"You Like My Hair?"
I remember standing in the hallway in middle school; one of the popular boys — who’d hit his growth spurt about three years earlier than everyone else — stood in front of me, seeming to fill the space from locker to locker, grilling me about my hair like a prosecutor minutes away from clinching the case:
“Is it your hair??”
“Did you buy it??”
“Is it from a horse??”
“Are you bald???”
I felt on the ropes, I felt on defense, I felt embarrassed.
The question about whether or not my hair is mine has been something I’ve dreaded since I was twelve. Putting aside the “First Of All” that it’s nobody’s business, it made me feel sheepish, small, cowered, unsure how to answer. Should I lie? If I tell the truth will the person asking think me less valid, less beautiful and therefore less valuable? (Because a woman is only as valuable as she is considered attractive, didn’t you know?)
I’ve been a-shamed and actively shamed for wearing “fake” hair, and I’m not the only one with that story. Black women in particular have a collective history of our hair being policed, watched, eyed suspiciously. We have too much experience with getting a “Your hair is so beautiful!” followed immediately by an “Is it yours?”, asked in the same tone as a law enforcement officer questioning a young black man as to why he’s “in this neighborhood.”
Having fake hair as a black woman hasn’t been something to be talked about, let alone lauded or praised. Most of us opted to operate under a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy regarding our hair (which BTW, unless it’s on your head it really is none of your business — very much Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.)
SO YOU CAN IMAGINE MY SURPRISE WHEn I heard miss Ariana Grande proudly proclaim in her new bop “7 Rings”: “You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it!”
Oh it’s cool now? We can say it? Did it once again take a non-black woman to make acceptable what black women have been doing for decades? *sips tea*
I mean I’m here for the energy in that proclamation — it’s carefree, it’s unabashed, it’s honest. And I’m here for that song — I’ve listened to it everyday for the past two weeks. What I’m *not* here for is racist double standards. Black women been out here buying hair for years and getting called bald-headed for it. Bronze-but-not-brown-skinned Ariana Grande does it and it’s cute?
This is what we mean. This is what we’re talking about when we say black culture is popular culture — in this case (and often) black female culture is popular culture. And this is why we all out here pissed. (Oh, is it just me?)
Again, no shade to Ariana, buy your hair girl, wear them red bottoms, tell us you could purchase our lives at the drop of a hat. IJS we gotta stop loving black culture on everyone but black people.
One more time for the people in the back: