By Lauren McBride
I was out wig shopping with a good friend over the holidays when I saw it. Like a heroine meeting her doppelganger nemesis in a Hitchcock thriller, I had finally come face to face with my hair. An exact replica of my very own tresses was right before my eyes being modeled on a lifeless mannequin bust. It was a surreal experience to say the least.
My friend and I were perhaps the most unlikely pair of wig shoppers ever. My friend has a beautiful head of hair. She describes her hair as an “afro puff” texture and it is well past her shoulders. My own hair is also long, notoriously thick and curly. I was not actually looking for a wig (likely story!), but my friend was. She was looking for a change, but did not want to damage her natural hair. In this case though, the wig is less about getting better hair, and more about the convenience; the ability to throw on a new head of hair and assume a whole new identity. For me it was a research mission, and what I learned is why I have been asked on more than one occasion if I am wearing a wig.
I work with young people in Philadelphia and my students are the ones who most often presume my hair to be fake. While I consider it flattering, I never fully understood how this was even a question. I was confused because it could be on a day where my hair was looking completely average, messy even. My thought is, if I’m going to wear some fake hair, it’s going to be FABULOUS. After visiting a wig shop, I’ve realized there are so many choices out there, from fabulously coiffed wigs like I had anticipated, to everyday bad hair day wigs. I imagine the spectrum helps keep the wig game convincing. Now that I know how to spot a wig, I’ve noticed that wearing a mediocre wig is actually quite a normal occurrence in my environment. Not to mention that wig shops are everywhere in this city! I would say in some neighborhoods, it would be easier to find a wig than say, a decent cup of coffee.
The wig shopping experience brought up all kinds of memories about my own hair. I am mixed, black and white, and I have always been really self-conscious about my hair and how it’s perceived. I something like corkscrew curls. As a kid this caused huge problems. “It hurts to be beautiful” is what my mother would chant as she struggled through my hair, armed with a fine-tooth comb and a bottle of No More Tangles. Things got worse as I got older and my hair grew even curlier. I cut my hair short when I was 10 and I became “that girl who stuck her finger in the electric socket.” Although there were always those who told me my hair was great, somehow the negative comments were the ones that always stuck.
Black kids would say:
“Oh my gosh look at that white girl with a Jherri Curl!”
White kids would say:
“Hey, that girl looks just like Slash!”
Let’s face it, Slash has always had great hair, but that does not feel like a compliment to an insecure biracial 12 year-old girl. These comments were innocent, but each one made me feel even more out of place than I already felt. I started to believe that maybe my hair in fact was not fit for public consumption.
Luckily, I grew up and eventually snapped out of it. I got some great hair products and I learned to love what is growing out of my head. I am now complimented on my hair much more than I was ever taunted before. Some even consider me an expert at caring for curly hair. It has actually been suggested to me that I turn my knowledge and ability of dealing with curly hair into a professional endeavor! I think folks like Ms Jessie’s and the Mixed Chics have that covered. To me it is just a skill, a very necessary skill. Times have changed and natural hair of all textures is far more accepted today than when I was growing up. I now remember how many times–countless times–I was told “You’re beautiful Lauren, people would kill for your hair.” Well, people are not killing for it, but now they certainly are paying for it.
More on Madame Noire!
- Fine Tune: Men Who Could Sing To Us Anyday!
- Why Are You Hiding Your Boos? Celeb Women Who Are Always Acting Single
- Dealing With Drama?: How To Know When It’s Time To Go
- I Know You Mean Well, But…7 Reasons Why BET Kills Me Softly
- “Dust Yourself Off & Try Again”: Folks Who Should Find Something Else To Do
- Friends & Lovers: What To Avoid When Introducing Your Guy To Your Girls
- Wild Thang: African Print-Inspired Fashions for Head to Toe
- Ooo Weee: Characters We’re Still Crushin’ On