they’re real and…

last night,
a fairly regular occurrence, well, occurred.

i was walking down the street, minding my own business.
neither looking left or right in particular, but making eye contact with people as i am wont to do because i am admittedly a teeny-tiny bit of a townie (no shade) and i feel like it is good for neighborhood morale if everyone smiles like the non-manhattan-ites we actually are.
(regardless of how many of us would rather be manhattan-ites, but thats another story)

99% of the time – people smile back, and if i we know each other they say hello.

80% of the time they say hello even if we are total strangers and they get the “good neighbor” award for the day.

mr. rodgers

hello, neighbor.

ok,

less frequently they will think i am my sister. or think they know me from some event that happened in the early 90s by in which case again they think i am my sister. i looked like THIS in the early 90s.  it wasn’t me.  i promise.
i’m sorry anyway.

and oftentimes, more often than even i suspect it would happen… i get this.

friendly neighbor:  miss! miss! hello, miss!

me: hello there.

friendly neighbor: can i… can i ask you something?

me: uhm… ok

(this is usually the part where i look for the clipboard where the friendly neighbor would like me to sign something for the Human Rights Campaign)

(it’s not the Human Rights Campaign)

friendly neighbor: is that your real hair?

seriously?

SERIOUSLY?

is this my real hair? is that your real question? you stopped me from a half a block away to come charging at me out of breath to ask me if THE HAIR SITTING  ON THE TOP OF MY HEAD WAS GROWING FROM MY SCALP???

i’ve encountered many, many version of interaction that run from semi-harmless and inquisitive:

“is that your real hair?” “how do you get your hair to do that?” “wow!”

(no, i don’t really think my hair is worth a full-on “WOW” but it happens, and honestly its flattering, i admit it. i do this shit myself. i’ll take an accolade or two.)

but on the flip side, it can also be a beacon for crazy/rudeness:

“what IS that?”
(it’s hair, you idiot. the great tell to figure it out is the fact that its growing out of my head.)

“can you wash your hair like that?”
(why don’t you try to smell me and then find out what happens.)

“is that fabric?”
(you’re an idiot. go swallow something sharp.)

sometimes, this type of exchange is fun and i have a mini lesson on race relations with a stranger, to boot! sometimes i hear about someones jewish or puerto rican friend who also has “super curly” hair but how their hair doesn’t do “THAT” (hardy-har-har). sometimes i have to swat a reaching hand (only once). sometimes i smile awkwardly and move away slowly.

and sometimes, like last night. it annoys me.

i mean, i get it. i truly, truly do. i’ve walked around with some version of  THAT on my head since the dawn of my creation – except for some ill-conceived idea to try to make THAT aka my hair do the opposite, which did not end well.

wild wild hair book

i love this bookcover. not the idea. just the bookcover

very ill-conceived.

anyway, i know that sometimes if i’m in certain places or if  my hair is dyed certain colors certain people will consider THAT aka my hair a spectacle. this one time…
(wait for it) at art camp… in ROME.
i was followed around a department store by two clerks and four shopping women… no, not to see if i was stealing, but because they were taking turns reaching out to try to touch my hair and chickening out and trying again.

kids, the way to say “NO” in italian is “NO”.

anyway, i get it. people are going to stop, stare, look, point, ask, touch (get swatted), take photos unasked (seriously this happend) and generally be inquisitive. i also have a piece of metal thru the center of my face. not unlike this:

janet jackson septum

sorry, mom.

and sometimes…. sometimes my hair is the same color as the above, too.

trust me. i GET it.

but sometimes… sometimes the exchange goes like this:

friendly neighbor: is that you’re real hair?

me: (blank face) …yes. it’s mine.

friendly neighbor: …oh… well it’s GORGEOUS!

THAT
THAT is what makes me sick!

does it matter? really? really? does it matter if its mine by virtue of purchase or by genetics? does it make it any less “gorgeous”?

what if i had said “no, its someone else’s?”

well, if i had said that they probably wouldn’t have understood the joke ’til i was well on my way -if ever -as they are the type of person who chases  a stranger down on the street to ask if they are wearing a hairpiece. it is always as if they are tempering their compliment  on the basis of it being ‘real’ or ‘fake’. and usually they chide me if my  response is incredulous because they are trying to “give me a compliment”

should i ask – “is it real what? obviously its real you can see that it exists.”

i’ve tried asking if it matters if it is real or fake if it is visibly “gorgeous”, and usually it devolves into a “conversation” about how:

“black-women-don’t-ever-have-nice-REAL-hair”

or “black-women-always-got-weaves” or

“black-women-always-be-so-uptight-about-random-strangers-asking-them-personal-questions-about-their-bodies-in-the-street”

or somesuch.

and most times, sadly, i dont give this asshole a dressing down. i just say “yes” and then grit my teeth and move on to write a blog post.

but always, always, i want to say this:

and then i wonder if they are smart enough to get the humor on seinfield.
was that rude?
they started it.

greetings from…

 

greetings from new jersey postcard

obviously thats a joke

i love my family.

i do.

definitely more than some other things about myself (like being short, or or allergic to avocados, or afraid of hills) that, like family were totally random but i kind of have to live with and love anyway.

 

…but

sometimes i wish our interactions would consist of something more like– me sending them frequent and expensive presents from warm climates until i have to pay for their at-home nursing care.

i like to imagine thats totally normal.