Since my hair started thinning I became committed to letting it rest. I like braids through the summer, but when I can’t afford them, I’ll pull my hair back and clip on a bun or a ponytail. I hoped my nine-year-old neighbor didn’t get the wrong idea and think she could cut her long, silky, Iranian-descent hair and still have it the next day. She has seen me go from a two-inch bush ball to a ten-inch wavy ponytail overnight. I hope her mother explained.
We read all kinds of motives into people’s choice of hairstyle, don’t we? One of my first mentors, a TV producer who would go on to become an Emmy-award-winner and executive, told me 25 years ago why she wore her hair natural and cut short.
“It ain’t no political statement,” she said with laughter. “It’s convenient. That’s all.”
My long wavy clip-on pony tail may be mis-understood as some self-deprecating attempt to look white. It is not. It’s a way to have fun with a whimsical look just this side of sane. A recent conversation with one of my nephews got me thinking about all our analysis of hair. Books have been written about it, movies made, songs sold.
My nephew explained to me that his dreadlocks are an exercise in – and show of – his commitment. With all the ideas and on-going debates about our hair, I had not considered the commitment we make through our hair and to our hair – whether was my late grandmother’s commitment to go to the beauty parlor every two weeks, or young women’s standing weekly appointments these days.
My Grandmother once commented on my hairstyle and asked me how I got it. Before I could say “$29.99 at the beauty supply store,” Granddad piped in. “Baby you can see it’s not her hair! It’s too different kinds!” And I thought his eyesight was fading, ha! My husband shakes his head. “You ain’t even trying to fool nobody,” he says. I’m not.
I like variety, I like style. I like variety in style. I had white male co-workers who mis-read my frequent hairstyle changes as a show of inconsistency. What? But they will keep a hairstyle for a lifetime, and that’s their frame of reference.
I have paid $400 for a good weave, $14.99 for a good clip on, and $6.99 for a do-it-yourself-perm called “Africa’s Best” made in Savannah, Georgia. I have sat for two hours for my sister to hook me up with straight-back braids or her signature zig-zags, and I have sat four hours as a mother-daughter team worked their magic installing micro-braids. I have sat six hours waiting my turns in hair salons and decided against my that a habit, although to many women it’s a necessary luxury. The right “do” builds self-confidence on several levels.