via Three Naturals

…by Bee of

I was out at an event a few days ago, when I ran into a friend of a friend. Though I know she had recently started wearing her hair naturally, here she was, rocking straight hair that looked great!

“Girl – your hair is getting long! You’re really taking care of it!” I said.

When I complimented her on her ‘do, she got really shy and sheepish. She kind of ducked her head down, pulled what I now know was a weave into a nervous ponytail, and started off on a long explanation that I didn’t really ask for.

“Oh, you know, I just needed a break – I do wash n’ gos all the time and it’s getting too cold! I’m still natural underneath though! I still count! I just needed to do something different for a while…and it’s like a, what do you call it…protective style – yeah, it’s a protective style so that I can just protect my curls, you know…”

Awwwwwwwkward. I didn’t ask for alladat. But it did make me take notice of something that happens when I’m around other Black women: the over-justification of one’s chosen hairstyle, especially if they feel “judged” for not wearing their hair naturally.

All too often, I find that when I’m out and about and the topic of hair comes up, a woman with a weave or a relaxer will come across almost apologetically when justifying her hair choice. It almost feels like they think l I’m ‘looking down on them’ for not embracing their natural hair like I have. After this happened multiple times in one week, I had to sit down and take some mental inventory. Was my facial expression set a certain way? Did I not sound sincere when I complimented her hair? Did I do anything to make her feel like she had to explain herself to me? I couldn’t come up with anything. When I realized that this happened with friends as well as strangers, I figured it likely wasn’t anything I had done directly, but was related to the relatively new perception of me being a natural-haired woman.

It’s similar to how men approach women. With my straight hair, it was “psssssst…”, and with my natural curls, I became a “Black queen” and an “empress”. I feel that women do the same thing, in a way. It’s all good for us to have relaxers and weaves, but once a woman switches it up to wear her hair naturally, there is a different perception. I’ve had women say they wish they could wear their hair naturally. That they would if their hair was “good enough”. That they don’t look good with short hair, so they could never do a big chop. All in all, the sentiment is that natural hair is something out of their reach. Perhaps that perceived unattainability leads some women to feel the need to justify their choices? I don’t know. Whatever it is, it seems to put me in the light of the dreaded “Natural Nazi”, an overzealous natural hair defender, who pities and attacks the ignorance of poor sistas who are slaves to the creamy crack. But I’m not!

I’ve been on the other side as well. Last year I went to the Toronto Natural Hair Show, and had my hair flat ironed at the time. I recall milling about the vendors booths with my homegirl Rowena (of the blog Nubiansoulslocks), who wears locs. More than once, I was assumed to have a relaxer or a weave, and noticed that the tone I was addressed with was different from the tone used to speak to Rowena. I remember almost wanting to preface any conversation with “So, I’m NATURAL, just have my hair flat ironed…” but I stopped myself. To me, it just wasn’t worth it, but as I reminisce now, I can understand where some of the need for explanation comes from. Whether the vendors knew it or not, the vibe they gave to Rowena was “yes, sista-girl!” and with me, it was more “poor thing…she’ll get enlightened soon.”

Sigh. Judgement, insecurity, and misconceptions – so unnecessary, yet so common to the human experience.Women, OWN YOU. All of it. Never apologize for who you are. We’re all learning, growing, and getting better, but always own where you are in this moment.

Do any of you out there know what I’m talking about? Have you ever been on either side of the matter? Why do you think we feel this need to justify ourselves to friends (who should know and love us anyways) and strangers (whose opinions shouldn’t matter)?