Posted by : Halima Khait Monday, September 15, 2014

About a year and half ago, I began allowing the relaxer to grow out of my hair.  This is the second time in my adult life that I've gone through this process. The first time, I was in college and everything was easier; from making it through the awkward, half natural-half relaxed, transitional phase gracefully with the help of headwraps - to others', for lack of a better word, acceptance of my hair. I was fortunate that the only reaction I received was something akin to awe from professional, black women who expressed a common wish of being able to rock their natural hair at work while remaining respected. Being in an academic environment where everybody accepted everything, I couldn't understand this desire until recently.

Since beginning my latest hair transformation, I've been put in at least two very awkward situations. The first came when frequent CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis appeared on our office's TV screen to weigh in on a subject. The first thing that flew out of one of my coworker's mouth was how she didn't like Ms. Davis'hair:

Possibly realizing her mistep, she seemed to try to validate her statement by asking me what I thought. I stood there cognizant of every wave and curl on my head, told her I never judge people on their personal preferences and walked away furious.

My second incident occurred when a young man I don't work with directly, but who shares office space with my office passed me in the hallway and asked if I ever straighten my hair. Why is this his or anybody's business??

But as the Michaela Angela Davis incident with my coworker proved, you can be an authority in your field, but if you don't conform to Western beauty standards you can be deemed incapable. This then seems to give people the pass they need to overstep boundaries. I mean, obviously you don't know better and are in need their input, right??

A wider-reaching example of this is the recent case with Navy Sailor Jessica Sims, pictured at the top of this post. Ms. Sims was honorably discharged from the Navy for refusing to cut her dreadlocks or cover them with a wig. I understand the need for military regulations, but I also agree with Ms. Sims that the only difference between her bun and a regulation bun is her choice to lock the hair contained in the style. Also, it's telling that she wore her hair like this for 12 years with no repercussion until she changed commands and someone made it their business.

It's 2014 and I feel crazy having to say this, but the countless number of people who have said it before me haven't been heard, so I'll say it again - Hair choices are nobody's business but the person on whose head they reside. And yes, this statement includes black women. This though society would have us believe every decision we make about our hair is a statement and therefore public property open for discourse.

The first time I went natural, it was more of a spiritual decision. I relaxed it again purely to flip up my style. And I'm went natural this time because my hair began falling out in patches due to stress - part of the autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with over a year ago. At that time, I decided it was better to protect scalp from chemicals than worry about what my hair looked like. (Things have improved for me and as my hair has been growing back, I've been focused on loving every curly, untame tuft.) The point is, people make decisions for different reasons and outsiders may never know the logic behind them. I don't expect others to understand or even, in some cases, accept these decisions, but I do ask for tolerance. I give this to cultural aspects woven into others' lives that I may not understand and I don't think it's too much to ask to get it in return. Let's stop focusing on our differences and make tolerance everyone's business.

~ With ♥ from Halima

Have you had an experience when someone made an unsolicited comment about your personal decisions?? How did you handle the situation??

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