Smoothies and Sun Salutations: Is Natural Hair Intimidating?

April 6, 2014  |  

I guess technically you can say I’ve been natural for over a year. I haven’t had my hair relaxed since last spring, but for the most part I’ve kept it protected under weaves. What I have done is witness all the challenges and triumphs of actually committing to wearing natural hair through my sister’s journey. She made the decision to go natural early last summer. Since then it’s been interesting to see how much women attribute their beauty to what’s going on above their eyebrows.

After her first trip to the natural hair salon she returned with a short curly do that made her resemble an early 90’s Lauryn Hill. I can honestly say it was cute. It was different than anything I had ever seen her in, but she pulled it off. Despite, the compliments from family and friends for about two months it was no secret that she was clearly uncomfortable.  She struggled between covering up the style in beanies and wondering if it ever really looked “done”.  She had me laughing for a whole night when she appeared in my room and simply said, “I feel like I look like D.L. Hughley.”

What was most interesting was the way men reacted to her.  Most men would compliment her and tell her hair was beautiful, but not after telling her how “different” she looked.  But it was as if other men assumed the decision to go natural was a complete lifestyle choice instead of just a beauty one. It was like having kinky twists meant she had committed to a life of kale smoothies, meditation and starting every morning with sun salutations. One day she decided to ask a co-worker how men really felt about natural hair, and here’s what he said:

“Many men are intimidated by natural hair. Women who rock natural hair are empowered and confident and you have to step at them a different kind of way. It’s almost as if they don’t need us and you have to be very clear about what you have to offer before approaching them. The typical, ‘Hey, sweetheart.  Let me holla at you for a minute,’ is not going to get their attention, so you have to come correct. But men don’t always want a challenge. Sometimes we just want a woman who we can make smile without having to try so damn hard.”

So let me get this straight: Because a woman wears a weave or a relaxer, suddenly that makes her more approachable because obviously deep inside she dislikes herself? Yeah…ok. As silly as it sounded, I must say brother had a point on some level. Women aren’t the only ones intimidated by our own hair, it sometimes make men just as uncomfortable. There are so many stereotypes that accompany wearing natural hair. “Naturalistas” are seen as militant and unapproachable, almost as if you’re not talking about uplifting the black community and standing up to “the man” you have nothing to discuss with them. But like India Arie once said, “I am not my hair.”  Wearing a weave doesn’t mean I giggle and smile at every man that approaches me, just like every sista wearing some two strand twists doesn’t want you to come at her with an essay on civil rights.

My sister has the same issues with men before she started styling her hair differently, and it has more to do with her attitude than any process she’s putting that dead protein through. She also drinks grape sodas (not smoothies), watches “Big  Bang Theory” to relax and starts every morning by hitting the snooze button at least twice. It just goes to prove how much we assume based on appearance and how many great people we miss out on because of what we already made up in our minds before actually meeting them.

Do you notice people treat you differently since you went natural?

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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