May 11, 2011

Hair and the Law

  Sometime last week, someone asked me if I was pregnant.  I vehemently said NO!  It got me thinking though, not about pregnancy, but about my body.  The question made me feel chunky if not outright fat.  I mean, why else would anyone ask if I'm pregnant if I don't look larger than normal, right?  This made me feel bad.  And I realized how my feelings about myself are tied to my feelings about my body.  For many women, their body is their self and there is no separation.  For others, their perception is tied up in their hair.  I feel that way sometimes too.  When my hair is long and wavy and behaving, I feel young and sexy.  When its up and sleek I feel professional.  Luckily for me, I'm able to go from one extreme to another.  Other ladies, however, have a more complicated relationship with their hair.  My friend Neubia is one of these.  Her hair isn't just a thing on her head, but rather its a symbol of culture and heritage that is inevitably intertwined with her sense of self.  So I asked her to write a post on her hair and the choices she's made with regard to it.  Here is her story:

Law school sucks! Sorry, there is just no other way to put it. What makes it suck more is when your freedom of expression (i.e. individuality) is hampered as a result. Of course, now that I am a lawyer practicing in Fayetteville, NC, I understand that my alma mater, in voicing concern with my stylistic choices, was simply trying to prepare me for what I would face in the real world.  So what is the faux pas freedom of expression I've engaged in . . .

I HAVE LOCS! Some of you may know them as "Dreadlocks."   Screw that! There is absolutely nothing dreadful about my hair.  Hence, the shortening of my choice of hair style to just locs, rather than dreads.

I came into law school with natural hair. That is, I did not use chemicals to alter the texture of my hair.  Most of the time, I wore an afro. Sometimes I would wear braids or twists.  During my second year, I decided to embrace the tight coils that my hair often created on its own. One of the first comments I received when declaring that I was locing my hair (because in my early stages of locing, it just looked like I had twists), was whether I was considering a career at a firm.  Well, truth be told, I wasn't, but even if I was, if a firm is unwilling to hire me because of the grade, texture and stylistic choices I make with my hair, then I am unwilling to work there!

Making the decision to loc is not easy.  When most folks think of locs, they think of a chain such as this . . . Bob Marley, pot, rebel, Rastafarian, slacker, etc.  Well, as much as I enjoy Bob Marley, and consider myself a bit of a rebel, I am not a pothead, and I am a Christian.  I am also . . . (DUN, DUN, DUN) a lawyer.  That's right, people who wear locs are successful business types with expensive ass degrees from private schools, too.

There are 0, count it 0 other attorneys in this city with locs.  The word on the street is that the one guy who did have locs fell prey to the pressure and cut his off.  I refuse to conform! When I walk into court (most of the time to observe for now because we have local rules that take some getting used to) all eyes are on me.  In fact, one morning, I walked into the lawyers only area behind the courtrooms (exiting a courtroom) and was chased down by a bailiff.  "Can I help you?" he barks with his hands on his assault a black person belt.  "Excuse me?" I reply wearing WTF on my face.  "You can't be back here if you aren't a lawyer."  "Well, good news for you sir! I am a lawyer. Were you going to arrest me?" I proceed to fire off questions to him in rapid succession, none of which he is able to respond to because his face is still on the floor.  He walked away, likely still in awe that I, yes, the chick with the locs, was a lawyer. FFFFFFF you and the bus you rode in on!

While this moment was as heartbreaking as it was entertaining, I consider it one giant leap for nappy girls everywhere.  Do not underestimate us because we make the choice not to introduce chemicals into our world.  We can run with the rest, and indeed the best of them. So the next time you see someone with locs, take off your cap of ignorance, and don't make assumptions about them.  Each one, teach one.

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