“…Social things that affect how you perceive the world.” – Rass Kass
“A Question of Womanhood”
Fiction. Based on a True Psoriasis Outbreak.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255
An old lady sits on a blanket under a Mimosa tree in rural Mississippi. It’s hot. You walk up to her and ask if you can sit in the shade. She nods her head. You sit, and she talks of nothing but hair.
The first time I cut my hair, it was 2005. See, I was wearing natural before it was a millennial fashion trend. For me, it was a lifestyle. An ode to an era. I was proud to be who I was.
But as things happened to me, it changed the way I saw myself, it changed the way I wore my hair.
The next year I permed it, trying to fit in with everybody else. That’s a big thing you know; fittin’ in.
A month or two after that, I lost Cadillac. In my grief, I wore it wild. Everybody thought I’d lost my mind. But he was my first mirror. And I righteously didn’t like my reflection.
Then I went to live with my big sister, and she taught me how to wrap it. So, at night, I wrapped it, and in the morning, I combed it down and let it frame my lil’ fat face.
For years after that, I just let it grow and do whatever. I was too in love, too busy, too tired to think about what I was really doing to it. Being in love, and having babies will do that to you. I didn’t have time to take a good bath back then, let alone care what my hair was doing. But it just kept growing strong all on its own.
When we broke up the first time, I cut it for style. I needed something new. Everybody told me I looked like Halle Berry – minus the money.
Then, I got busy, repaired my relationship, and had another baby, and I let it grow again.
The time I cut it after that, it was summer, and I shaved off one side of my head in the bathroom mirror. Somewhere in the Bible it says, “ And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.”
Well, my brain had sinned against me. I couldn’t cut off my head, so, I figured my hair was the next best thing.
I still remember how my first daughter freaked. She ran out the bathroom, yellin’ to her brother, “Duke! Tami cut her hair off! It’s bald! I’m for real!” For the next few weeks, I had to keep an eye on her cause she was tryin’ to shave her head too. That’s mama’s lil’ woman though.
My hair never really was healthy enough to grow back after that. I ended up shaving my whole head to keep psoriasis under control. My Mama stood behind the screen door and cried when she saw me. At first, she wouldn’t let me in. But when she did, she hugged me and told me I was beautiful.
You know…I hear that a lot. I’m gonna have to start believin’ it before it’s too late.
Anyway, for about two years now it’ll grow, then I’ll have an outbreak and have to cut it all off again. I remember the last time he cut my hair. He finally saw why I was complaining, cause so much of it had come out you know. The whole time he was shapin’ it up, he just kept apologizing. “I’m sorry baby. I’m sorry.” I told him it was alright, and tried not to cry. There wasn’t no use in crying. Tears wasn’t gone bring my hair back.
All night he kept rubbing my face and telling me that I was still beautiful. But…I don’t care how beautiful a woman is, a man will do what he wants to. If he wants to cheat, then he’ll cheat. If he wants to be faithful, then he will. It really just depends on him, a woman’s beauty and body really don’t have nothin’ to do with it. And she can’t let herself be defined by what he chooses to do.
Anyway, the next day I went to work, and somebody asked me why I’d cut my hair. I’m not one to lie, so I told the truth about my psoriasis. What did I do that for?
This girl took full advantage of it. She took every opportunity she could to make me feel bad about it. She’d fling her long, beautiful, black hair in my face so much it tickled my nose. She’d talk about nothing else but her hair all day; her hair and sex.
What got me was when she came in my office and started a conversation with the secretary. She went to talkin’ about how she’d never cut her hair, and how she just don’t understand. I’ll never forget how I felt when she said, “ Your hair is your womanhood. Without it, you’re not a woman anymore.”
I felt bad about that for a long time. For one, I felt bad for not cussin’ her out, and firing her on the spot. And two, I felt bad because I couldn’t decide whether or not what she’d said was true. Had I lost my womanhood with my hair? I mean, I’d lost my ovaries and my other womanly organs too, but like this; it was out of my control. Was I any less of woman for it?
Then I thought about the person who’d said it; the person who had mouthed those words. See, I knew things about her. I knew about her past, and her present because it was my job to know. But she didn’t know a thing about me beyond the calming demeanor that I presented at work. Sure, she could talk about me, but she wasn’t qualified to measure my womanhood. So, I had to let what she said go.
Still, I have to admit that I miss my hair. Now, it wasn’t ever long. Out of all the sisters, mine was the shortest. Still, it would grow down to my shoulders. When it was windy, it would blow across my eyes. After I’d permed it, I’d pin it up with chopsticks when it got in my way. I used to like to do that. That was my style.
My hair was a pretty color too. It was brown with these natural, red highlights. Mama always complimented me on it. Daddy always said I’d be gray before I turned thirty five. I had strands of gray when I cut it, and I was…let’s see, I was thirty then. Aging early, I guess.
But yeah…I miss my hair. I don’t quite know how to cope with that yet.