I remember when my mom did a big chop.
She was no stranger to ponypuffs and wigs, but most of the 90s and 00's had her hair in small heat manufactured curls with shaved sides.
And then one day she decided, 'Eh.' and had it all buzzed.
I remember Chief ("stepfather" is so formal) laughing out loud. Not the Nelson Muntz derisive laugh, mind you, but just that laugh of irrepressible happy surprise before he went up to feel her head and give her a hug and kiss.
Videos on phones were still a Jetsons thing back then, but remembering me as a child, I'm sure I pretended that their affection was gross 'Ewwwwww, you love your WIFE' while giggling genuinely at them anyway. And of course, his reaction shaped my standards for romantic partners in the future.
Flash forward to 2018 with the advent of technology, more access to natural hair resources, and more open attitudes towards definitions of both beauty ~and~ femininity in the states and you have this adorable husband's similar reaction to his wife's new lack of locs.
So after 20 years of growing her dreads my mom wanted to cut off her hair. She wasn’t sure how my dad would react tho....but this is how he did. 😭🤧 pic.twitter.com/Nih3jH2qSb— praizekirkwood (@praizekirkwood) January 13, 2018
If your man doesn't react like this to any hair changes you make, walk out of the room and come back in so he can try again.
I gotta say the video stirred happy sappy memories, and also? It gave me a little hope.
Although we're all our own people with all the body and style autonomy that comes with that, our partners' approval is and SHOULD be important to us. Naturally, it shouldn't be the be all and end all of our existence and our choices, but if them not caring about your appearance is born of apathy rather than acceptance, there's an issue.
For us femme types, our hair—especially the length of our hair— tends to play a big role in our perceived attractiveness, or even our femininity itself, especially for black women. Don't get me wrong, non-black women's hair is often policed in length as well, but because of the interplay of racial and gender dynamics, a black woman with coily hair will have to perform feminine traits to a greater extent to reach the same standards as a woman of any other race. Consider the controversy surrounding a "messy bun" on coily hair. Consider the whimsical sounding 'pixie cut' stacked up against its coily equivalent, the TWA. Unfortunately the latter is more politicized from several different angles, and a buzzcut or close crop even more so.
I've read so many tweets from ladies seriously concerned about their partners' reactions to their hair. The ones from black coilies are always especially heartbreaking: the "I wanna big chop and go natural, but I don't know what my SO would think." The underlying concern there is that these women fear embracing their natural texture and a cut because it's hammered into our heads that short, tightly coiled hair is undesirable... and specifically so because it's "masculine."
Obviously the answer there is 'Throw the whole partner away, sis,' but that's another article.
People will give you a lot of specious sound bites about how long hair indicates fertility and health, but A: It'd be the standard for men too in that case, and B: Aesthetics vary from culture to culture and trend to trend anyway. I'm sure to a more traditionally minded group of Masai people, who follow the lion method of long hair for men close crops for women, my longest crochet braids would look incredibly manly. Look at a painting of Feudal Japanese noblemen sometime —shaving their heads in the style of male pattern baldness was the wave.
So back to the hope.
I loved the viral reaction video because it shows that we're breaking away from the walls that say shorn coilies can't still be "hot" and glamorous instead of just imposing. Not saying that all the ladies in the Black Panther trailer didn't take my breath away, but for black women in areas where we're in the minority, it's actually ascribed softness and beauty that's the radical notion for us, especially with tight/short coils. But it doesn't have to be that way. And the walls around that are coming down, which I just love. Sisters and their misters embracing newly free scalps is a wonderful thing, and I can't wait to see more of it.
😂 My silly little girl....yes it’s true we are going to do a small interview. Everything you guys want to know. Make sure to leave some questions for us to answer. 😇 https://t.co/3Y2WWEHX6k— Dawne kirkwood (@Dawnekirkwood3) January 22, 2018
Bonus for all of us, it also looks like Ms. Dawne and her hubby are going to be doing a Q&A on YouTube coming up! I submitted my burning questions already, but hurry and get yours in before they film!
I still plan on having knee length locs when I'm older, but that's me doing me. Coily compatriots? Y'all do you. I'm here for it no matter what.