Owning My Hair When Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” Opens in October
Okay, I have a confession. That photograph of me with the cool-looking Afro curls in the “About blksista” section of this blog?
That was my hair. I bought it on 125th Street in Harlem, and I wish I had bought another for the wilds of Wisconsin after it got weird, ratty and unwearable. Yes, it is a wig. I sat and tried several in this large Korean-owned shop where there was a mirror and a chair and time. This is about as far as I will go hair-wise. I’m not into weaves yet. Or putting hair on layaway. Soon, I will be in the market to get some more wigs. Perhaps, I will get four this time but via mail order. Wisconsin isn’t cheeseland for nothing.
I got one because it seemed to make me look younger, and that it seemed to fit me and my looks, which includes a round face and glasses. Proof of the former: a brother admiring me during a big Buddhist meeting in Chicago came up confidentially and asked whether it was a wig or not. He seemed in earnest, so after a few seconds reflection, I told him that it was. He paid me the high compliment of choosing hair that was as natural and that fit me better than some weaves and wigs fit other sistas.
Better yet, I just wanted to put on hair like I put on my office clothes, and go straight to work. I didn’t want to be bothered any more with all of the ceremony, mess and fuss that it took each evening and morning. Besides I could afford a wig better than I could afford getting my hair “fixed.” When a woman gets to a certain age, especially after having the big H, post-op, almost nothing is the same any more. The same can be said for the state of one’s hair.
It’s graying and has attained some roughness when it grows out thickly. My hair doesn’t take a perm very well any more, and there is more of a risk of my scalp getting burned and my hair ruined. Black women possess certain grades of hair–some inherited–on different parts of the head. For me, one side is softer and cannot easily take a curl, the other is infinitely more manageable, and the rest can be a mix of mothers, fathers and grandmothers appearing on both sides of the family. I will say, I hate combing my hair out. Long or short, I prefer the brush.
After affecting the Lena Horne-type curly natural, braids, the natural, cornrows, straight-permed, and later, the “wet look” Jheri curl, and for a few short days, the do that Terry McMillan wore on the hardback slipcover of Waiting to Exhale, I keep it short and unpermed these days. It’s the better for possible interviews, and the easier for my wallet. I shampoo it and keep it combed and creamed with Pantene Relaxed & Natural for Women of Color Daily Cream Moisturizer or with Redken Smooth Down Butter Treat but short hair on a tall and large woman doesn’t look particularly feminine to me. I feel rather lopsided, that I should have large hair as well with a large body. Besides, I have been taken for lesbian more than once, especially without my long, dangly earrings and lipstick or lip gloss, and when I wear jeans. So a wig is sometimes more than a shortcut; it’s also part of my public identity. I don’t always wear a wig at home unless I am entertaining or if I feel like it. I let the sun shine on my hair. I let it breathe.
Occasionally, I still like getting my hair braided tightly in extensions, in a simple cascade of 1B fake strands going back from my face, or in the same fashion, having the braids going free-form. It usually only costs about $130, and I don’t look half-ghetto in the office. That’s the most money I’ve ever paid to have my hair done. It only lasts a month and a couple of days, though; and since I still suffer from dandruff, flakes like sand fall into my glasses, eyes and shoulders when the braids are taken out. Sometimes, the hairdresser or I have to shampoo my hair at least three times to wash the flakes and dirt completely out. Continual ‘rowing and braiding can cause what I call the “Essence editor-in-chief syndrome.” Her cornrows and braids must have caused premature baldness in the woman, as her forehead grew bigger and more pronounced as her tenure continued.
Sometimes, I think hair needs a rest. Which is why I changed styles and just went nappy and short-haired for a few months.
The longer you have these fake braids in, the easier your actual hair can revert to dreads. And I have tried dreads as well, but because of the dandruff, they are not the answer either.
So that is why I bought me some good hair–to feel good about me. Of course, I probably asked the same questions of my mother when I was little that Rock’s daughter is asking of her father. Why couldn’t I have Shirley Temple curls, too? Why was I so tender-headed? Why did I have to submit to the hot comb? the perm? the pick? Why not the brush? I dreamed about having flyaway hair that I could manage; I remember in Catholic school that we buttoned our matching sweaters to our chins and ran as fast as we could in the wind so we could “get” that hair–if not, our teachers’ veils, which was an extension of that hair hidden under nun’s headgear.
I sure am going to see Chris’ film. We Folks are really going to recognize ourselves in this documentary. However, to me, it’s no longer about political acceptance, male acceptance, but personal acceptance about me and my beauty. And if a certain man wants to touch my hair when we are together alone, he’s welcome to it, whether it’s on or off my head.