KALYN DUNKINS ‘17
“Oh, I almost didn’t even recognize you,” they tell me. “Wow, something new again,” they go on. “Can I touch it?” they persist. It depends on the person whether I say yes or no, but it doesn’t matter because I can feel their hand on my head anyway.
My creativity has never been stifled when it comes to the way I wear what people recognize me the most by: my hair. Whether it’s in braids, twists, an afro, dyed, buzz cut, twisted out, a wash n’ go, covered with a scarf — my hair is always gaining attention. But who knew such attention would leave room for so much internal deliberation?
While some may argue that it’s “just hair” and I should neither spend as much time as I do on it nor be offended by the way people approach me about it, there is no way I can do that. As a Black woman, taking into consideration the approach Eurocentric media has taken towards the way we Black women wear our hair, it’s of course so much more than that to me. I take pride in it, and I think the creative approach I have towards it shows just that.
Doing what I do with my hair is fun, but what comes with it are several interactions that can be deemed disrespectful. Let’s refer back to the rude entitlement some people feel when assuming my hair is up for grabs before I can even fix my mouth to reply. This could easily be a deterrence to wanting to try different things, but luckily I don’t see it as one.
Aside from how anyone else perceives my hair, there is a self-inflicted pressure to find the next thing I’m going to latch onto. This, of course, is never influenced by onlookers anticipating what my next move is. It has more to do with me and how I literally incorporate how my hairstyle will be for the next day as a routine part of my schedule. If my hair isn’t at its best, neither am I.
I know for certain the environment I’m in has a huge effect on the amount of attention and the type of attention I get from my hairstyles. Back home in Birmingham, I’m surrounded by Black people almost 100 percent of the time. The attention I get there has more to do with how eccentric my hair is styled, rather than my hair itself –– as far as hair types and style go. No one is asking me why it’s so curly or how just yesterday I had long twists flowing down my back but today the auburn of my fro is present.
Here on campus, the demographic is very different. I’ve come in contact with people who had never even seen a hair type like mine before they became students at Denison. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than open to answer questions about my hair. However, that’s only to the extent of actual curiosity based on the want to know more, rather than inquisition based on labelling my hair as “bizarre” (this has happened) or “exotic” (this has also happened). Even words like “interesting” are a borderline no-no for me.
All in all, the experience I have with trying new styles out as well as the way people receive my way of being creative has been such a positive for me. It has helped me to be more conscious of the ways I go about being my own person. I get excited to think about how I’m going to wear my hair the next day, or even further along in the future for a special occasion. And, let’s face it: what good is the variation of lipstick shades I have if they don’t have a variation of hairstyles to go with them?