Monday, October 12, 2009

Nappy headed ho.

You may have noticed from my photos that I have lovely thick, wavy red hair.

Yeah, that's basically horseshit. What I have--really--is an Afro. I have ultra-curly, tightly kinked dark brown hair. It grows out rather than down in nearly a perfect sphere. It's highly unprofessional and wacky-looking and there's no way I could work in my current job with the kind of crazy rebel hairdo that my scalp naturally grows. It's also been a source of considerable social distress; when I was in school I was bullied mercilessly for my weird hair, and even as an adult I've been embarrassed on morning-afters when my sleep-messed hair partly reverts to craziness.

When I wasn't working such a "conventional" job, when I was in college or working on indie films, I shaved my hair or cut it very short. It was so comfy! But that made me look like a lesbian, which had nearly as many social drawbacks as looking like a genetic freak. (It's amazing how many people will ask "are you a guy or a girl?" to a five-foot person with B-cup breasts and curved hips and a girlish face, if she has short hair. It's amazing how many people would ask that to anyone, but really now.)

So now I do stuff to my hair. I perma-straighten it with lye, dye it a sexier color with ammonia, flat-iron it every morning, tie it up, pin it down, and pour in a metric buttload of sticky junk to make it stay that way. I'd whine about having to have whitey's hair--but I am white! Blue eyes, freckly sunburny skin, Afro. Genetics just isn't a package deal.

I don't mind having the option to change my hair so drastically (and the red really is more vanity than oppression), but it bothers me that I have to do all this just to look "normal." That I would be perceived as deliberately rebellious if I didn't process my hair ten ways from Sunday.

I don't know if my hair wants to be free--it really was pretty tough to manage--but I wish I could at least try it out without being treated like I had a giant "I AM WACKY AND IRRESPONSIBLE" sign on my head.


  1. Just sending in some hair sympathy. I had a dark brown afro through my teenage years, and it sucked. Impossible to tame, and everyone thought it was a perm gone wrong.

  2. Could be worse.

    I'm in that patchy stage between the receding hairline and the total, fringe-on-the-side baldness. I shave it, then sometimes let it grow, but inevitably if I let it get more than about 3/4 of an inch long, it ends up getting combed over some bald part or another, and I have a COMB-OVER. I will not accept a comb-over, so at that point it gets buzzed again.

  3. Don - Hey, at least you can buzz it without having random strangers staring at you like you're wearing an "I FUCK GOATS FOR SATAN" t-shirt and/or asking extremely personal questions about your gender and sexuality.

  4. I swear that short hair makes me look far girlier than long hair. And I'm a guy.

  5. I'm female with the culturally idealized waist length hair, and I wear D-cup bras. I still have people confused about my gender or my sexual preferences. I've always figured it's due to my height, my lack of style, and my hobbies. When people see a tall individual, in sensible shoes and baggy comfy clothing, head down in an engine/computer/book, they assume ze is male even if ze does have a very long braid, and when ze turns out to be female they assume she's queer.

    When I was a teenager it upset me, and in my early 20s I went through a period of trying hard to look femme. But eventually I chose to just do my own thing, and laugh at it.

  6. From someone still trying to come to terms with her curly-headedness, I sympathize. But you know, with the right hair dresser and a good gel, I've gotten to the point where I am proud to have curly hair. The straight-haired part of the female beauty standard is something I have personally refused to conform to. And it's odd, you know, ~30% of the population has curly hair (just going by genetics), and yet people see me wearing my hair curly as something unique. I like that.