The Switch Up
Since the Trump administration is determined to raise our collective blood pressure, I’d rather talk about a recent interaction I had with a co-worker that made me think about an experience I feel a lot of Black women (and women, in general) can relate to.
I change my hairstyles. A lot.
Being blessed with a head of wildly kinky-curly hair meant that I could have straight hair on Monday and a glorious, fluffy ‘fro by Tuesday morning. For so long, women in general, but Black women especially, have been criticized, shunned and mocked for the very hair that grows out of their head. It’s no wonder we’ve become Masters at doing whatever we want to it. Whether for approval, conforming to societal beauty standards or plain boredom, women of color have made the switch up a way of life.
But as much as the idea of living in a world where you weren’t judged for rocking 24” of Malaysian Body Wave on Tuesday and sporting a TWA two days later seems idyllic, that just isn’t the case. And as someone who still struggles a bit with social anxiety, whenever I get the compulsion to do something different with my hair, I’m immediately hit with a wave of anxiety over having other people judge it. The co-workers who don’t quite get the concept of sew-ins, wigs or crochet braids. The people you see every day on the train who are suddenly doing a double-take in your direction. That relative you haven’t seen in a while who makes a big to-do about any physical change in your appearance. The anxiety persists from the minute I have the idea, the drive over to the beauty supply store, the hours spent doing my hair, and the walk through the doors on Monday morning.
My co-worker recently asked what my plans were over the weekend, and I told her I wasn’t planning on doing much but that I was hoping to get my hair done before my birthday. “Oh, what do you plan on doing?” Which then went into me trying to explain to this very non-Black woman what crochet braids and faux locs were. The other Black woman in the office rocks a beautiful head full of box braids I still don’t understand how she keeps so neat, and so my co-worker immediately realized “Oh, like those?” Close.
She’s learning, ya’ll.
I told her to imagine Lisa Bonet, and it finally clicked. Instead of judgment, she was genuinely curious and I was happy to explain the process and why I’d probably look a bit different when I came in in a few weeks. It was a refreshing breather from the usual looks of uncertainty or false understanding when I’d usually have to explain to others why my hair was about four shades lighter or 12” longer.
It can be daunting constantly having to explain why or how you changed your hair. Jan, let Aisha rock her blue wig in peace. Hakeem, I’m sure Courtney doesn’t want to hear your diatribe on how all Black women are Queens who should only rock disproportionately sized Afros and walk around naked.
Let women weave, crochet, sew, glue, moisturize, twist and live in peace.