I Am My Hair

 
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It happened again. As I walk into one of the offices I volunteer at, I’m greeted with the all too familiar reaction of surprise over my hair. Fresh from a day old braid out, I decided last minute to just throw on one of my kinky-curly wigs. The receptionist a sweet, middle-aged white woman exclaims, “I love your hair!” I say, “Thank you” as she proceeds to ask me what did I do to it. I with slight awkwardness, yet full confidence I reply, “It’s a wig.”

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Though I thoroughly enjoy both my real hair and a good wig from time to time, I’m still conflicted with the idea of how acceptable my own hair really is. Being new to the job market and preparing for interviews I’m still burdened with the age-old question of what am I going to do with my hair? When is it “okay” to pull an Angela Davis and go full out? Or should I just put on a straight wig for the sake of appearing professional?

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And when I say “professional” I use that term so loosely, because who decides what is professional from what is not? Whether I wear a wig or not, I’ve just come to know and expect my hair to be a topic on the table for discussion. My various hair choices have attracted compliments, criticism, and backhanded compliments. Some of them went like this:

Pixie Cut: “You look like a 3rd grade school teacher.”

“Thanks?”

Tapered Afro: “I think you always look nice and the cut fits you, but I always liked you better with longer hair.”

“I know I look nice, thanks...”

Still in a Tapered Afro: (A church lady is trying to hook me up with a guy): “Oh, I see you’ve cut your hair. Well, it can grow back. His sisters both have long hair.”

“If he loves long hair so much he can date one of his sisters. Lady bye.”

Any short hairstyle in general: “It’s nicer to have longer hair.”

“Not necessarily Grandma.”

Hair is something so personal to me. I view it as a literal extension of who I am, and part of my identity is tied to it. There were times in the past that I wished I had a different texture, one that could easily straighten or one that had fewer kinks. But as I’ve gotten older, I accepted that my hair is going to do what it was created to do. Some styles I will never achieve with my natural hair, and I’m okay with that. Where I was a little jealous of those that could execute certain hairstyles, I now celebrate what I can do with mine. I’ve come to a place where I adore my hair and all that is does. With care and love the possibilities are endless.

 
 

Rachael Joseph

Photography: Samuel Blot