So I’m in the grocery store the other day and some stranger walks up and asks me to take a paper bag test! She was like, “I need to know if you light-skinneded enough to hang out with us.” Ok, so that’s not what she really said but that is what it felt like.
Most naturals get lots of questions from other naturals and people outside of the community. The questions range from basic to bizarre.
1) How do you get your hair to grow like that? Ummm...
2) What products do you use? All of them. I’m a junkie.
3) When did you big chop? Are you asking about my first chop, my second chop or the mini chop I did due to heat damage?
4) How long have you been growing your hair? Well, technically since birth but I’ve been retaining length in my natural state for about 14 months now.
5) You’re actually going to put food in your hair? Do you know how much EVOO costs? Yes, and I will not be wasting it on food.
5) Are you light skinned or dark skinned? What’s your curl type? Enter screeching halt.
Whenever I hear that last question I feel like I should go straight School Daze on 'em. #teamJiggaboo. I jest, but curl typing does seem dangerously close another method of saying “light skinned“ and “dark skinned” or good hair” and “bad hair” Too far? Perhaps for some but the concept of curl typing, much like racial identity, is knowledge that is only useful to one person—the person rocking the curls/coils/kinks. Let me further explain what I mean by that. Some argue that knowing your curl type is beneficial with regards to your hair regimen. This may well be true. But what we also know is that no two naturals are identical. So while knowing my curl type could be helpful for my regimen, that information is not very helpful to the person asking the question. Our hair might look the same but our diets, regional climates and other lifestyle factors all play a role in natural rule #1— there is no one-size-fits-all hair care regimen. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. Knowing my hair type doesn’t appear to be all that helpful to anyone else. It also serves to limit us in some regards. If your hair type is different, does that mean I shouldn’t try something that works for you? Does it mean I shouldn’t attempt the hairstyle you’re rocking? Does it mean I can’t rock that amazing cut? No. No. No. I’ve tried products and styles that work miracles for sistas with hair that looks exactly like mine and ended up with an epic fail (or two, or thirty). If knowing someone else’s hair type won’t help me find a regimen/hairstyle/product for me, what’s the point of pulling out the paper bag?
Curl typing might also be counterproductive in our quest to help new naturals embrace their natural beauty. Sometimes, it is easy to get so caught up in trying to achieve a desired curl pattern that you miss the amazing experience that comes with embracing your hair.
Don’t think I was crazy enough to start discussing all of this in the middle of aisle 7. Instead I responded like I always do, “I don’t know my curl type. I just listen to how my hair responds to any given product/regimen/style.” Still, I was left to wonder, “If we make distinctions similar to those of race, do we run the risk of falling into the same divisive structure?”
*Shout out to Gia for inspiring the title of this piece!