Thursday, November 1, 2012

Talking Natural Hair With My New Boss

By Tenisha Mercer

Wearing natural hair at work
Natural hair at work

New job. Fortune 500 global corporation. So, you know I do me -- walked up in there with my curls on display. The first day, I wore a pinned up style (wore same style on the interview), but then I gradually began wearing curly fros and pony tails.

I do this on purpose, for a few reasons. I'd already known that I'd straighten my hair soon, as the weather cooled off. But I purposely didn't do it my first day on the job for a few reasons:

My natural curly hair is the "real" me. I'd already gotten the job, but I purposely wear my hair in its natural state the first few weeks Not that I have anything against straight hair, but I just believe that, once you land the job, this is who I am. And I don't make any apologies for it.

So, week 3, I debuted my Dominican blowout. My boss, who is a Black woman with relaxed hair, immediately said:

Her: You straightened your hair!

Me: Yup, I let the Dominicans blow it out. They beat my curls into submission with the blow dryer.

Natural Hair ... With Your Boss

Later that day, she came over and we had a 15 minute discussion about, of all things, hair.

Funny enough, I knew that we'd one day chat about hair.

Her: So, tell me more about the Dominican blowout? Is it good for the hair?

Me: It depends.

And that led into a long discussion about natural hair, about how she goes to a largely natural salon, \(she has shoulder length relaxed hair), and whether the Dominican blowout is healthy. The convo ended up going all over the place, about  how she moved from the Midwest to ATL a few years ago and how there are so many naturals here.

I didn't want to overwhelm her, but I told her a little bit about my hair journey (I was a press and curl/flat iron girl who wore straight hair exclusively with the exception of a curly ponytail betweetn pressing from 1995-2006), and how my daughters wear their hair blowed out, but are still natural (at least for now), and how I love the Dominican blowouts.

We took it WAAAY back. We talked about how relaxers were a rite of passage for most Black women when we grew up. She said she understands how natural hair is good for health reasons and healthier hair, and how she didn't know if relaxers were an option for her growing up because of sports.

And then she even mentioned a few colleagues who have also gone natural, either through transitioning or a big chop. She knew quite a bit about natural hair, but I sensed that she's not ready to make the natural leap yet.

Why My Boss is Not Quite Ready To Make the Natural Leap

She works out (I told her I do, too) and didn't feel that her hair could take it without a relaxer. She also said that relaxed hair only means straight hair; there aren't as many options if you have natural hair, which can be worn straight or curly (I wholeheartedly agreed!)

I told her that you have to do what's right for your hair, but that many naturals are able to work out with their natural hair. She said the dreaded "But she has a nice grade of hair," when referring to someone who  went natural. I didn't correct her. And she ended the convo with how hair is a "chore," whether straight or natural. I'd told her earlier that you have to maintain whether it's straight or natural.

Thinking "natural" is a process. And it doesn't come overnight. I appreciated her being candid. At least she was receptive. That was all I hoped for. I'll work on the natural hair maintenance thing (I wanted to tell her that our hair is easier to maintain with the right products and techniques), and ways that she can still be natural and work out.

We'll get there, one day. Little bits of info at a time.

Now, umm, is this gonna be on my review? LOL!

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