Natural Hair, Don’t Care

Gazing into the pond near the Bellagio in Las Vegas. With the kinks.

While I walked to an 8 a.m. psychology class, an ROTC guy, a bit too chipper for that hour, got my attention. Sleepy but smiling, I faced him.

“Hey, how are you?” he began. “Let me ask you a question: Did it take a lot of nerve for you to cut your hair?”

Yes, I responded, surprised at his candor but comfortable with his genuine tone.

“So what’s it like for you now? You just wake up in the morning and go, huh?” Again, yes. We smiled and laughed with each other, then went our separate ways. It was the simplest of conversations. No exchanged numbers, no awkward small talk. Just an honest question and an honest answer.

What was so special about this interaction? Maybe it was the fact that a young white man took sincere interest in a black woman’s hair. Maybe it his friendliness or confidence—after all, he was delving into culturally risky territory. But he didn’t bother me. He appeared to appreciate the ease my hair affords me. All I could do was smile.

Since I buzzed my hair down to about an inch in November 2011, I get a lot of comments about my lack of a historic beauty marker. Most often I hear, “I wish I could do that but I don’t have the head for it.” Only a few times I’ve heard “That’s interesting” or “Oh,” remarks that tickle me. The main question I get, however, is Why?

It’s simple. I’m rocking the hairstyle that is most convenient for me, that generates the least amount of chaos in my life.

Embracing the kinks that grow from my scalp frees me. The rain, the humidity, the wind, and the shower are no longer my enemies. If my hair gets wet, it will just curl even more, depending on which products I’ve used. My prep time in the mornings has fallen significantly. It’s just so easy.

Being natural is like being in a special counter-cultural club, one complete with numerous counseling blogs, forums, and videos. A recently photoshopped pic of Michelle Obama with cute, funky kinks had the blogosphere in a frenzy. But I don’t have any political or social agenda, nor am I trying to make a fashion statement. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about what men prefer. I don’t care about what the media thinks looks better. My hair is mine, and I feel good about it. Is it sexy in the traditional sense? Maybe, maybe not. Can you run your fingers through it as if it’s threads of silk? Nope. But I’m choosing to work with it right now, and that’s all that matters.

Many women feel they’ll lose an important sense of femininity–and thereby be less attractive to men–if they chop their tresses. That fear, at least in my experience, is unsubstantiated. Very short hair may not attract the types of guys who think Drake’s music videos depict real life, but it will probably attract men who appreciate you for you. Now that I can vet the secure men from the poseurs, my dating prospects have improved. It’s refreshing to find people who accept and admire your unique humanity in a world full of rubber butts stuffed in thousand-dollar strips of spandex.

After 25 long years of beating myself up over these natural coils, I’ve learned to accept what comes out of my head, because it’s just one small part of the complex me. I’ll gladly answer any questions about it, but anyone who can’t get past the kinks isn’t worth my time, anyway. I’m not my hair nor any one thing. Thankfully, I no longer care.

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Five Things Women Who Want to Appear Intelligent, Secure, and Reasonable Should Stop Doing

No, ma’am.

We women have our shortcomings. We talk about our hair more than the average man cares to hear. We get in other folks’ business more than the IRS.  Some things, though, are as unforgivable as Diddy’s pop-group pimping. If you’re a woman who desires respect and admiration, I’d advise you to refrain from the following:

1. Wearing too-light foundation. There’s a rule about clothes—they always, always look better when they fit. Not too baggy, not too tight, but just right. The same rule applies for makeup. If you could double for Patrick Swayze in your NC45, it’s time to get a darker shade. Now, I understand that many of us still have hangups about our complexions. The media doesn’t help us. Several major cosmetics companies — cough, Almay, cough, Neutrogena — still think Lucy Liu is dark. Many brands, fortunately, do recognize human skin tones are vast. Trust me, brown paper bags are for groceries, and that’s only if you don’t have reusable bag. The shade that matches your skin tone — whether you’re Paula Patton, Jennifer Hudson, or Viola Davis — is always going to look prettiest on you. Anything lighter might make you appear insecure.

2.  Wearing leggings as pants. Since the revival of these ’80s staples in about 2006, spandex has been up everyone’s crack. And not just the one you sit on. They’re much more comfortable than constricting skinny jeans, but they have been sorely misused. I was officially disturbed with the trend when, under the high midday sun, a fuller-figured girl’s blue-and-pink polka-dotted drawers stung my eyes. She was wearing leggings—as pants. With a tiny polo shirt. And her underwear gleaming right through them. Unless you’re working a Michael Kors runway, we commonfolk have no interest in seeing which pair of Hanes you pulled from the three-pack today. I don’t care if you’re wearing a thong, granny panties, or nothing at all [side eye] — leggings are not like pants, period. Your top should cover your rear. If not, find something else to wear and stop insulting us with your cracks.

3. Talking about your sex life on Facebook. I can deal with the fascinating I’m-doing-laundry posts. I can even deal with the 47th pic of you in the bathroom, though to much lesser extent. I cannot, however, bear the vivid details of your sexual encounters. Unless it’s snowing, I don’t ever want to read about white stuff in your status (Yes, I really did one time. I evicted her from the feed). Unless you have a dog named Richard and a cat named Fluffy, stop talking, now. Though we’re even more open about our sexuality than our predecessors, Facebook is the place where you share the family-friendly parts of your life. What happens in your bedroom isn’t anyone’s business. Take down those pics of you biting your finger, too.

4. Wearing heels higher than three inches during the day. Nothing says “I’m low-maintenance, sensible, and forward-thinking” like a five-inch platform pump at 8 in the morning. Nothing is more practical, comfortable, and stylish than walking up steep hills and stomping down escalators in four-inch Aldo wedges. Ok, I’ll cut the offenders some slack here. The right shoe can upgrade even the most basic outfit. And we all admire a girl with a mean shoe game. But please, for the love of Dr. Scholl’s, try to keep your heels lower during the day, at least while you’re running errands, commuting, or working (unless you, um, work at Stadium. Look that up yourself. It’s in DC.). You’ll avoid the Kevin Hart buckle and your feet will feel better. Win-win!

5. Talking in a baby voice on purpose. I love my 3-year-old nephew’s speech. Every basic word or phrase he says is cuter, sweeter, and funnier because it’s coming out his little voicebox. Sadly, I also hear that same chirpy chatter from people taller than 3’2”. I understand if your voice is naturally high-pitched. You can’t control that any more than you can control the price of a washcloth in Burundi. But if you’re using an irritatingly elfin voice because you think it sounds cute, you are sorely mistaken. No one agrees with you. In fact, most people just want you to shut up. I’m all about self-expression, so please, say what’s on your mind. Just leave the baby talk for Heidi Klum or somebody.

What other bad habits should sensible women give up?