“Why? It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.” These words were uttered by a white coworker who looked incredulously at me when I expressed that I didn’t want to cut my hair into the trendy style she had suggested. My hair at the time was a very awkward TWA, perhaps even warranting its own abbreviation as an MWA (Mid-way afro).
Basically, it wasn’t short enough to really be called “teeny weeny”, and not quite long enough to be the bold afro style every naturalista fantasizes about. So I was stuck, and it was tempting to imagine shaving down my sides, getting a fade and wearing something that would be much more suited to my face shape, and style in general.
But since my long-term goal was the aforementioned fantasy fro, the thought of shaving my sides to me seemed like a fate worse than death. By this time I was a year into my natural hair journey and my MWA, no matter how awkward, was a powerful reminder of my gains. Hard earned and carefully tended, these inches were more valuable to me than any attention that jumping on the newest fad would have gotten me.
Her statement though, that it was “just hair”, was unintentionally loaded with privilege. It made me feel both embarrassed and belittled at the same time.
Although there are plenty of black women who could care less whether they grew or shaved or dyed their hair, there is, I believe, an equal number of black women for whom every inch gained represents a sort of victory.
ladee neenah says
I agree with your analysis. It reminds me of that meme with princess Tiana that says “Weave?… I grow this” I think of how far I’ve come in the last two years, both in length retained and knowledge gained and shudder to think how easily one ill-informed or not well thought out decision could set me back to square one. You are correct that those who don’t have our hair texture just don’t understand the struggle. And I like the way you phrased it “an earned trophy of patient persistence.”
I believe #my hair matters# to me and not really to anybody else and I feel the same way about other people and their hair. I don’t really expect other people to care about the same stuff I do. Everybody has different priorities and in order to get along with family , friends and colleagues,I’ve learnt to swallow and to try not to get so easily offended.Its just priorities that’s all.
Next time, just tell her your growing out your hair and that super curly textures are particularly vulnerable to breakage. I’m more peeved that she was having such a long discussion with you on what you should do with your hair. I hate the insults that come in the form of “helpful suggestions”. I don’t think it had to do with privilege though, she can’t know how much discipline it requires to grow long black hair unless someone tells her. She probably won’t get it unless she has a close black friend take her through our rigorous regimens!