair, and her response summed my feelings perfectly: ''Nobody goes natural for the movement. It's always convenience first, and then movement or not, it doesn't matter. Important thing is that your mind is liberated and you make the hair choices you want, not choices dictated by any movement be it straight hair, natural, weave, whatever. Hair and physical appearance must never be an albatross. Be whoever you want to be, not what others say you should. As evidenced here, even at your baldest, you are beautiful!'' Dear Debbie, how I love her to bits!
- I'm being described more and more as a ''strong black woman.'' Well, hide the razors and call me Samson after our man in the biblical book of Judges! Pre-natural hair, I already knew I was black and strong, but I was never described thus. In fact, I don't remember a time when I was not black or strong, the people who raised me having nurtured the latter from a very early age. But APPARENTLY, my Afro puff shows I'm made of steel and the sterner stuff of life.
I jest. Yes, this compliment - and I use the word recklessly - is somewhat in connection with short hair denoting confidence (read strength); yes, it is an acknowledgement that letting one's hair grow in its natural state is a form of acceptance of self, and I can see the strong woman tag in this regard. But for the love of all that is natural, how do you explain a statement such as, ''You look like a strong black woman...but I still wanna dance with you,'' as I had at a club recently? No sir, I will not dance with you, mostly because I need to pee right now - and that line of yours only ignited boredom in my cerebrum.
I like that there is beauty in opinion. We all have them. Why, I'm sitting here right now writing mine on my blog, so clearly I'm already smug in the knowledge that the whole world is entitled to my opinion, ha. The point, you see, is that whatever your views, freedom is the ability to choose.
I am loving my hair as it is right now, however, if next month I choose to go back to Claudine, my hairdresser, for a relaxer or whatever, it will be simply that - a matter of choice.