Yesterday, a man rolling a joint on the corner of 23rd and Telegraph looked my way. He was talking on the phone and once the joint was completed he began walking towards me. “Hey, hey!” he called in my direction. I prepared myself for that awkward exchange where I say I don’t have any money even though I maybe do.
But instead …
“I like your hairstyle,” he said. “Oh, thanks,” I nonchalantly replied.
Wait … What did he say? REALLY? REALLY?? “He likes my hairstyle?” I had never heard this before. “I like your hair,” sure. Style? It rang of choice and expression.
This man whom I had predetermined did not deserve my time or money had given me my first real compliment and a wealth of validation. Receiving it was like discovering a hidden peanut butter cup in a sea of empty wrappers. It was unexpected and savorable. Thank you and forgive me.
And while most of the men in my world have been supportive and appreciative of this choice I can’t deny, there’s been some fear of losing my desirability.
I notice more than ever how often someone looks at me in group conversations. Do they hold my gaze or just throw the occasional glance my way to, I suspect, be polite? I’ve been hesitant to reveal my shorn head to the men with whom I’ve had affairs not wanting to relive the loss of love that long ago ended.
With women, it’s been much different. They shriek with glee at the big reveal. They want to see my head from all sides, rub their hands on it and ask questions.
“Do you feel free?”
“Do you feel liberated?”
“Do you love how it feels?”
“I could never be so brave.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Never say never.
I’ve been invited into some club I did not know existed—The Empowered Women’s Club. In the EWC we say pashaw to that which has the tendency to suck aka make us feel not enough. We’ll shave our heads if we want to! Yeah! We’ll also wear Birkenstocks and negligees and admire our naked bodies in the mirror. “Free to Be Free” is the motto.
I was a member of this club long before I was formally admitted.
Then there’s this newfound acknowledgment between myself and other Blacks.
We nod when our paths cross and strike up conversations where words previously would not have been exchanged.
Me: Good Morning
Sista or Brotha: Good morning, and it’s a good one too FRIDAY!
Sista or Brotha: GM. You live around here?
Sista or Brotha: GM. Just got off work! 8 hours already. Got called in at 1:00 a.m.
Coming out from that curtain of blond that was always in the spotlight, I’ve finally been recognized as one of their own. I look at my “sistas.” I see their hair, the sectioning, the straightening, the braiding the extending. I think about the time spent admiring or admonishing their efforts in the mirror. I do not judge.
Now that my hair is no longer my “thang” I’ve found myself fantasizing about how else I might “beautify” myself.
There’s been a familiar urge to lose weight. I could hold this head up bravely if what was below was “bangin.” I fantasize about the outfits I would wear, pantsuits with crop tops, halters and striped skirts … How truly fabulous I will be!
But then, I realize this is ridiculous.
I like my hairstyle and all the freedoms it represents.