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I don’t know when it started for me, but I recently found myself being way too nosy when it comes to other people’s hair. I wouldn’t say that I judged people for the decisions they make when it comes to their hair, but I will admit that I was becoming a bit too concerned about the decisions people I know made about their locks. I was recently at a work event, jamming to music with my colleagues only to stop dead in my tracks and gawk at the out-of-the-blue new hairstyle one of my co-workers walked in the room wearing. As long as she had been working for the company, she always wore her hair natural with her curls neatly propped up on top of her head. But that day, she waltzed in, hair slicked down and shiny. I turned to my friend and co-worker and whispered, “Uh…did she get a perm?” My friend immediately started laughing at the way I asked the question, but went on to tell me that no, she just had it pressed and put some pieces in it. I was relieved as if it was my hair or my own business, and went on with my drink and my two-step.

I had to laugh at myself later. ‘Stop worrying about other people’s hair, girl!’ That’s really what I told myself. But I realized and witnessed that this was a problem for quite a few people. What we all had in common was the fact that we all wore our hair natural.

That same co-worker I told you about took some pictures this past weekend on Instagram while on a trip for work, and I wasn’t surprised to find that someone she knew asked a question similar to the one I posed days before: “Ummm, is that just a good flat iron?” When my co-worker informed her that it was, she went on to celebrate the look: “LOL!! Looking good!!” I guess if she said she actually had a relaxer, the response would have been “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It doesn’t stop there. Just a few months ago I went to the opening of a popular celebrity hairstylist’s salon, and to get there, I rode in a party bus from Manhattan to Brooklyn with my co-worker and a bevvy of natural hair bloggers and popular beauty writers. It was nice getting to mix and mingle (and drink for free!) with everybody, but the conversation turned serious when we went around in a circle and talked about how long we had been natural (this was actually the event organizer’s idea, as they were sharing new products). My co-worker informed folks that she was thinking about getting a texturizer and eyes popped. She had worn her hair natural for years, but issues with discouraging shrinkage and the stress of trying to do her hair every night just made my colleague more than ready to try something different. While the reception she received from the ladies wasn’t nasty, the group spent the next 15 to 20 minutes trying to talk her out of her decision, asking her if she’d tried different products with her twist-outs, thought about a range of protective styles, including braids, tried this, tried that, and more. By the end of it, my exhausted colleague was persuaded (or backed into a corner) to wait on the texturizer. Months later, she eventually went on this past weekend to put the texturizer in her own hair, forgoing her years worth of natural hair for a look that she wasn’t even happy with. I felt sad for her, and even shook my head. But then I had to check myself: ‘Why am I sorry for someone else’s hair!? That’s something she wanted to do and that’s her hair. Let me mind my business.’

I’ve had this conversation quite a few times with my friends and co-workers. Sometimes some of us can be too concerned with what other people are doing with their hair. For me, I know that after going natural I slowly but surely started worrying about folks throwing perms in their own hair. “Did you get a perm!?” “Nice hair! What did you do to it?” And I know we’ve all seen enough folks online ranting about other black women not loving themselves if they get relaxers and wear weaves to make anybody sick. We say hair isn’t that big of a deal, and then we turn around and have an issue with what a complete stranger does with their own. It’s not something I was proud of.

I think my concern came out of my own past of sacrificing my hair for styles that didn’t mean anything to me after a few months (if not weeks), and that would eventually end up damaging my hair. I didn’t want people to do something they would regret like I did. But in order to appreciate my hair as it is now, I had to make those mistakes with my hair, so I’ve decided to support others in the phases they want to go through to get to happy. And who knows? Maybe what I would consider a possible “mistake” one makes with their hair is what brings someone the love and appreciation of their locks that they’ve been looking for.

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