I am only here for a few days before I head off to Brazil, but I feel like I have a bit of culture shock…in more ways than one. I packed up my apartment, put everything into storage….a 10 x 25 place that is pretty full (even with my pruning I still have a lot of ish… and turned in the keys. So now I have been driving around Detroit….south-eastern Michigan more specifically…as I spent Friday and Saturday in Ferndale, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, and other suburban cities. I want to reacclimate myself to this place that I will call home for the next year…but I feel so alien. Part of it is cause the area has changed a lot in four years. Not that I have not been back home on occasion, but visiting for 2-3 days once a month does not give you the flavor of an area. The "for sale" and "for rent" signs are rampant in the burbs, as are the empty storefronts. Even in tony places like Birmingham you see empty homes….empty strip malls in Royal Oak.
One interesting and cool thing that I noticed was in Oakland Mall. Growing up, Oakland Mall was one of "those" suburban malls where black folk weren't looked at too kindly. Over the years it got more comfortable to be there, and it was better than Northland which had been overrun by teenagers and gaudy, ghetto-fab shops (which I was all into during my younger years). I went to Oakland on Saturday to get my eyebrows arched and a pedicure (special treats for me with my doctoral student time and financial restrictions). There were Middle Eastern people (possibly Chaldean), Muslims, Indians, black folk, white folk, Latinos, Asians…j
ust an extremely diverse crowd. Now, for the most part, people were with their "own kind" but I did notice a black teenage girl handing with her ???Latino??? or Middle Eastern friend (she may have been bi-racial)….they looked like they were into the skater scene…tres cool! I saw two interracial couples….both black men, one with a white woman and one with a Asian woman. A few groups of teenagers were multiracial…and this one white g
uy with locks and some interesting get-up was walking around the mall barefoot….I wish I could of gotten a picture…evidently it is not against the rules to walk around barefoot cause he passed the security guard and the guard (a black man) did not even blink an eye…yes I was doing a lot of people watching at the mall today…I find malls to be excellent places to just sit and observe…
I felt a bit of role reversal on Saturday as well…many of my friends and family know that I am extremely pro-nappy, and have been since 1994. Well, on Friday I went to a salon and came out looking like this…
(sorry...pic later...just imagine me with straight hair...I look like a mix between Gabrielle Union and Queen Latifah)
***Here are the pics...see the resemblance....okay, maybe not***
Many folks who have only gotten to know me in the past few years may be shocked, but the reality is, I am not anti-straight hair…not 100%, and I have been known to straighten on occasion. I actually got into a bit of a heated discussion with my hairdresser about the merits of and problems with water and heat when it comes to black hair. I decided to slow my row since I WAS paying her to straighten my hair, so I couldn't quite argue that pressing combs were the debbil….so, I had my hair straightened, mainly so I could wear a stretched braid-out and to let my hair gradually kink back up….I prefer my hair bigger and curly; flat and straight doesn't feel like "me".
So I go run errands on Saturday, and it was interesting how people related to me! The girl that did my eyebrows tried to engage me in a convo about the high price of hair weaves…I had to tell her that I had no idea what she was talking about. She later let me know that I had the type of hair women are paying for…like baby doll hair, she said…. I think I did say thank you in response to all of the complements she gave me, but I did feel a bit uneasy (I try, as a rule, to NOT say thank you to statements like, oh your hair is so long, curly, nice texture, etc….but WILL say thank you to statements like…your hair is pretty….the personal is so political when it comes to black hair)
As I left the mall I crossed paths with this sister with long, semi-manicured locks…I usually am able to catch a fellow nappies' eye, but she averted her glance….
Later I sat in a restaurant near two older black women. One was a natural (small fro) and another had this short curly thing going on (not sure if it was natural or natural-esque). I attempted to catch their eyes and smile, but they, too, did not look my way. Now, I usually smile at black folk, particularly black women (I smile at other folks too, but my black liberation days have conditioned me to smile at sistern and brethern). I really felt as though they were shunning me cause I was not "one of them". Now, of course, I have no idea what they were thinking or not thinking regarding me, but I know that hair gives people impressions of you. I am used to my hair saying certain things about me, whether or not they are true. I kind of like the image that people have of me…the earthy, intellectual, conscious. I don't care for people classifying me as militant or racially intolerant (most people in real life know that is SOOOO far from the truth). I like the black aesthetic and I like the culture that I come from and the global African diasporan culture. Wearing my hair straight has been a culture shock for me….first, I do like it…somewhat. Second, I feel really guilty for liking it. Third, I don't like the way I felt alienated from sistas simply because of my hair. Fourth, I wonder if women who wear their hair straight feel alienated when around natural sistas? Now I know the answer to that; many do, cause many of US (natural sistas) do have preconceived notions of women who straighten their hair. This hair thing is deep and I am sure it will be revisted later, since hair is a mini-obsession of mine. Its late though, and I need to get up early so I can go to the Detroit Flower Show!!! Will blog later...