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I Won’t Ask Her For Hair Money

I have a friend who owes me money. She can’t afford to pay it back yet because she had her first baby right after I lent it to her. Now, I want you to keep in mind that we are both Black. I think she is African-American, but I think of her as Black, and she seems like she does, too. She’s old enough to remember Black—she’s 31. She is also the only Black woman at her office. She wore purple after Prince died, and more than one person asked if she was doing it because he died. They knew Prince, see. Everyone knows Prince. Everyone knows Prince is Black, was, is, always will be. They know famous Black people. And they know my friend is Black, African-American, whatever they think she is or what she chooses to be at work. It’s sort of a choice. Not to be rude, but Jewish people can convert. If Blacks try not to be Black, we get into trouble with other Black people. My friend thinks I’m the Whitest Black woman he knows. He didn’t think it was a compliment when I told him I thought he was the Whitest Black person I knew.  It’s not a compliment, is it?

So as I said, she owes me money. She also sports new hair every time I see her. However, I can’t say I want her Hair Money. I don’t use hair money because I have Good Hair. I’ve felt White people’s hair. That’s just hair. I have Good Hair, which is totally different from White hair, I found out later in life, thinking it was the same thing, but it’s not. Theirs is just hair. My White friend who is 10 years older than I am were discussing this. I told her what the Afro meant. It meant we wanted to wear our hair as it came out, without straightening it to look like Just Hair. My mother was at an all-White college right before Afros, so when she did her hair, it was a magic show with mass appeal. It was Good Hair, yes, but she straightened it most of her life, so it didn’t look like it did when she came out of the shower and let it go. At one point, she and my stepdad had Jheri curls, or at least I thought so. It turns out James had Good Hair, but he put the stuff on it to make it look like he had a Jheri curl, curly and not frizzy, which is what most Good Hair or curly Just Hair does if you don’t do anything with it after coming out of the shower. My hair frizzes up. I got a ride while waiting for a bus stop because someone saw my hair. It turns out, though, if I don’t comb or brush it after I wash it, it curls up and looks okay, like someone did something expensive to Just Hair. If I put a bunch of stuff on it and brush it, it stays going in one direction, but it goes more out than down, which is bad.

Or is it? I don’t really know anymore. People compliment me on my hair in various forms and want to touch it because it looks soft. That happens with White people, too. Asians and Hispanics don’t bother asking, or maybe they decided it was an inappropriate custom. Apparently it isn’t for whatever reason. I just talked to a girl, under 30, at her job who spent 3 days making her hair look like someone had spent several hours on it. Someone did, her, but she saved money. 3 days? She could go out of town for 3 days. 3 days is a holiday weekend. We love 3 day weekends, which she spent doing her hair. She could have painted rooms or just rearranged them. How much does she get paid at her job for 3 days’ worth of work? That’s how much she paid for doing her hair. I have spent 3 hours in a chair, and at best, they looked like they had done a lot of work, but I can’t redo it at home because I don’t know how. I never learned.

So as I was saying, the woman I was explaining the Afro to said she had one. I said I didn’t know what that political statement meant. She said it was a bad perm mishap. I said, were you popular because of your hairstyle? She said simply, No. So I said no, that wasn’t an Afro. That was something else. I see women in minimum wage jobs with their hair done by people who charge them a lot of money, so they can’t spend money retraining for a better job or go to school to learn whatever the heck I learned, and they can’t put money aside to help themselves if their man doesn’t come back to their house one day or take care of their child one month. I see fake hair in stores run by Asian women whose friends or at least countrywomen sold their hair so they could eat.  I also saw a restaurant owner, or owner’s wife, whatever the culture in China says, wash her hair in the bathroom sink at the restaurant because she works 12 hours a day, 7 days a week to put her son through medical school, a son who didn’t have a job other than when he worked at the restaurant on the days he was not at school.

So where is my friend getting the money to pay me back? Working at the restaurant, I guess. That’s her boss. She was also her landlord until she quit in a prideful gesture. Then the woman evicted her. The fight was because the woman wanted to keep the money my friend had earned that night for rent. Again. She’s back at the restaurant now. And she still owes me the money. Now she’s mad at me because I’m trying to tell her to get a better job and take care of her baby better. Her daughter will be 16 when she is my age. What kind of fight will they be having, and which one of them will be working at the restaurant to pay for hair? I’m trying to tell her stuff, but as I see it, I can’t even mention my hair, or I’ll restart a fight that started long before either of us ever showed up on the scene, before Mom did her hair at college, or before my grandmother was a Delta in college because she was light-skinned. No, the fight started a long time before that, even. But when does it end? I told my sister that if my hair was straight like my niece, I would put it in a headband and let it go. She tried it, but the next thing I know, my stepmother is braiding her hair. By she, I mean my sister, trying to get away with that in front of May. My sister doesn’t have Good Hair, she tells me. I think she’s a beautiful person in general, and she has a husband, which I don’t, to appreciate her hair even before she gets into the shower in the morning. Now that’s Good All Day Long.

So when will I get my money back? When she has it, of course. That’s why I lent it to her in the first place. I’ll see it then.  I need it now, of course, which is why I brought it up, but selling this essay to someone is the only way to see it, maybe. What do you think? Money for gas and food, or money for hair? Ask somebody first. You might not know. 

Lynette Gough, Owner, Make A Great Impression Writing Consultant Firm