Monday, May 01, 2006

i am not my hair

i am privileged to call her "friend." i met her on my first time venturing out to discover philly's spoken word. i went out by myself after getting the information on when and where to go. she hosted the venue with great personality and skill. she is the one who convinced me to hunt down my poetry from the internet and read it for the group. she is the one whose appreciation for my words made me hungry to share even more. in that sense, in poetry, she's like my big sister/mama. she's really smart, funny, talented on a mic, beautiful, energetic. she is loved by her family, loved by her fiancee, loved by her friends. and, she throws good parties, is the life of the party when she goes out, and can make some mean pasta that will burn your mouth out. i am proud to know her - blessed to know her. she has since encouraged my writing, and taken me under her wing, so to speak, by bringing me into her poetry collective.

another friend and i came across her and her best friend having lunch on a south street sidewalk yesterday. we chatted, then talked about our outfits for an upcoming cd release party that's going to be all 70's themed. then she mentioned that she'd stopped in a store, checked out the wigs, found one she liked, went to try it on, and they wouldn't let her. *gasp* why? she said that they said it was the policy of the store, with no further explanation. that's interesting. i haven't seen such a thing - shoot, even heard of such a thing - outside of books and anecdotes that recount how black folks couldn't try on hats in department stores. in fact, that's what my friend alluded to when she told the story. what's the difference between a hat and a wig? my friend guessed that it was because of her color that they wouldn't let her try on the wig, and talked about sending a white friend to the store to see if they would let her try it on...

we were on our way towards that store, and indignantly, i said that if i found it, i'd see if they'd let me try on a wig once i got there. how dare they not let my friend try on a wig? we did come across the store. it was full of little beauty trinkets, cosmetics, extension clips, sunglasses, and the like. the wigs were in the back so i walked to them, reached up to the shelf, and pulled down the one i guessed that my friend had tried to sample. i stroked my fingers through the silky hair, examined it as if i wanted to purchase it, and took the cap off of the dummy. there were two women working in the store - an asian woman behind the counter, and a latina on the floor. i looked to see if i was seen. the latina had noticed me. good. i had the dummy under one arm and the wig in the other.

the girl on the floor suggested that i could put the dummy down on the floor if i wanted. surprised, i thanked her and took her suggestion, then used a scrunchie to pull my hair back into a ponytail. the young lady then showed me where a mirror was, and i flipped over, put on the cap, and played with the wig, feathering the bangs, checking out its length, and just chatting with her about whether or not i'd like it, to which she pleasantly encouraged me about how cute it was...

my witness and i exchanged incredulous glances before putting the wig back on the dummy, back on the shelf, and heading back out to south street. i called her back at lunch. "hey... they let me try it on." (to her best friend) "they let her try it on!" i described the store, the personnel, the wig, the service... it was all the same place, she confirmed - the same staff, the same wig.

only the service was way, way different.

we're both black. we're both women. the other women in the store were minority women too. it wasn't beauty - my friend looks like a model, no lie. the only thing i could pinpoint - the only difference between me and her that i imagined they could see - was that my head was a mop of loosely tossed crinkles and waves, and that her head holds the locs i've been envious of since i met her about a year ago at the poetry venue.

that's it.

that's all.