I’m one of those women who have never known what to do with their hair or even how to replicate, five minutes after leaving the salon, the style they’ve just chosen. You know, the kind of woman whose hair looks like a million bucks on Monday, a foreclosure on Wednesday and a lump under a baseball cap on Saturday. I have a stellar CV: I’ve published books and had six successful career changes—and I’m not yet menopausal. Nothing has ever stumped me but my hair.
I tried a burning-hot straightening comb, but in the end I resisted its tyranny. Then, feminist and race-conscious, I went natural (and loved it!) for a dozen years. With grad student hours and no family, I could spend as much time as I wanted twisting my hair into gorgeous spirals or blowing it straight.
I guess I went a little crazy after a hasty marriage, the birth of two kids in my forties and a painful divorce. Since 2002, I’ve had weaves, braids, cornrows, happy nappy TWAs (teeny-weeny afros), dreadlocks, long relaxed hair, and short, chic dos—well, chic until 20 minutes after leaving the salon. Then suddenly, I was 16 again. Long or short, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t be bothered with maintenance. Where was my baseball cap?
An overstressed single mom with a freelance life, I decided to let my hair be. Words, I am willing to fight for. Hair? Not so much. As Ray Charles inimitably sang, “Just let it do what it do, baby.”
These days I’m nappy and unprocessed, like a long-lost sibling of Malcolm Gladwell and Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons. I look like I run with the wolves. In midlife, I look like I’ve got better ways to spend time than fussing over my appearance. And I do.
Originally published in MORE Magazine, October 2008.