I wrap my hair, deal with it!

The odd responses to black women who wear head wraps and scarves

Photo credit: Create Her Stock

I stood in the bathroom mirror with my wide-toothed comb, and my hat lay close by on the sink. As I got ready to comb my hair into a swirl that perfectly wrapped around my head, a woman (white, maybe in her late 50s) came out of the bathroom and froze in place.

While I’m sure she was initially headed to the sink to wash her hands, she just didn’t seem to understand what I was doing. I made eye contact with her in the mirror, initially to give a friendly “hello” with my eyes. But eye contact turned into gawking, and my eyes narrowed. The simple flick in my eyes made her remember her purpose, and my eyes followed her until she left the bathroom. I went back to wrapping my hair.

She wasn’t the first person who looked at me like a museum exhibit for wrapping my hair, but I still haven’t figured out why this is such a big deal.

I’ve been chopping my hair off since high school. Pretty much any kind of haircut Halle Berry, Nia Long and Missy Elliott wore, I also wore. To this day, I’m still just not into really long hair. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never worn weave, although pretty much every relative and/or friend of mine has.

Once it hits my shoulders, I usually go to a beauty salon to get it chopped off again. I am the only woman I know who enjoys the growing-back process far more than hair hanging down my shoulders and back. But somewhere around my early 30s, I realized I needed to do something other than put a curling iron to it every single day and give it a break from heat. I stopped chopping it off and curling it, and finally let it grow. And my cousin taught me how to wrap my hair so it would grow longer, even thicker and not require constant curling irons.

I enjoy my hair. I appreciate the hair growing from my scalp. Therefore, it’s not “all that trouble” to take care of it.

Then I got into hat fashion. Unless you want your hair in total shambles with a hat on, black women usually wrap their hair underneath. Our (relaxed and/or natural) hair just doesn’t come flowing down our shoulders when the hat comes off our heads. We’re prepping for the hair debut of the day. Wrapping our hair beforehand is one of the easiest ways to keep it in check. But here come the Scarf and Hair Wrapping Police to annoy us about it.

I’ve heard some of the most ridiculous anti-wrap logic from those who either don’t like or don’t understand hair wraps and scarves.

“It’s not sexy in bed.” I don’t quite understand this argument, but I’ve had to discuss this with at least a handful of brothas — one of which was an ex who immediately reached out to snatch it off my head. (The strangest part is I dated a Romanian man at one time who wasn’t even slightly phased by the hair wrap. To him, it was normal, but he’d also dated quite a few sistas before we met.)

Meanwhile I have zip zero problems with doorags and wave caps. Men — specifically black men with waves — should understand hair doesn’t magically do this on its own. There’s a little bit of help needed. And if you want to walk down the street with a woman who has presentable and attractive hair, stop messing with her hair wrap. If she sweats it out — for a number of reasons, possibly because of you — hands off the hair wrap once she actually goes to sleep. You’ll enjoy seeing the hair wrap results during date nights. Don’t be that guy she can hold solely responsible for dry edges and bad hair days. (Side note: I’ve never been a woman who thought pulling hair was cute. It’ll get you cursed out and kicked out quickly though.)

“I don’t understand how you get all your hair under your head.” I watched another co-worker (white and female) stare at me, mesmerized by me wrapping my hair. Her response, “I don’t think my hair could, like, fit underneath a hat.” Now whether she was telling the truth or not, I do not know. It takes time to get any hair, especially thicker hair textures, to get into the habit of wrapping and swirling just how you want it to. But the museum exhibit stare was a bit off-putting, especially with her proudly proclaiming, “I’m glad I stayed after work to see this!” I didn’t even have a comeback for that one, just a “you’ve got to be kidding me” expression.

“Why do you have to go through all that trouble? Seems like too much to do!” It’s no surprise that it was this manager who said this to me. But more importantly, it’s not “all that trouble” if you’ve grown up oiling, braiding, twisting and wrapping your hair. I enjoy my hair. I appreciate the hair growing from my scalp. Therefore, it’s not “all that trouble” to take care of it. You know what I think is a lot of trouble? Washing hair every day. That would drive me nuts, but I don’t give you a hard time about it. You know what texture doesn’t require doing so for everyday maintenance? Ours! And if I’m not asking you to be my beautician, why is this such a point of contention?

To sum it up, whether you agree, disagree or do not understand what a sista is doing with her hair wraps, her scarves, her hats or whatever hair fashion she chooses, as long as it doesn’t have to be done on your head, let’s “wrap” it up on the unsolicited commentary and complaints.

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We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit Shamontiel.com

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

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