Black women who write know that it’s hard to get around not talking about hair. Our hair, others’ hair; long, straight, kinky, short, relaxed, natural, fake, real.
This morning I woke up to the mess I allowed to form over night. I pulled off the one elastic band holding it in a poof ball that could never be likened to a pony’s tail but language shows its limits all the time. I grabbed a section at a time, gently combing out the ends. There’s lots of breakage but it’s easy going, no real struggle. In moments I have created an impressive mane complete with thin silvery streaks. The ends are not quite long enough to touch my shoulders and the mass of it fans out to the sides. There’s so much hair and yet it is light and fluffy; a miracle in its own right.
For a moment I think I could put a head band on that flattens the top and pulls the rest back just a bit so that I look serious and wild at the same time. No, that’s too much. This hair has to go to work. If I wear it like this – in it’s full glory – it will only be a distraction. My hair will be the star of the show, not the learning I have planned on the field or in the gym. No, there would be too many comments, too many uncontrolled touches, too much attention on the stuff that grows out of my head. I don’t have the energy for that.
For a while I leave it as is. I wake up the boy and welcome his strokes on my unleashed mane. I eat breakfast the same way, unselfconscious for a change, enjoying this freedom to just be.
I need to get going and the hair must be contained. One straight part, slightly right of center. I work quickly and weave a two strand twist along one side of my head and then the other. It barely takes me 4 minutes and my hair is bound up in respectability worthy of my schoolmarm ancestors. There: professional and neat. Unsurprising. This is hair that will work, that does the work of maintaining a structure.