A Paris hair diary

The other day as I was standing in line to buy a crepe, a woman crossing the street couldn’t keep her eyes off me. When she got closer, her eyes lit up, and gave me a nod of approval as she walked by. It wasn’t a creepy stare. I could guess what it was about, and she confirmed it as she crossed the street, turned around and started walking towards me. She was not a food inspector, nor a figment of my imagination screaming loudly: this better be your last crepe, you’re training for your second half-marathon and you don’t need the sugar.

It was my hair. She walked up to me and said: your locks are beautiful, where do you get them done?

When most Europeans see my hair, the ones that have the courage to say anything usually start with: How do you wash it? Can you take it off? Are you a Rastafarian? Is your family from Jamaica? All that because I wear my hair in locks. The decision to start locking my hair had nothing to do with religion, lifestyle or wanting to make a statement about black beauty. I was just simply tired of chemical relaxers, braids, short haircuts,  pressing with hot combs, and was never going to get a weave (hair extension) or a wig.

I just wanted to see how my hair would behave if i left it natural. I love my hair. No breakage from chemicals, healthy, strong, grows faster that it ever did while it was permed or dying during my jheri curls summer. Yes, I had jheri curls many, many, years ago. Oh the things we do to black hair!

And for what? Whose standards of beauty are we trying to live up to?

As the woman and I talked, it made me smile that she wanted to know who took care of my hair. Here was this black woman who spoke perfect French, living in Paris for over 20 years, asking a recent immigrant where to go to get her locks done. As she walked away, I noticed a group of four black teenage girls eating their crepes in the restaurant. They all had weaves. They were wavy, and straight, blonde, black and some with red highlights. They also stared at my hair, but said nothing.

Corporate dreadlocs and other stories

This post first appeared at the Liming House

Back in 2008, I wrote a piece that argued thus, on the subject of my preferred “hairstyle”:

I am my hair. I am challenging, I am defiant, I do not apologize.

And the next time some Wall Street multimillionaire or Oxbridge-educated middle-aged perpetually entitled white British editor encounters a twenty-something <insertracehere> woman from the Caribbean, or someone with locs, he will pause.

He will pause because he will remember someone else who was more than the stereotype.

Continue reading

Maybe I am my hair

This post first appeared at The Liming House on July 16 2008

(Pace India.Arie)

I started growing my locs five years ago. Since then, I’ve fielded a host of questions from friendsfamilyclassmatescolleaguesrandomstrangers, including but not limited to:

– Do you wash it?

– How do you wash it?

– Can I touch it?

– Does it itch?

– Is it real?

– Does it hurt?

– Don’t you miss your real hair?

– Are you a Rasta?

– Why did you do it?

Continue reading