Now before I jump in, I want to say that this experience happened over 7 years ago but it still sticks with me til this day. I thought about it recently when my current organization was undergoing cultural proficiency training. I was asked several questions about if I felt free to be myself within the company and for some odd reason my mind went back to this day.
First let me say that people are always shocked to hear how long I’ve been natural. It’s been about 11 years now since I’ve transitioned and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But, I wore my hair straight so long and for so often that no one really knew that I had a head full of kinky curly tendrils.
At the time that I started transitioning I was in banking. If you’ve ever had a career or job in banking you’d understand that polished and professional looks were always important. But how was polished and professional defined, and by who? Somehow I didn’t think that my natural hair was professional so I would admired it momentarily and proceed to straightening it each time I washed it.
Wearing my natural hair at work…
But then I got inspired by a few beautiful natural hair bloggers and decided that it was time for me to work my curls…and to my place of employment might I add. So I came in with my wash n’ go hair feeling as cute as can be in all my shrinkage glory. I received many compliments on how cute it was in additions to questions about rather I cut it or not. All in all, It felt good to wear my curls and be fully appreciated in that moment.
Well, that moment didn’t last long.
I was sitting in my cubicle working through my overgrown email inbox when my boss walked by and stopped behind me. He was unpredictable and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from him. He was raised in a different generation so his thought process was more more different from mine as a millennial. He often said things that made people uncomfortable. Sometimes I felt as if he truly had the best intention but just wasn’t cultural proficient but other times I felt like he was a jerk and didn’t care to learn or appreciate differences.
So he looked at me for a while, at this time my back was still toward him, but I knew he was there because I heard him walk up. I turned around to face him and he had a puzzled look on his face. His expression looked somewhat curious but then it happened. He pinched his lip a little before saying, “hmm…that’s interesting”.
Let me interpret for you…(at least how I perceived it)
“Why would you wear your hair like that? I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. I won’t say I like it. If I say I don’t like I’m pretty sure you can report me for something so I’ll just respond in a neutral way where you can’t draw conclusions”
Well, needless to say I did draw conclusions. I drew the conclusion that he didn’t value me as an individual or a valued contributor on his team. I drew the conclusion that he was not a kind person. In fact, I drew many more conclusions after that day.
I didn’t wear my hair natural again while working for that employer, but I do it plenty now a days. I only wished I would’ve grit my teeth and put my foot down to not let his opinion bother me at that time. You live and you learn and then you get BOLD.
Thank goodness for growth and thank goodness for freedom!
Have you ever had an experience that left you with a different taste in your mouth when it came to wearing your natural hair? Share in the comments.