Show Me the Hair!
by Peggy Butler
Contrary to what has been said and written, Black women can grow long hair. Now hare this!
I was recently engaged in a scholarly review of the new Chris Rock documentary "Good Hair," and when it was over, I was, appalled by the idea that some people actually believe a woman’s hair texture, is a crucial factor in determining her self- worth. I know you're saying, can a film actually emit such feelings? You betcha.
"Good Hair", which debuted October 9, gives a riveting glimpse into the world of Black hair culture; with emphasis on the obsession with fake hair and the millions of dollars spent annually on wigs, weaves and other popular trends. In viewing the film with four friends, 2 men and 2 women, I was struck by the extent to which they agreed that Black women wearing weaves is akin to breathing. What? Are you serious?
As a woman with coarse tresses that hang slightly below my shoulders, I have opted to wear my own hair. However, I have been asked on more than one occasion, why I don't wear weaves, which usually prompts the following response: "I don't wear a weave, because my hair is long enough to stand on its own." Usually the person asking the question pauses momentarily and says, "but most Black women wear wigs or weaves, what's your problem?" After years of hearing outrageous comments like those above, I was compelled to write the following editorial from a controversial albeit satirical viewpoint. So without further interruption, I present, Show Me the Hair.
A blustery wind rattles the trunk of Christine McNeely's Toyota Corolla, parked on a hill adjacent to Sylvester's House of Beauty. Looking ahead, she observes dozens of people standing in line waiting for the doors to open. As the wind swirls, so does the grumbling. One woman is overheard asking for tips on how to keep her weave from frizzing after showering. "My kids need shoes, my boyfriend need his car fixed, and I took all the money and brought $125 worth of hair extensions. And look at it," said the woman pointing to her head. "Every time I take a shower I come out looking like Buckwheat."
Her complaints were met by more grumbling and nodding heads. "I know what you mean," said a woman sporting platinum synthetic braids. "My hair costs me an arm and a leg to maintain," she said, brushing strands of hair from her eyes. "If I could get this nappy stuff underneath to grow, I wouldn't have a problem." "Girl, you know Black folks can't grow no hair," came a screeching voice, followed by laughter. "And since that is the case, we just have to settle for fake hair."
Eyeing the women intensely was Christine McNeely. "Chris the Bliss" as she is known, is blessed with miles of hair. However unlike the other women standing in line, it's all natural: scalp, roots and strands. As Christine listened, she wondered if the people in line knew that the hair hanging below her shoulders was all hers. And since they didn't, why should she tell them, unless she was asked, which rarely happened.
After 10 minutes of chitchat the doors opened, and the customers rushed in. Taking a seat, Christine noticed the woman who made the comments regarding Black people being unable to grow hair. Looking up, the two women locked eyes and said hello.
As she read her magazine, Christine had a strange feeling she was being watched. Looking up, she observed the woman staring at her hair. "Can I touch your hair" the woman said reaching out to touch Christine's tresses.
"No, you may not" she roared. "What are you anyway, a hair freak?"
"Those other women let me play in their hair," said the woman rising from her chair.
"Well, those other women might like it, " said Christine, frowning "but I don't." Realizing, her remarks were drawing unwanted attention; Christine took a vow of silence.
"Hey, you act as though that hair on your head is real," said the woman. The woman reminded Christine of one of those loud-half-baked-rubber-neck-twirling guests on The Jerry Springer Show. "For your information," said Christine pointing to her head, "this is my real hair, with emphasis on the word real. "And even you have to admit, it's all good."
"Ah come on," said the woman. "Since when did Black women get the ability to grow hair?' "That's right," another weave wearer chimed in. "You know we can't grow no hair."
"What is wrong with you people?" cried Christine. "No wonder everyone thinks we can't grow hair. We've even brainwashed ourselves to the point where we are starting to buy into the hype," she said. "Never in my life have I seen a...," before she could finish the sentence, one of the women grabbed Christine's hair.
"What the heck are you doing?" she screamed, struggling to free herself. Within seconds the salon was transformed into a boxing ring, complete with screaming fans and two irate opponents. "Stop pulling my hair fool, you're hurting me," yelled Christine, frantically. A little girl, who less than two minutes ago was sitting on her mother's lap, was now standing in the middle of the floor shouting "Get her, get her."
Suddenly, the woman stopped pulling Christine's hair. "Dang, what kind of glue do you have on that thing?" she demanded.
"I told you this is my real hair," warbled Christine. "That's my scalp you were pulling, not glue you idiot."
Taking a closer look at Christine's head, the woman was now convinced she was telling the truth. "I'm sorry," the woman conceded. "I guess I was wrong, we can grow hair."
Christine had frequented the salon for years, but because of what happened, there was an uneasiness in being there that she had never before experienced. Rising from her chair, the stunning brunette informed the owner that she would not be returning to the salon. And after witnessing the embarrassing altercation between the two women, the owner understood her reason. Before leaving Christine turned to the woman she had fought with earlier and reminded her, "Don't forget Lard brain, we are capable of growing hair," she said, twirling her mane. There was a hushed silence, and all you could hear was the droning alloys of discomfort.
Despite the popularity of weaves in the African-American community, there are thousands of women who can still call their long luscious locks their own. Two prime examples are singer Alicia Keys (Yes, I know she's biracial, so what?) and model Wanakee, developer of the Verifen Complex System, which offers women of color a healthy way to care for their hair.
An ex-model with hair cascading to her lower back, Wanakee says one of the reasons Black women tend to have long hair as children, but shorter hair as they grow older is based on the fact that when they are younger the hair is kept in plats or braids. But as they grow older, the hair becomes damaged via chemicals and electrical appliances. However, for those women who know the secret of maintaining long hair into adulthood, they find themselves at war with skeptics and weave denizens who're convinced that Black women cannot grow hair.
So the next time you see a Black woman with hair hanging to her buttocks, don't assume it's a weave. It may be her very own hair. And if you're still not sure, say to her in a calm voice, "Show me the hair." If she flashes an embarrassing smile, her "hair" was probably purchased from Mr. Chow’s Beauty Emporium. But if she gets a strange look in her eyes and her nose twitches, you can bet the hair is hers. No Faking. No Doubt.