“Your hair is so cute!” she squeals.
I tense up.
“I like your hair! How did they do it? I mean is it like just twisted?”
I nod as I slowly close my book and raise my head to meet her face.
I already knew she was white. I had spied her when I sat down.
I really have no patience for white people gushing about my hair. Especially not this morning.
I had stared in the mirror long and hard for almost twenty minutes before I left home debating what to do next once my two-month-old twists came out.
Not today! I think to myself.
When I finally face her, I muster a “Why thank you kindly smile” but I guess it doesn’t contain the enthusiasm she expected. Perhaps my irritation shows through the forced smile.
“Yes, it’s just twisted.” I reply in answer to her earlier barrage of questions.
“I wish I could have that done to my hair! She squeals again, this time a considerable octave lower.
I don’t suggest that there are several places where she could get it done. Nor do I mention how expensive it is. Nor do I even entertain the thought of volunteering to give her a closer look or let her touch it.
I just sit and try and hold the smile.
I think she’s confused now because she sighs and says, “it’s just really cute…that’s all.”
“Thank you.” I say again wondering what else she would like to hear from me.
My lack of enthusiasm about her compliment has bothered her. It’s obvious she feels rebuffed.
I can’t help her. I’m just exhausted being a doll to be admired or oogled. Really. For a moment as we both board the train I wonder what would happen if we, Black people, began oogling and gushing about white women’s hair and wanting to touch it. Sort of like cat-calling men back on the street. Would it create the desired effect?
Sometimes though I think, why is it such a big deal that she is admiring my hair. Maybe it’s coming from a place of genuine appreciation. I admire my sistas afros and locs sometimes. Do they feel the same way about me doing it as they would if it were coming from a white woman?
Then I remember the baggage. The history that is forever etched on our very DNA. That’s right. That’s why I bristle when they squeal.