Monday, March 15, 2010

Natural African American hair isn't difficult

[Tami's note: When I read this post over at Los Angelista's I knew I just HAD to crosspost it. I shared with Liz that I had just, the day before, run in to what I like to call a "nappy sidler." A nappy sidler generally greets you with a compliment. Your hair is so cool! This gushing is often provoked by the simplest of natural hairstyles. On the day in question, my twists were in a...wait for it...ponytail. Often the sidler's eyes are kind of glazed, fixed above your hair line. But what is most disconcerting is the way the sidler draws ever closer to you, like a lion stalking its prey on one of those Animal Planet shows. He or she quickly breaches the accepted bounds of personal space. The sidler's eyes become expectant. The air holds a charge of tension. You know what's coming if you don't back away fast. The hand, reaching...

You straight-haired folks think I'm exaggerating. The naturally kinky folks know that I wish I were exaggerating. People mean well...mostly. But there is a definite weight to having your appearance always either exoticized (nappy sidler) or demonized (basically the rest of American culture and the beauty industrial complex).

I just want other people to view my natural as...normal.]

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written by What Tami Said guest contributor Liz Dwyer; originally posted at Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness

I just got back from getting my right tail light on my car fixed. It was out so I stopped by Jiffy Lube to replace it. It only took 10 minutes to fix, but after I paid and walked out of the office to get back in my car, one of the employees felt the need to interrogate me about my hair. She was all, "Is that your hair?"

Oh lordy. Here we go. Yes, you dumb heffa. It's ALL my hair. Every. Single. Last. F*%!#@. Strand. And it's all natural. This is what grows out of my head.

But you know, I'm nice so instead I politely replied, "Yes, it's all my hair."

"Well is your mom's hair like that?"

Wow, talk about nosy... but again I nicely explained that both my parents have different hair, and my hair's somewhere in the middle of theirs.

"Did you ever used to straighten it?"

What was with the long interrogation? But again, I explained that yes, I did, but I quit in 2007.

"Don't you miss straight hair?"

No, not at all. I don't miss straight hair one bit. I find this much healthier and easier than chemicals and flat irons.

"Well it looks really difficult," she said.

"What looks really difficult?" I asked.

"Your hair. It just looks so difficult. Like, how do you even brush THAT?"

And that's when I lost it.

First of all, I've politely answered all your questions, but don't you DARE call my hair "THAT". It's hair and quite frankly, it looks a thousand times better than that bullshit you have going on on your head.

Second of all, I can brush it with a hairbrush, just like everybody else does, but it's not a good idea to brush any curly hair when it's dry.

Third, do you know how RUDE and stupid you sound telling a customer that her hair looks difficult? I just paid your hourly salary and you're asking my dumb questions about my hair!

And then I walked off, got in my car and left. I guess I should be grateful I didn't have to pull out my Do Not Pet My Afro card.

If you're saying to yourself, "She was just being curious. You should've been nicer to her," I completely disagree with you.

People can be curious all you want about black women's hair, but don't be rude or stupid. Don't try to act like our hair is difficult or weird. There's nothing exotic about it, nothing strange, nothing out of the ordinary. It doesn't have mystical magic negro powers. It doesn't heal the sick, give alms to the poor or do one handed push ups.

I get it - our hair goes against the standard of beauty in America and folks are just soooo curious and confused about it. But cut the rude, prejudiced questions, because not everybody has to be nice when they respond to them.

photo courtesy of Flickr user Timothy Valentine

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