Tuesday, April 17, 2007

On Nappy Heads and who are you anyway?

It has been over a week, since the latest high profile loud last angry White male made a particular pronouncement about a group of Black women. "Nappy headed hos" with tattoos.

Oh Lawdy Miss Claudy. Now Imus is a fool, but a very wealthy one with many defenders from the "real journalistic profession." Hummph, he just said what a whole lot of people think on a regular basis.

There are many times I walk down the street in my burg getting interesting glances from others who don't look like me. At times I am in stores where folks decide their time is much more precious than mine (besides short Black women are invisible anyway) and decide they need to be served first. Sometimes the workers take the same tack. This happens more times than I really want to recall. I know despite degrees, a pack of credit cards and my Versace Bifocals, I am just another "nappy headed" fill in the blank. I don't have tattos, my clothes don't portray me as a hoochie mama. But I am one of those single mamas with a babydaddy who not doing the TCB.

Truth be told,I actually am nappy headed. This is in direct contrast to those lovely powerful young women who comprise that great basketball team (if only Imus had said, "they got game.") I finally got a gander of the sisters, beautiful braids with extensions, hair permed and pulled back, not a single wild nappy headed sister.

It's a touchy subject for me. Back in the fourth grade, I begged my parents for an Afro. This was the late 60's when people actually believed, "Black is Beautiful." Poets, singers and musicians created many ballads proclaiming the beauty of our people. Bushes grew on heads, fists hung from necklaces, folks changed their names and all sorts of "neo- African" traditions arose.

My parents made me wait a year before I cut cut off those pigtails. They knew there would be consequences. Mississippi grandparents that could barely speak in a civil tone because their "foolish granddaughter" cut off her "good=long" hair. Male barbers calling me little boy despite earrings in my ears. The ultimate test having my White classmates at my private school having to mash my hair daily to "see what it was like."

I had moments of backsliding to lyed, fried and to the side. Fleeting moments when I was finishing my pediatric residency in San Francisco. The nurses commented gleefully that my straight hair was more "friendly" than my short Afro. I relented a few years before with braids but couldn't handle losing hair on the sides of my heads. So for most of my 49 years my hair has been in its natural state, multi-textured and unbowed. I have grown to love my halo of gray. I earned every gray hair on my head and have no shame in showing them to all.

A year ago I moved to Petaluma, California. Beautiful vistas, lots of farms... and very few Black people. So few in fact that us sisters stop each other on the street to find out, "where do you get your hair done?" No decent place in my county that can be trusted with shears on this Black woman's head. The Bay Area is near but not convenient. So my wonderful nappy hair has grown into a woolly bun.

I love the texture and the wildness. Some days I think I am ready for braids. Other days I just oil, scrunch, wrap a ribbon, pick and go. No worries about it going back, no worries about whether it is friendly or not.

I know my younger and same age sisters have a really big issue with nappy. Looking at Essence and Oprah magazines, it is rare that a model has the real deal on her head. Usually some impossibly long (without the assistance of extensions), perfectly curly or hair in a color you know girlfriend wasn't born with. And then there are the impossible wighats. Having lived in crazy summer heat for the last 14 years, I have no desire to don one of these. Yes it is our prerogative to do what we want with our hair. But I think less is more. Let it be.

Snappin' to the left and right on this one!


SockPixie said...

Dear Mimi,

You are a beautiful woman, proud of who she is, and an example to all women, encouraging them to accept and be proud themselves.

Caroline, the SockPixie

g-girl said...

hi there! :) thanks for stoppin' by my blog--we, left-handed knitters need to stick together. :) I'll be back for more. I'm in total agreement-less is more but society is always partly to blame.