Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Mombasa Diaries: Day 8: Race and Hair

'Is it true black women don't like to wet their hair?' 

this picture is so go Michelle with your bad self!

This is the question directed at me by a little white girl as I paddle in the shallows with The Child. 


Ok, so the truth is that this is not an inaccurate observation.  We don't like to get out hair wet ovyo ovyo (that's willy nilly to my non-swahili speakers). Just, how to explain this to a four year old and her thoroughly embarrassed mother? It's also hard to explain it without putting a natural slant to it and do a disservice to the crackettes and the weave posse. (Shoutout!)

How many of us prior to being natural were ok with random, unplanned hair wetting?
I know I certainly wasn't. 40% of black women don't exercise because they don't want to sweat out their edgesAt the first sign of rain, you can see black women the world over breaking Usain Bolt's record trying to get to cover.
You didn't go ANYWHERE without an umbrella. I had like three. One in the house (for escorting guests to the car and suchlike), a jumbo one the size of a parasol in my car, and a mini one for my handbag, which went out even on days there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Just incase. And don't get me started on the jwala on the head phenomenon. That's plastic bag. As in supermarket plastic bag. On your head. One day I'm driving along minding my own business and it starts to drizzle. I notice a woman on the road hurrying along pushing a stroller with a jwala on her head. Nothing unusual there and probably wouldn't have looked twice but for the stroller. I have stroller-envy. It's a mum thing. Anyway it was a really nice, swanky model which made me look twice at the jwalad woman.  Shock horror it's my friend! If I hadn't been driving fast on a narrow road with some **€$}]+¥|!! tailgating me, I would have pulled over to laugh. I had to resort to making lots of digs on whatsapp. #youknowwhoyouare

The situation is exponentially worse if you have a weave on your head.  Those weave tracks just don't dry! 

As naturals, we are much freer about water on our head and I wash my hair much more than I ever did. I still maintain that to some degree you want to control the circumstances under which water touches your hair. For example, if you have a banging twist out, you really won't be that happy about being caught in a downpour. 

So there are the facts as we black women know them.  The trouble is, we guard our hair secrets jealously. My husband watched Chris Rock's 'Good Hair' and it was a revelation! When I told an Irish friend that we wrap our hair at night, she was soooo shocked. She has plenty of black female friends and she's never had a clue. And everyone is far too afraid to ask. A Swedish friend told me a story of a friend of hers had been dating her black boyfriend for years. They lived in Sweden and he was one of the family. One summer, the whole family went on holiday and one of the little nieces asked if she could touch his hair. He said yes and she reached in. Next thing he knew, he had about 50 hands digging into his short fro!! All those years he'd known them, everyone had been too cautious to ask if they could touch his hair! The trouble with not asking is that assumptions are made, sometimes grossly innacurate ones. Like when a Sri Lankan family friend asked if we get worms in our hair because we don't wash it.(although there was that article doing the rounds recently..). Lots of naturals don't like people touching their hair, but if you ask nicely, and respect my personal space and don't go in all two-hands-scalp-deep, i'll be happy to oblige.

I'm a ass kickings!

So when the little girl asked me, I wasn't mad at her mother, or offended by the question. I just tried to explain as best as I could. Dispelling stereotypes starts with us.

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