In my early twenties, I found myself on an unforgettable date. He and I had briefly met at an event the week prior and spent a few days in conversation over the phone. Initially, the first date seemed promising: he picked me up in his car (a super-duper plus for NYC), picked one of my favorite restaurants, and had me in tears from laughter mid way through dinner. And then, he brought up my least favorite topic: hair.
“Black women with natural hair are goddesses to me,” said my date, as he smiled a child’s grin from across the table. “The fact that so many Black women choose to wear weaves and wigs is a disgrace to me. Like, how much can you publicly hate yourself?” he scoffed. I uncomfortably adjusted my chair and picked up my glass of wine; gulping until the cup tilted back above my head. Drinking was my only salvation as my kinky, curly wig caught onto the zipper of my jacket, thrown on the back of my seat. “See, things like that” — he laughed as I fiddled with the coat and my faux fro — “all of those Black wannabe-woke women who wear that horsehair don’t know your struggle.” At that very moment he flashed a beautiful set of perfect white teeth that bounced off of his chocolate dark skin, but I couldn’t afford the luxury of relishing in that anymore. Now, I had to be a gentle, but stoic bitch who had to educate yet another man about his ignorant ideas on Black womanhood.
My eyes bulged out of my head, and I wanted to scream. The first date I’d enjoyed in a long time was taking a turn for the worst at the finish line — fantastic. I exhaled. “I’m not really sure what you mean,” I said with a slight cock of my head and an expressive batting of my eyes. “All women wear all types of different hair, and it really has nothing to do with being Black or prideful; it’s all just personal preference and aesthetics.” I rolled my eyes, then made direct eye contact with him so he could grasp that I was neither impressed nor flattered. He stumbled a bit. “I only meant that Black women who wear wigs and weaves are obviously just embarrassed about being Black. Why would they want hair like a white woman?”
The rest of the conversation that night is all just a blur now. But what I do remember is deciding to never take another call from him. Certainly, he didn’t deserve to know my truth and I’m glad that I never revealed it to him. Perhaps it’s a bit petty to say I stopped talking to him because he said he didn’t like “unnatural”-haired Black women. But in reality, it’s much deeper than that.
Because I was born with alopecia areata, I’ve never had a full head of hair — not even a quarter full. Throughout elementary school, I braved the questions and the stares; I was still this adorable little girl, after all. By the time sixth grade approached, I felt different. I didn’t want to feel like an outcast. I didn’t want to have to explain that my hair patches weren’t from chemotherapy or why it made me look so alien compared to other girls and boys. So my mother, sisters, and I shopped for a wig. I’ll never forget it: it was twice the size of my head, with huge bangs and shoulder-length dark-brown hair. My head felt huge, and for months it was extremely uncomfortable. But it released me from the constant anxiety and instant ridicule I had often felt — although it induced a low level of paranoia.