As a 24 year old Black Woman that lives in the UK I really should’ve come to terms with the fact that my white colleagues will always be shocked when I change my hair. Like ALWAYS it’s a guarantee.
I first experienced this shock when I was in Middle School (Year 5) I normally had my hair relaxed with an awkward fringe and not enough conditioner see embarrassing picture below;(that my Mum blew up onto canvas so that everyone that comes into my house can see that it took me a few years to grow into my teeth 🙂)
The maintenance of said hair and multiple tearful weekends spent in between my Mums legs as she wielded a hot comb, (it was a fucking fork heated up on a stove that later it got upgraded to some tongs ) lead to her sending me to get my hair braided for the first time.
So, Friday at 3pm I left school looking like the above picture and Monday morning at 8:45am I walked into my playground feeling like THAT BITCH.
My hair smelled like Dark and Lovely’s Beautiful Beginnings Braid Spray. I had asked for jet black pick and drop down to my back but my Mum cut it to just below my shoulders. I felt amazing. It looked something like this for those of you that don’t know what pick and drop is
I was riding on a high because I felt pretty. My hair swished like my pretty blonde white friends’ for the first time.
This didn’t last for long because the first word out of my classmates mouth when I arrived on the playground was
“What have you done to your hair?!”
Which prompted the whole classroom to turn their attention onto me. Hands flew towards my hair, questions like
“how do they do it? Do they glue it on your head?”
“What happened to your real hair is it underneath?”
“Errr I can see your scalp”
*hair pull* “can you feel that?!”
The first time this happened I looked at the only other black person in the classroom with me. He was a boy and he was as bad as my classmates. I had no ally in site!
I fielded their questions as best as I could but by the end of the day my head hurt and I felt like a zoo animal. It wasn’t even just my classmates the teachers were as bad. One even examine my braids and try to see if they could find my real hair within the twists.
This has happened to me every single time that I change my hair. I quickly realised that this is a part of my reality and I need to get over it. I learned to tell people not to touch my hair and to be prepared for their defensive, dismissive and rude attitudes towards me expressing the desire to not be touched without my permission. I realised that it’s mostly ignorance that makes them ask dumb questions but that doesn’t mean I should entertain it.
I was still surprised when I started to work and experienced the same thing. Most recently I started a job in Optical Retail ( I was there for 6 weeks because retail sucks ) and during my first week I had a wig. It was medium length nothing fancy.
My colleague asked me if my hair was real to which I answered no. Which in hindsight was a huge mistake. I thought that was the end of it but he made it a point to let everyone else in the store know that it wasn’t my hair and so I found myself fielding questions again. The main difference here though is that I had to the courage to say one simple sentence.
“It’s None Of Your Business”
Even when the Regional Manager came in and asked me questions about it I told him that it wasn’t any of his business. It made things a little awkward but I’ll take that over feeling like a zoo animal any day.
( I didn’t really enjoy my time at this particular work place and this isn’t the first incident were inappropriate things were said to me because of who or what I am. Click here to read my last post, Do I Exist?: Life As A Bisexual, for more)
There was a period of time where I felt the need to tone down my hair choices. I used to get blue hair,pink hair,platinum blonde hair but I stopped being as expressive because I was terrified of how people at Uni and at work would react to it.
I was only working in Retail so there was really no need for me to tone down my hair. I really regret this. Now that I work in a law firm I have to keep my hair colour to real human hair colours and I wish I hadn’t listened to the anxious voice in my head that told me not to attract attention to myself.
So my advice to you reading this is firstly, don’t be afraid to tell people that their questioning about your hair bothers you and that it is intrusive. Secondly, don’t let fear or anxiety stop you from doing what you want. No matter how trivial it seems now you’ll regret stopping yourself from doing it later. Lastly, black men aren’t always our allies 😊 *
*I’ll address this at length when I can be bothered with the abuse that I’ll receive in my emails
Thanks for reading, don’t forget to like, retweet, comment, show your /cat/dog/goat and tell your friends