By Robin Renay Bolton, Co-opinion Editor
The last two years have been all about change for me. I quit a job I had been at for seven years. After three years at a community college, I transferred to CSUDH. And most importantly, after years of being a slave to flat irons and pressing combs on my hair, I decided to go natural.
Out of all the things I’ve ever done in my life, growing my heat-damaged hair out was probably the most frustrating experience. Parts of my hair had beautiful curls while other parts were bone straight and lifeless. Sometimes I would wash my hair and be so sad because my hair was a hot mess.
After a year of literal growing pains with my hair, my natural curls are flourishing. I don’t hide behind protective styles. I don’t feel the need to wear clip-ins to try to mask my damaged ends. I wear my natural hair proudly as often as I can.
Somewhere on Twitter, there are thousands of memes about how Black women warp into someone new every time they change their hairstyle. Whether we go from our hair in our natural state to box braids to weaves and wigs, Black hair is ever-changing. I didn’t realize how much my identity was tied to my hair until I went natural and began changing my hairstyles up.
I realized that I am one of those memes floating around on Twitter after a weird exchange with one of my coworkers.
My coworker’s desk is right by the door, so I walk past her desk multiple times a day. She’s super nice and goes out of her way to ask about my day. She always has a funny anecdote about her grandkids and she has the best candy in her candy bowl. I like this woman and subconsciously I enjoyed my short conversations with her.
A couple of weeks ago, I walked past her desk and instead of greeting me how she usually does she asked, “How’s your first week going? You like it here?”
Cue to me, standing there looking confused at evaluation…two months ago. I’ve walked past this desk a million times. I thought we bonded. I thought we were work friends. How do you not recognize me?! Then it hit me. My hair is different.
Usually, I wear my hair in a bun because of…laziness. There is a reason the natural hair community calls Sunday “wash day” because it takes all day. After washing, detangling and deep conditioning my hair, I usually don’t have much energy to style my hair, so week after week the bun wins for the hairstyle of the week. This one particular week, I had enough time to style my hair and decided to wear my natural curls down.
Who knew that wearing my hair down would completely change how I looked to someone who has spoken to me every day for five months? I mean, I should have known. I’ve seen the meme a thousand times and I’ve laughed at it a thousand more times. It’s funny online but in real life, it’s confusing. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see the same person. But to others, something as simple as changing my hair turned me into someone unrecognizable.
Honestly, I don’t let this bother me. Many people go through hoops to change their looks and all I have to do is change my hair.