“Hey miss, I love your afrocentric look. You’re such a natural beauty, it’s about time other women do the same thing.” I get these compliments sometimes, and while I appreciate some of the things said, the last part always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. These kinds of compliments do nothing but divide women. They don’t build confidence, they destroy it. And women do not need any more of that; the media already does a good deal of that already. A woman should be able to do whatever she wants to do with her hair, face, and body without having to worry about what men or society think.
When I first shaved my head, I did it for personal reasons. And while at first, I got a lot of negative comments, once I became comfortable with the “style” (because to me that’s all it was), all the positive comments started flowing in. I didn’t shave my head to get someone’s approval. And I didn’t shave my head to make a statement. I just did it because I liked the style.
When my boyfriend first met me, I had extensions. And one day, I met up with him without even warning him at school with a shaved head. I was a bit worried because I didn’t know what his reaction would be, but I was pleased to know that he loved it. I often hear women say, “I would totally cut my hair if my boyfriend or husband would be OK with it.” I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t.
Women, when they decide to do or not do something with their body, it should be because it’s their choice. Not because they want to please men. Or because they’re already known to have a certain image, and they wouldn’t want people to change their opinion of them if they decided to change it. I certainly appreciate the kind of comments I receive from men that promote natural beauty, and I do believe they should be able to voice their opinions. When one of them says, “I prefer you with short hair. I don’t like the braids.” Or “I think you look so good with relaxed hair, why did you go back to natural?” I don’t get offended; it’s probably just their preference. But I nicely tell them that I always do what I want with my body, and although I really appreciate their kind words, my appearance will change when I want it to.
I’m sure my boyfriend has his favorites on the way I choose to wear my hair, makeup, or clothes. But not once, in the seven years we’ve dated, has he said, “what the heck are you wearing?” Or, “why are you wearing that?” He is always proud of the way I choose to look, and it’s something I really value in our relationship. He says I look beautiful with dried up tears on my face when I first wake up. And he says I look great when I’m on my way from the gym. He likes when I put on bright obnoxious red, pink, and orange lipsticks. He accepts me when I get braids. And he likes my ‘fro. He also loved me just fine when I had honey colored relaxed hair. Once, I called him to bring me an extra pack of hair at the African hair braiding salon, and he didn’t even question it.
Women, especially black women, deal with debatable hair and body image topics on a regular basis. Long hair vs. short hair, dark skin vs. light skin, fake hair vs. natural hair, curvy vs. skinny, no makeup vs. too much makeup, you get the point. I don’t let these things bother me, but they happen around me. It’s about time men realized that when they try to give us compliments, they don’t do it in a way to put other women down. And also, other women should not think they’re better than the next because they choose to wear something differently than the other. I like the natural look, and I’ll even go as far to say that I prefer it, but I wouldn’t judge a woman who adds purple extensions to her hair, or wear false lashes on a daily basis. Just because it’s not “my thing” doesn’t mean I’m going to put it down. Do whatever you want to do. We’re all in this together. Let’s appreciate each other’s beauties the way we choose to display it. Next time please understand, every time you put another woman down when you give one a compliment, you’re putting every women down. Epi, that’s it.