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.