What Happened When I Went To School With My Hair Out

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Hair out. That’s how I’d have to say it, right?

Hair out, as in: not down, not “open” as one would say in German.

I wore my hair

my natural Black hair

out

at school

all day long.

Which is to say I wore an Afro.

An unpicked, unshaped tussle of curly strands

crowning my head.

A supersoft bouncy castle up top

framing my brown round face.

I added big dark sunglasses

and silver hoops,

Wore all black and a serious look

and suddenly my kids could not recognize

the teacher they were expecting.

Colleagues stopped in their tracks, smiled wide

then threw their roses at my feet.

Behind my glasses I felt protected, shielded,

safely distanced.

I kind of liked it.

My hair out

with its own righteous agenda

let me tap into

who I might be

if I chose

Not to give a damn

about packaging and expectations.

With my crinkly crown out and about

I cannot go unnoticed.

I cannot float under the radar.

I cannot not be seen.

Being able to choose visibility

and which damn to give

are privileges of the few.

But for a limited time only

I tested the waters and dabbled in a role

I could find becoming

and welcome:

sharp, fierce, unbothered;

proud black all-woman.

Imagine what it means,

what it meant

to wear my hair out,

my eyes covered,

my expression nonplussed,

brown skin gleaming

surrounded by a well meaning white gaze

that wonders but can

never really know

the extent of that Black abundance.

“It’s still that black abundance?”

“Yup” LaThon told me. “And they still don’t even know.” – Kiese Laymon, Heavy. 2018

8 thoughts on “What Happened When I Went To School With My Hair Out

  1. What great hair and what a great you! Oh my I hope you wear your hair however you please forevermore. It is a basic human affordance to be allowed to be comfortable with your body – and hair, and in this simple, but completely profound way, you will be teaching your students, your children, more than any book can. Hats off to you! (really, keep the hat off and let those locks OUT!)

    1. Dear Laura, thank you so much for your thoughts. I have been thinking about what it means to wear my hair “however [I] please forever more” ever since I read it. And you’re right the affordance of being comfortable with our bodies and how we may show up is so central to human well being. I’m so glad to be in community with you.

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