[Note: This is a personal blog. Some of them are not personal - they empower you. Some of them are personal - they empower me. This one is very, very personal. Enjoy.]
Today, I went to CVS to pick up a couple of items. I've got a head full of natural waves, coils, and curls, and so, I'm addicted to the hair care isle of any department or drug store.
My natural hair is a "thing" for me...one that I explained here when I discussed what it meant to me to have natural hair.
I had just left a meeting with a member of the Inspired Girls advisory board and we started the conversation with, "Girl, you are working those curls...how you doin?" because that's just how we talk. In a land of waist length weaves and Beyonce dye jobs, we stand out in all of our natural glory.
As I stood on the hair isle in CVS, eyeing how overpriced their Neutrogena products are, I overheard a woman say, "Well, I'm not sure about this...for your hair...I mean...with the type of hair you have. I don't know about that, so let's go with this." I glanced up to see who was talking and more importantly to see who the comment was for and I saw a Caucasian woman who appeared to be in her 60s talking to a young girl who appeared to be black. The girl had gorgeous, thick natural hair...and of course, the white woman had straight hair (it was short and grey). The look on the girl's face was a blend of confusion with disappointment.
Instantly my heart sank. I just stood there, staring, and then quickly looked away to not seem obvious. My chest got tight, and I quickly walked off.
As I stood in front of the paper towels with tears in my eyes, I tried to understand what was going on with me. Was this PMS or was I feeling some kind of way about what I had just heard? I realized it was the latter and I felt compelled to go back over and say something, anything, to make it better somehow.
But what would I say without seeming like a pushy, militant black woman? Of course, my braidout was fluffed to perfection and my curls were defined so I would appear to be a reasonable adviser on the matter but still...I'd be sticking my nose where I wasn't invited.
I went back and forth with myself and finally decided to go over...I got back to the hair isle and they were gone. I went to the front and checked out and left the store with tears streaming down my face.
Perhaps I'm way too sensitive when it comes to this hair stuff, but for some of us, it's deeper than hair. It's about our identity and feeling beautiful and swimming upstream in a straight haired culture.
I sat in the car for a minute and realized that I was so bothered because I, as a grown woman, spent years realizing that I had to remove the kinks from my mind, not my hair. It took a shift in my consciousness for me to understand that I'm gorgeous through and through and that untamed curls or a silky press do not change that. Perhaps I was projecting my past issues onto this girl, but I had the feeling that there weren't any natural haired black women around to tell her how beautiful her hair is and to show her how to care for it properly. I would imagine that her white caregiver was overwhelmed and confused with where to begin with her thick, coily hair.
As I sat in my car, I closed my eyes and said a prayer for the girl. I prayed that light, love, and peace would surround her...that even if she grew up facing the typical ups and downs of life, she'd never feel less beautiful because of her hair. I prayed that she would look in the mirror and see beauty tangled in her strands and that her hair would be a source of pride and distinction.
I drove off wishing that level of liberation for every woman. I know that chemicals are mere style choices for some, but for many, they're unconsciously wrapped up in a system that's telling them they're not light enough, thin enough or pretty enough so they buy the weaves, the creams, and the clothes, hoping to make some invisible and unattainable cut.
I'm happy to say that I'm liberated from allowing my hair to define me, and I can't help but want the same freedom for every other woman - white, black, or other.
The lesson? Say what you want to say. You don't know whose life can be blessed & transformed by you simply stating your truth. Next time, I'll politely state mine. What I say is my responsibility; how people respond is theirs.