It may not seem like a big deal to many but our hair, black girls’ hair, always seems to be a subject no matter where we are. For some it may be flattering but for others like me, it’s kind of annoying at times.
I want to share with you all my hair journey and some of the things I’ve gone through with my black hair in the office.
Keep scrolling to see images of my hair through the years.
Throughout university I basically had two main hairstyles: Long thin twist braids or a medium to longer length weave. These are pretty basic/common hairstyles for black girls which pretty much go unnoticed in my experience.
In my final year, I decided to cut my hair and go natural. My hair still lived under braids and weaves, because transitioning sucks, so it wasn’t really much of a change in the beginning. It wasn’t until halfway through my first year of working, in corporate, that I wore my small afro out in public for the first time. I was overwhelmed with the reaction. I literally didn’t get what the big deal was. It’s just hair.
Note, that this was before natural hair was a trend like it is now so I had no experience or people to look up and my confidence in my hair wasn’t great.
To give even more context, I didn’t go natural as a form of a movement or to make a statement. My hair had gone through some trauma from all the braiding and relaxing and was pretty much falling out so I felt that if I went natural it would be healthier and grow better. That’s it. It wasn’t anything deep like trying to embrace my natural self and inner what what and all of that (there’s nothing wrong with this btw).
So the next thing I knew, I was wearing my afro out and people were wanting touch it for some bizarre reason (I still don’t get this). Everyone suddenly had opinions and questions on my hair. Why did I wear it naturally? How did it make me feel? How I can I wear it better.
I once had a colleague, A WHITE MALE, tell me that I’m using the wrong comb on my hair, I should be using a metal afro comb (black girls, roll your eyes and laugh with me) and that this would make my afro more ‘symmetrical’. His justification was that he once had dreadlocks so he ‘got’ it. Guys, he was VERY Caucasian with pin straight blonde hair! I was even once in the queue at Woolies and some lady- black lady- came to me and was advising me on how she can help me ‘fix’ my hair. The opinions and questions were coming from EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE.
During this period I was so frustrated that I actually, very unprofessionally and publicly burst out at another colleague who was consistently touching my hair, besides me telling him not to. It was frustrating because I work 8 hours a day, if not more, and I was tired of being questioned on my hair daily.
People tend to think they’re helping but often it’s actually offensive. You can’t tell a person to fix their hair or make their hair more symmetrical. It’s rude. Needless to say, going forward I only wore my hair out for no longer than a week at a time. Which unfortunately caused strain on my hair, again, and eventually after a few years I had to cut it.
I toughened up over time but as much as I’d like to say I stopped caring what other people think, I still cared. So instead I began wearing my hair out more often in order to make a statement. I started ‘educating’ people on my hair. I loved it, it made me feel empowered, I was the ambassador of natural hair in the office but it became exhausting. I encouraged everyone to start wearing their hair naturally including my sister who unfortunately had an even harder time that me at her workplace with her hair. She literally came home crying one day over this.
Between first wearing my hair out in 2016 and eventually cutting it all off in 2018. I went through a journey where I knew that I couldn’t allow myself to be held captive by my hair. This made the cutting even easier.
Today I’ve decided I’m rocking my short hair. I’m over constantly trying to hide behind my afro in order to make a point or behind weaves and braids because my hair is too much work and it’s attracting too much attention. I’ve never been happier.
So why am I telling you all this? It’s to let you know that we still have a long way to go in terms of people understanding our differences and if you’ve ever had a hard time at the office because of your hair it’s okay, you’re not alone. You just can’t let it define you or cause it to break you.
Be proud of who you are and wear your hair in whatever way that makes you feel comfortable. Whether it’s a wig, braids, an afro or no hair at all.
Here are a few tips on dealing with this in a work environment:
Don’t be ashamed to call people out on their behavior. Just don’t scream at someone like I did at first. Let them know that you don’t appreciate their behavior.
My sister ended up sending an email to her department explaining her boundaries on her hair and that she will not tolerate certain comments on it. This was good because it allowed the people who had offended her to know that their behavior was not appreciated and it prevented any future misunderstanding between her and her colleagues.
- If your colleagues are still continuing to offend you or you don’t feel comfortable addressing them directly, escalate them to your leader or hr. It’s okay to do this. Don’t feel ashamed. You are entitled to work in a place where you feel comfortable.
I hope this post helps you in any way, whether you’ve personally experienced this or not. I’ve shared images of my hair over the years below.
I’d love to know if you’ve experienced this as well. Let’s share our experiences in the comments section