I was minding my own business - in a waiting room in the hospital clinic, reading a book, waiting to have x-rays done. My hair pulled off my face to the crown under a wide banded satin scarf, a free'fro out the back– pretty much a natural, neatly coiled in some places, not in others, chunky fro. I have lost a lot of length so it was performing OUTS rather than DOWNS if you KWIM?
As you know, I wear my natural hair with pride. Lately I have been dealing with texture problems, dryness and excessive shedding since the general anaesthetic I had to undergo for surgery to repair my broken arm and it has taken several inches of my hair off – but I remain all natural, and I am slowly recovering with care and gently styling.
Those who know me know I don’t have a problem with relaxed women, or women who choose to wear straight hair or weaves. It's the straightening/relaxing-is-necessary-at-all-costs mentality I despise. Judgmental-ism has always struck a nerve with me, more especially since I have been natural and I stay away from making generalizations towards other women. So let me be specific about an encounter I had with a couple of non-nappturals the other day.
This Black woman – or “young” woman (I should clarify for those thinking this is a "generational" thing reserved for our mothers and grandmothers) and her friend/sister whoever with her sat down slightly opposite me. I smiled at them – no smile back. OK that happens often so no biggie. But after a few minutes, the top of my head was burning from the staring. The two of them were not trying to hide the staring, just staring at me with no shame.
I thought maybe they were curious or even admiring until she whispered to her friend and they both looked with sideways lips AT MY HAIR and tsk tsk shook their heads like something was both amusing and repulsive at the same time.
Now I wasn’t about to get angry or offended, especially in a room full of strangers – so I let it go. I did make a mental note of her / their hair – straightened hair pulled back from hairline into a thin, short ponytail – her friend had a shiny black weave with blond ends – a sew in from what I could tell – I could clearly see her afro hair trying desperately to break free from underneath and all around the wefts.
I didn’t make any comment to her about her rude staring, but not because I didn’t feel the urge to. I did something different. I put my book down and took off the scarf.
Yup, right there in that waiting room.
I had a bottle of water with me so I put some in my hand and ran it through my fro and fluffed it up in the front and out the back, then played with it , twisting parts around my fingers until I was happy. It was full and glorious when I had finished. The job done, I smiled to myself and went back to reading my book, with my scarf now neatly wrapped around my neck. Would there be a reaction?
No one took any long notice of what I had done except for those two seated across from me who now looked like owls who couldn’t close their beaks. The nerve of me uncovering their secret by exposing my hair in public. And you’ll never guess what happened next.
They got up. And they left. And they didn't come back. I guess I had made them that uncomfortable that they forfeited their Dr's appointment? Was it really that serious?. Obviously to them, it was.
I can't put myself in their shoes because I am so far away from being embarrassed about my natural hair. Was my hair an insult to them or an affront? They are in a sad place I left a long, long time ago.
Or maybe they just forgot they had somewhere else to be and I had nothing to do with it.