6.30.2008

A Leap of Faith and a Baseball Cap

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my hair, or lack thereof. I wear my hair very, very short. In fact, I’m almost bald, by both male and female standards. There is nothing wrong. I don’t have cancer or suffer from pattern female baldness. The women tell me, they wish they could wear their hair like mine, if only their head was shaped right, as mine apparently is. I didn’t know this, when I decided to cut off my hair. The shape of my head never entered my mind. I just wanted some control and a stress free look. Besides, I figured I could cover with a baseball hat for a week or two until my hair grew back, if I didn’t like it.

I just like wearing fuzz instead of long silky locks. No weaves for this girl..uh, uh. The less I have to do to prepare my head for the public, the better I like it. Right now, I’m strictly wash, wear and go. It is neat, clean and avant garde fashionable.

I think most women wear their hair to please their men and other women, not themselves. It’s kind of like that old joke....question...what would the earth be like if there were no men?....answer...you’d have a world of fat happy women with no war....Women aim to please, everyone but not themselves...

Getting to this style has been a very long process. My parents never allowed me to cut my hair until I was sixteen, and then, it was just to trim the ends. My mother was pretty vocal about the fact that my father only liked long hair. She wore hers short, by the way. By the time I was sixteen, I could literally sit on my hair. Of course it had been straightened with the ends curled under. I hated beauty shops, primarily because the beauticians never listened to you and what you wanted to do with your hair. My beautician was also a family member, so I had absolutely no say in how I wanted to wear my hair. She always asked me, then she would call and ask my mother, if mom didn’t happen to also be at the shop.

And even, though he never set foot in the shop, my father’s wishes were always respected. My father’s favorite saying about women was...and I quote...”don’t want nothin’ black but a Cadillac and nothin’ big but a bankroll...”

We were all high yellow, except dad who was a rich mocha colored, big man. Made us all glad we weren’t black at the time. We were colored, however, if a little bit racist toward our own.

And as I said he didn’t like short hair on women. One of the songs that played in my house when I was kid, was one sung by Harry Belafonte, called Baldheaded Woman...

Some of the lyrics included, “I don’t want no bald headed woman, she too mean lawd, lawd, well she too mean..”

My hair rebellion started slowly. I left it long, but took it natural when I discovered my blackness and militancy around 1969. My fro rivaled Angela Davis’. He didn’t like that either. He tipped his hole card when he ripped down my Hughie Newton poster which I had prominently displayed in my room ,but in view of whomever walked up the steps to the second floor of our house. He didn’t say much about the hair because he was no longer paying for my trips to the beauty shop. I had a job and the rule was if you paid for it, it was yours. He made the rule and he respected it. I moved out the same year. But that’s another story.

Over the years, my hair got shorter and shorter. I found that it behaved better without the perms, and straightening. My natural hair is very soft, baby soft. I would never have known that had I continued straightening and perming. I can get my hair cut in a barbershop for $12.00, while a trip to a beauty salon is guaranteed to relieve me of at least $50.00. You do the math. Besides that, most beauticians are not trained to cut hair. It is not a part of the curriculum at beauty schools. If you want to learn to cut hair, then you have to go to barber school.

So, it really wasn’t so much of a leap to get where I am today. What sealed the deal for me was the day I stepped off the bus, at Randolph and Michigan Avenues in Chicago, and into a thunderstorm. Up to that point, I had never felt rain on my scalp....directly on my scalp...with no hair to dampen the effect.

The resulting orgasm was better than my first attempt at sex. I couldn’t believe how good it felt. I know the people around me must have thought I was nuts. Here I am, standing in the middle of a rainstorm eyes closed, stupid smile on my face, hat in hand instead of on my head, getting soaked and loving every minute of it. I almost forgot that I was expected at a nearby radio station where I was guesting to talk about blacks and the AIDS crisis.

Going to male barbershops back in the day was very difficult, because most men had the same ideas and attitudes about women as my dad. And they weren’t afraid to voice their opinion as they took my money. For a while, I got so pissed off that I started cutting my own hair in order to not have to deal with the mysogny that I was facing in the barbershop. I’m ambidextrous, so cutting my own hair is no big deal. I do the left side with my left hand and the right side with my right hand, easy. I spent $30.00 for a good pair of clippers and paid for them in three uses.

But there is really no substitute for a good barber and attitudes have changed dramatically. Younger men don’t have the hangups of the older farts who may still be working alongside them. Money is money. They keep their opinions to themselves.

I have a female barber. She is very good. She is the one who gets the credit for my cut. I happily direct everyone to her, because she can lay it out for you, however you want it. She listens, makes suggestions and is usually right.

We talk about everything except my hair when I’m in her chair, and that’s the way it should be.
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