I dropped by CVS yesterday to pick up some toothpaste and bottled water (I hate CVS with it's dim, narrow aisles and strangely-tiny shopping carts. So glad to see more Walgreen's coming to town.) I brought my merchandise to a register run by a young, black woman sporting a dramatic synthetic-hair wig--long and stick-straight, Tyra-brown with highlights and chunky bangs. She stared openly at my head.
"I like your hair," she said. "What do you call that? How do they do that?
I stammered a bit, taken aback. I didn't know what to say. I don't call my hair anything. And they didn't do anything to it. I had worn my hair in twists for the first part of the week and yesterday I took them down in the morning, using one hand whilst Web surfing with the other. My 'do yesterday was a plain old twist out, done at home.
I explained, "I just had my hair in twists and took it down."
"Oh," the cashier said skeptically.
This interaction is typical. I've been having them since I "went natural" nearly two years ago. Some black women have no use for my hair, finding natural tresses ugly and unkempt. But the many black women who dig my kinky curls tend to think they are result of some special process, some new salon miracle. When I reveal that my mane is natural, some conclude that I must have "that good hair." "Girl, there is no way I could wear my hair natural. It is too [insert negative attribute here]. See, I have to perm my hair." It makes me sad, this universally accepted belief that black, natural hair that is soft, healthy and attractive must be magic hair--tamed by special potions or naturally imbued with positive attributes bestowed by some other-than-African blood into the bloodline.
I'm not sure, but I don't think women of other ethnicities are perplexed by seeing their sisters wearing hair in a way that works with its natural characteristics. For instance, I have yet to see a white woman approach another white woman and ask how she got her long, straight, brown hair into a ponytail. What do you call that? How did they do that?
If that cashier really knew her own hair, she would know that, treated well, it would likely look something like mine (No, all black hair is not the same.).
It's a pity.