It’s Saturday night and I got braids earlier today. Considering the fact that I left work on Friday with a short black curly fro and will be arriving on Monday with waist length ombre box braids, I know what’s in store. The questions.
How did you do it? Why did you decide to make this change? What are these called? Can you wash your hair? The questions are endless. Most are harmless, while others can sting.
I understand the curiosity. It’s completely foreign if you’re not a person of color. With the right framing, questions aren’t the wrong route. I can appreciate, when coming from the right place, you attempting to broaden your understanding of black hair.
That being said, when you come in with fresh highlights/balayage I never ask how they did it. That chic new bob, do I ask how they achieve the blunt shape? No I say, “Wow I love the new hair color or hair cut”.
You see, if I did ask you about your hair your answer would probably be as accurate as mine is when I answer your questions. Why? I am not a professional hairstylist so I really just have a vague idea of how it’s done.
While I don’t mind answering the questions to a certain extent, if you’re really that interested I would recommend a quick Google search. That will give you much better answer than I ever could.
I don’t change my hair often. Speaking candidly, it’s to avoid the aforementioned inquisition . When I started wearing a weave for the first time, my coworkers at the time literally lost their minds. The sheer confusion of how and why lasted for weeks. When I took the weave out a few years later, more explanation was required. Both were admittedly drastic changes, but should it matter?
I don’t why, but I thought when I went natural it wouldn’t be a thing. My hair was already short, so my big chop was not really dramatic. Surely people understand that as a black woman my hair could not be naturally straight? The biggest question – how did I get my hair that way? The answer – water, this is my natural texture.
Of course it was more slightly more complicated. So, sometimes when I was in the mood I’d explain that my hair was chemically straightened (I have no time to explain a relaxer), I cut off those ends, and this is what my natural hair looks like. This was met with complete fascination.
I guess it was naive to think this wouldn’t happen, but I know plenty of white girls who blow their wavy or curly hair out and wear it straight on a regular basis. So why is it so interesting that I could have been doing the same thing?
My entire life I have raised to do things with my hair to assimilate. Don’t leave the house with your scarf on. A consistent hairstyle is important for corporate. Straight or pulled back hair is better for interviews because it looks more professional. Box braids are okay for summer when flanked around a vacation, but heaven forbid the thought of doing it during the winter just because.
Why? At the root, it’s making sure that white spaces are never uncomfortable. Why do I keep my hair consistent? I don’t want confuse you or for you to sense my annoyance when you ask questions. Why do I never run around the corner to grocery store with a scarf on my head? It’s to avoid the Upper East Side women staring me down as I buy my bag of spinach.
It’s the fact that a blowout at Drybar is considered the norm and a wash and set at the Dominican hair salon is not. The reality is that my hair journey is as valid as yours. I’m supposed to know everything about your hair. So, why shouldn’t you take the time to understand mine (without making me your teacher)?
This is not a sweeping generalization as I know many who don’t do this. If this post made you uncomfortable in any way then welcome to my world (and most black girls that I know). While you may feel like your comments are harmless or simply curiosity, they’re not. They can be offensive and make us feel like our hairstyle choices need clarification (when yours don’t).
Questions can feel like I’m an exhibit to be marveled at. Something unique that needs further conversation. While I don’t mind a question here and there, maybe next time just say, “Love your hair”.