Wednesday, February 20, 2013

3 Hairstyles, 3 Different Reactions

Now before I start, I know that when I go out not everybody is looking at me. I think this is something we all should remember. People have their own lives to worry about, and whatever particular issue you think you have with your hair, your body, or your outfit on a certain day, I can assure you that not everybody is paying attention. In fact, it's quite possible that not even a single person notices the issue, much less your presence at all. In other words, as Ma likes to say, "Ain't nobody thinking 'bout you!" But in the case of people whom I've seen have noticebale reactions to my hair, I made the following observations this week.

I've been natural for over 2 1/2 years. In its completely unadulterated glory, my hair looks like this:
December 2012
Reactions: Stares, or people staring and pretending not to. For me, wearing my hair out like this (which I don't do often) is both scary and empowering. On one hand my hair's so huge and overwhelming that I can't hide it even if I wanted to. On the other hand, it's thrilling because I know people will be staring at me, and I mentally dare them to. Stare at me if you want. Bet you won't be bold enough to keep looking when I make eye contact with you. Got something to say? I dare you to say it. Go ahead, I dare you. Sometimes I even play a game where throughout the day I count how many times I catch people staring at me, extra points for how quickly they try to look away.

This week, since my hair's straightened, I'll look like this:
This past Saturday
Reactions: People seem to get real friendly when your hair is straight. They might even speak to you, when just the other day they ignored you or hadn't even noticed that you existed. Why is this? Because in this country, straight hair is familiar to people. When your hair is straight, people feel like they can gauge you and wrap their heads around you. You're harmless, no suprises; you're just like everyone else. That's part of the reason why I don't enjoy wearing my hair straight as much anymore. Sure it's nice to actually see how your hair is grown and get compliments here and there. But I feel like I've gone back to looking like everyone else again.

Also this week, when I go to yoga I'll have my head wrapped like this
Two days ago. Have you noticed my pose in each of these pics? Obviously my left side is my good side, haha.
Reactions: The same or similar to the first pic. I don't know why (especially white) Americans/Europeans/Westerners have such an issue with women and head wrappings or coverings. Whether it's black women's nightly hair routine or Muslim women wearing the hijab or burqa, go out in public with your head wrapped and it's like you're from a different world. This pic is from when I went to yoga on Monday, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the people on my bus assumed I wasn't from here because my headwrap made me look foreign to them. Head wrappings and coverings are seen as strange/"other"/foreign/weird/abnormal/backward, when really women (including white women) have been wrapping and covering their heads for centuries. Makes no sense to me at all.
Is it wrong that people have varying reactions depending on how "normal" my hair looks? Not necessarily. People can't help what they're used to, and there are some things about me that others will not ever understand. It would be different if those reactions led to people actually treating me differently, but seeing as how we all stare at, ignore, or compliment strangers everyday for various reasons, I can't fault people for doing the same with me. Like I said, these are just some interesting observations. But I will say that ignorance remains rampant, y'all.

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