UK author Lola Jaye gets real about her relationship with her hair and examines how unconscious hair stereotypes develop in settings like the workplace. It's just hair, or is it?
The Mane Topic: An Author Gets Real About Her Relationship With Her Hair
As a 10-year-old, during a brief stint of schooling in Nigeria, I noticed a lot of my peers had short haircuts. So, forever the rebel, I begged for a fashionable "leave a film of grease on the chair" wet look to basically counteract this trend. I eventually got my way, perfected the Moonwalk one day and watched in horror as my hair started breaking, the next!
And so began a relationship with my hair.
But what about our relationships with other people's hair? It's perhaps not a conscious process, but it's there and not least in the workplace. In my novel, "By The Time You Read This," Lois, the main character dresses up for a date with one of her co-workers, desperate for him to see her as this sexy vixen outside of the office--as inside, she's deemed as a bit of a square. Cue, short black dress, make up and you guessed it... big hair. Gone, the "boring'"office girl from the previous pages, as she's reborn into that sexy chick she thinks he wants.
Friends of mine recently broached this subject and admitted to perpetuating the so-called office hair stereotype myths as they stood around the water cooler and copier machines in their place of work. Here are a handful:
- Lady in Accounts who has worn the same style for ten years = Oh so boring, needs some excitement.
- Woman in HR who always wears that dreadfully matted blond wig = So looking for a man, but needs a hairdresser FAST.
- Lady on the nineteenth floor with the dreadlocks = A radical Rastafarian; better not talk to her about "frivolous" stuff.
Of course all three women probably have their own reasons for wearing their hair the way they do. In fact, the lady with the dreadlocks turned out not to be a Rastafarian--she just preferred wearing her hair in dreadlocks. But as soon as she dared to cut them off, her colleague admitted feeling "let down" by this act, as her image and perception of her had changed. Huh? So, did cutting off her dreads mean she'd suddenly become someone else?
My office time used to be filled with "long hair days" thanks to the odd weave or braid (hmmm, I wonder what stereotype that induced?) but bursting in with my Afro brought words like "edgy" "natural" and "different" into conversations. But my view is, although it is totally different to what I am used to, inside, I am still the same person (okay maybe a tiny bit more edgy!).
Basically, you, I, the girl in the catering department, anyone, can rock any hairstyle as long as there's an abundance of inner confidence and hair swagger roaring from within! At least then, you'll get a fun stereotype!
Author's NoteLola Jaye was born and raised in London, England, and has also lived in Nigeria. Her inspirational essay "Reaching for the Stars: How To Make Your Dreams Come True'" was released in spring 2009 as part of the UK's wildly popular "Quick Reads" program, in which best-selling authors deliver short new works. "By The Time You Read This," her first U.S. novel, is now available at book stores nationwide and at harpercollins.com. For more information on Jaye and her literary works, visit lolajaye.com.