Respect while weaved!

I noticed something very interesting this week in the realm of hair weaves;  which ones are acceptable and which ones aren’t.  I’m basing this find on my personal experience.  First and foremost as a woman I have to be prepared for any and every comment that may come my way when I decide to wear certain tresses.  For example I’ve noticed that if I have longer (14-20 inches), straight hair the “cat calls” are a lot more crude and vulgar.  However, if I wear a hair that has more of a curl to it,  the comments aren’t as rude, but imply that I’m of mixed race.  I wish I were lying but I actually have been called “Blackanese” too many times to count this week.  Perhaps it’s because my eyes have a bit of a slant to them, but I have a hunch that the texture of my hair weave factors in a bit.  The hair weave I wore recently closely resembled an afro but on a grander scale, think Erykah Badu meets Dianna Ross.  Now this hair  was BIG to say the least,  and to say it attracted attention is an understatement.  The difference between the reactions I received while wearing this hair and the other varied tremendously.  For one thing multiple women complemented me, which rarely ever happens.  And the men who did say something were respectful!  I was shocked, actually giddy with surprise.  I cracked a smile at the little victory I felt had been achieved: Respect while weaved!

Was I experiencing that black hair discrimination on a different spectrum?  The one that Essence Revealed mentioned in her blog about Black women with natural hair vs processed or weaved,  I wonder?

Earlier this week I had a wonderful conversation with some women of color that centered around hair and beauty.  I admitted my many short comings when it comes to being addicted to the weave, even at times using it as a way to feel better about my looks.  And secretly feeling better about myself if people’s comments implied that I couldn’t be just Black.  This idea that being just Black wasn’t enough, came from so many different experiences in my life it would take the rest of the day to list them!  However there is one instance in particular that really stands out for me.  A story I shared with the group I like to call “mixed girl”.   It was an experience of having been overshadowed by the new girl in my 4th grade class.   She was the only child of obvious mixed race in my elementary school.  Growing up down south, being a dark-skinned black girl was a bad thing. I never felt pretty but I did think myself to be fairly bright.  However, not even my brains could compete with the beauty that this unique looking girl had on our school.  Teachers gave her special treatment.   Other children vied for her attention, just to walk her to class, I was shocked!  I realized she was what people envied so as soon as I was old enough to mimic her “look” I did.  From  wearing wavy to spiral curl weave, even wearing grey contacts.  I was always being asked if was mixed.  I was even scolded by a group of Black men on the street for not acknowledging their presence.   As I passed by with my headphones on, one shouted out “you don’t have to be afraid of us sugar we’re just Black!”  It was trippy to say the least.  What the hell did they think I was?  I was wearing about 18″ of kinky wave hair, once again to give that realistic yet ambiguous look.  Then I realized,  I had become mixed girl!  To those guys and myself.

The only issue is that by assuming this new “mixed girl” identity I was telling myself that the real me was bad, ugly, not good enough.  I wanted to start loving myself.  The me that felt good about her skin color, her hair that was actually really cool!  I wanted to love everything about me.  No more adding the 1/2 cherokee line to my heritage or saying my great grandfather was Asian.  But as with everything else the transition from knowing your truth and living your truth is usually a bit of a process.

I no longer lie about my heritage or feel ashamed of being Black.  I still wear tons of weave, but I know now I do it because I love hair, I love fashion, I love switching up my look.  It’s a wonderful creative outlet for me.  I look in the mirror and ask myself why are you putting this hair on?  I’ve asked myself many variations of that question over the years:  why are you growing your locks?  Who are you growing your afro for?  Why are you thinking of perming your hair again?  If I have any thoughts that say “well you look bad today and this type of hair will make you look better, more afro centric, more accepted,” I have the compassion for myself now to say no & do what feels most loving and nurturing for me.  Now I can accept myself with or without the weave which is soooooo far from where I was a few short years ago.  There is a level of respect & love I have for the person I am now, to consciously act in ways that are in alignment with my truth.

NOT so Invisible Chains

So a few weeks ago I was perusing the aisles of one of my favorite places in all of Brooklyn: The Hair store!  I am the first one to admit I have a weave addiction, but that’s the first step right, Admitting?  I can also attest to having spent  a small fortune on hair products to maintain the upkeep of my newest hair piece.  From hairspray to setting lotion,  even overpriced shampoo and conditioner have been purchased to keep my fake locks looking “real” enough for as long as possible.  I realized when I was giving my latest weave a roll and set, that maybe I should think about putting a little more time and energy into my own hair.  Nevertherless I found my self back in the hair store week after week day after day.  I frequented the store so often that the owner thought I was a stylist and removed the tax from my purchases!  So you can imagine my shock, Weave’s #1 customer, when I came in and saw this NEW product on the shelves of the newly renovated hair store:

OLIVE / BLACK / STYLING

The container displayed a cartoon of a woman screaming and her hair sticking straight up all over her head.

So I questioned myself: Am I being too sensitive? Can you really tell the race of this woman on the product? How do you know they are marketing to Black women? Who else has seen this? How many little black girls have seen this? Why can’t we get away from the Angry Black woman stereotype? Why did the manufacturer think it was ok to market this product in this way?  Why do I feel embarrassed? This product wasn’t made just for me…or was it?

I made a point to “google” the product and found that they were indeed marketing to Black women.  I also found it interesting that the description of the product on the site was different than that on the actual product :

Site:

“Angry Mousse is specially formulated to infuse lifeless hair with volume…”

Product:

“Angry Mouse BLACK is specially formulated to add luster and volume to dull, limp hair…”

As I toiled over these questions I felt my shame subside and anger rise.  I thought, “I’m going to buy this product and show it to some other women and get their opinions.”  I wanted to see if I was alone in my outrage.  Turns out I wasn’t, but I was more concerned that I wasn’t alone in my shame.  The Black women I showed the product to almost immediately lowered their heads, some just shrugged and said, “well this is what society thinks of us, what can we do?”  Yikes!

Well, I for one decided that I didn’t need any NEW hair for the New Year!  And although I didn’t have the courage before, I think I have the courage now to simply ask them to take the product off the shelf because it’s offense to me a customer, a “stylist”, a Black Woman.

What would you do in this situation?  Let me know:)