Last week, I turned on the TV in the morning before beginning my usual routine. This involves bargaining with myself to allow a few more minutes of sleep time, then lecturing myself on the value of actually arriving to work on time, then finally getting up, then turning on the Today show. I watch it every morning. Gone are the days when I longed for Katie and Matt to just like get married or something, their chemistry was so off the charts, but I still watch it and enjoy. (And I’m in love with Matt Lauer. So there you go.) Anyway, how excited was I to see that Tamron Hall, one of the anchors, was sporting her natural hair!
Earlier this year, I read an interesting article about Tamron and how she’d been natural for a while, but straightened her hair in order to look “professional” on television. (Do I have a problem with that particular choice? No, because I know that TV shows have producers and higher-ups who are telling primarily African-American women in the public eye how they should look. I applaud her for being in a place in her career where the choice became hers.) I remember discussing it with some friends at the time. One friend mentioned that she wished a woman’s decision to return to her natural texture would just be so normal that it’s not even news. That it doesn’t require a big reveal. That it just happens and we accept it and move on. I echoed her feelings, but I also remarked that until most of society lets go of stamped down, twisted ideas of what is “beautiful,” big reveals like Tamron’s will continue to happen. The fact of the matter is that a woman’s return to her natural texture, by and large, is still news. Whether we like it or not.
When I big chopped my hair after 8 months of transitioning, I walked into our house of worship that evening and very much did a big reveal. That wasn’t my intent, of course; I was just walking in like I did every week. Nevertheless, it became a reveal because prior to that evening, most of my friends saw me with my relaxed, shoulder-length hair, or braids/other styles. Moreover, very few women in the room wore their natural textures. So, yeah, the reaction was pretty significant. Most of the reactions were awesome. One male friend was like, you look like a totally different person. It’s becoming. Another friend, female and older, told me that I wouldn’t find a husband. Yeah. Regardless of that, I was so happy to finally reach my goal of natural that I was on cloud nine and still am. But my point is that it was a reveal. When you do something different, something not of this world’s status quo or standard in the area of the world/community you happen to live, it’s a reveal.
As I stated above, what would be awesome, what would really put me on cloud 99, is a change to that status quo. That “straight” hair wouldn’t be the only definition for what is beautiful or what is professional or whatever. That the hair a person was born with wouldn’t be something people need to get “used to.” That Tamron Hall’s natural hair wouldn’t have to be a talking point because it was always there, all along. I’m not straight hair prejudiced, by the way. My problem is anyone having to defend their hair. You shouldn’t have to defend what’s sitting on top of your head. And that goes across the board. I have plenty of girls in my life who prefer their relaxers. However, the overarching issue is that supposed standards of beauty largely do not include coils, Afros, kinks, etc. And sadly, that’s why it will always be news when a woman decides to change things. When people stop categorizing beauty, a woman will walk into a room and won’t be revealing anything except how stinkin’ awesome she is as a woman, a person, and an individual.