While the weather can leave a lot to be desired, the holidays bring a lot to look forward to. Getting together with the people you love. Some time off work. Good food. Hot drinks. Disparaging and judgmental family members.
Wait, that last one? You could probably do without, right?
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Opinions on your job choices, friends, and love life are bad enough. But when you go natural, sometimes your hair becomes fair game as well. And many of us come from families that have no problem sharing, in great particulars, what they think about what we’re doing (or not doing) with our hair. We’ll assume they’re coming from a place of love, but their comments can come off as insulting. And when we don’t say anything back, sometimes the resentment can fester.
The solution? When Grandma or Auntie makes an observation about your hair, have some prepared comebacks in your back pocket. Here are some common remarks, ranging from curious to outright mean, with some responses that might respectfully shut them down (these can also be used on grandpas, uncles, and annoying cousins as well) and diffuse the tension with a little humor.
“When are you going to do something with your hair?”
Best way to deal with this question is to act dumb and ask them questions back, like, “What do you mean?” Make them describe whatever it is that’s supposedly wrong with your hair. Inevitably, they’ll stumble over their words and lose interest.
“Do you comb your hair?”
Inform them that, yes, you do comb your hair, and proceed to educate them about the structure and composition of textured hair. Go into great detail about every layer of the hair strand, follicle shapes, and how curlier or coily hair must be treated like the most precious of gems. Best case scenario is they will become intrigued and want to know more; worst case, they’ll walk away in a huff, mumbling, “I didn’t ask for a dissertation.”
“Your hair is too short; you look like a man.”
This hardly deserves a comeback and is ignorant on too many levels to go into here. For one thing, “looking like a man” isn’t necessarily bad. But the intended shade is always obvious. Sadly, this is a frequent comment said to naturals who have decided to start from scratch with a short hairdo. And it can shake your self-confidence. For many of our older family members, long hair is still associated with femininity and/or beauty. So what to say? Frankly, not much. Keep it brief and reply, “I’m very happy with the way I look; thank you. Pass the wine please?”
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“You looked better with straight hair.”
Kind of infuriating, but hey, they can have their opinion (although, they could have kept it to themselves). Say something like, “I don’t think I looked better. I had limp, dead hair on my head. And it was constantly breaking off. My hair has never been healthier.” You could also show them one of these articles on heat damage, as well.
“It doesn’t look professional.”
Yes, there have been reports in the news over the years about workplaces banning certain styles that people with natural hair just so happen to wear. But this is another comment that can poke at your confidence level. Most of us naturals are gainfully employed at something so, say, “My boss thinks otherwise.”
“You look like Medusa/Buckwheat/etc.”
Another awful one, usually hurled at naturals who are trying to grow locs or who are freeforming. As many of us who have had locs know, there is a certain stage in the growth process that can be a little rough. Very appropriately called the “teenage” stage. Locs can be wild and unruly, and sticking up at odd angles, depending on the thickness and texture. This comment can totally get an eye roll. But maybe your family member is entirely unschooled about locs. So feel free to explain each stage of loc’ing and how what they perceive as unkempt is completely normal.
“Wow, you look great! I could never have hair that short — I don’t have the face for it.”
This is the best comment, because it’s not a slam on you. It’s an expressed insecurity about going natural and proof that they have been thinking about it for themselves. Take this person aside and tell them how beautiful they are and how you’ve never seen a short-haired natural who didn’t look amazing.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the holidays are a time of love, togetherness, and sharing. And if your beloved family members do a little too much sharing, try to let it roll off your back, keeping in mind that family love is more important than hair hate. After all, you won’t have to see them for another year!
Know of any comments that we missed, or additional words of encouragement for fellow curlies hearing these things? Share them with us below!