What do men like Denzel Washington, Michael Ealy, and Idris Elba all have in common? Yes, they are all legends in the film and television industries. Yes, they are all fine as hell regardless of what decade they pop up in after a Google Image search. Fame and fortune aside, there is something else that bonds these electrifying men. It is something that seemingly goes unnoticed: they all have great hair.
I, unfortunately, do not.
Like so many other Black men, hair has been a constant point of discussion since childhood. Growing up, I quickly learned its importance in our community. My mom and aunts would talk about going to the salon and be gone for hours. When my sisters would get their hair pressed, it was like walking on eggshells around them afterward.
As a young boy, my dad would wake me at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings to drive us to Kynard’s, a small box of a barber shop. Within the confinement of those four walls, my nickname was “Bulldog.” I initially thought it was because my dad was a Scott High School alumn where their athletic teams were the Bulldogs. In reality, I was given this moniker because of the scowl that would be fixed on my face until my haircut was complete.
What can I say? I really didn’t like waking up that early on the weekend unless it was to watch cartoons.
It wasn’t until a summer internship in New York City did I understand just how tricky taking care of my hair could be. As an adolescent, my mom or dad would simply tell the barber exactly what to do. As an adult, I had no clue. When I stepped into a Dominican barber shop in Washington Heights, I felt like I had walked into quicksand: I knew not how to save myself…or my hairline. The results were a shockingly bad haircut which opened my eyes to how shitty my hair was.
Years of trial and error have taught me how to get a great looking haircut even with lackluster hair. It’s been thinning around my temples since I was in my early-20s. I’ve tried various methods like dying my hair, topical solutions, and “magical” vitamins. I’ve even started considering getting plugs because I long for the day when I can feel completely confident with my appearance.
So far, the only things that have worked in getting me the hair of my dreams are Photoshop and other editing apps. I’m 100% comfortable with sharing that. I don’t really care to engage with the “no filter” crowd. This photo below? Who is he? Looks like me, right? The truth is that my hairline was definitely filled in around my right temple. The majority of the texture of my skin remained but there was definitely a prominent pimple that was gleefully airbrushed out.
I could probably get a job editing photos for any fashion magazine with the number of hours I have spent “correcting” my own photos.
I don’t care if you think I don’t have hair. I do.
Because I have such insecurities about my hair, I am very protective and cautious with it in the real world. Every morning, I step into my bathroom to brush it into submission as best I can. I repeatedly drag the brush from the back of my scalp to the top of my forehead. I turn into a painter as I fluctuate the applied pressure when attempting to brush the hair around my temples. If I do it just right, I can shift a few follicles in a multitude of directions to make it look like I’m not as light in those areas.
Sometimes, my efforts fail and I adopt the scowl from my childhood while cursing the hair gods for cursing me. Other times, I walk away from the mirror feeling somewhat attractive.
Take a moment to imagine my shock and dismay when a person decides to boldly put their grubby hands on my head! More times than not, it is a white man and woman and I always have to wonder “Why do any of you think that this is okay?”
“Fuck! Don’t touch my hair,” I exclaim as I duck away from them, trying to avert a total disaster. These moments are never as calm and collected as Solange’s now-iconic song from her 2016 album, A Seat at the Table.
“What? You don’t have any hair,” they all cry out.
The last time I checked, I am not bald. If you honestly cannot see that I have hair, please visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. If you’re still dismissive about it, take your white privilege and do a back-handspring right out of my life.
I do, in fact, have hair. When I visit the barbershop, I ask for a fade. A fade simply means that there is a weighted ratio of hair on my head. Up top, there is a higher percentage; on the sides and down below is a much lower percentage. The hair follicles might be short all over but there is still hair on my head.
Just because I don’t have 16 inches creeping down my back doesn’t mean what’s there is not valid. I am not a Ken doll with wax hair that is frozen in place. I am a human being and my hair moves. I work hard to get it looking the way that it does. For you, whoever you are, to think it’s acceptable to touch or fuss with my head is just dirty and disrespectful.
Would you like it if I slipped my hand into your back pocket, took your wallet, and bought a new pair of suede Brunello Cucinelli Chelsea boots? Would you go up to [insert any relevant Black celebrity in 2018] and touch their hair? If so, you’re even more of a disrespectful little turd than you let on to be. And yes I am comparing myself to any other relevant Black celebrity in 2018. This is my life, my body, my head, and my hair.
To summarize, I don’t care if you don’t understand my relationship with my hair. You don’t have to and it really isn’t my concern if you do or don’t. However, unless I have given you explicit permission to touch my hair in any way, shape, or form…don’t.