Smile and nod
Some people have said they liked my introduction yesterday. Good! Stay with me now. You love me when I’m angry.
Or anyway, you should. Especially if you’re white, because the fact that I let you know I am angry, well, that’s me being nice to you. It’s a sign of trust on my part, a measure of the strength of our relationship. If I didn’t like you, if I didn’t feel comfortable letting you know I was angry, I would treat you the way I did the woman on the bus this morning.
The white woman on the bus this morning.
She liked my hair. I wore my hair down this morning, so I looked much like I do in my avatar on this site, minus the doll, the scarf, and the waterfall. The white woman on the bus said, “I like your hair,” and I was prepared to leave it at that. I told her thanks and went back to the book I had to turn in a review on.
That wasn’t enough for her. After a minute she continued on. “I wish my hair was curly like yours. It’s curly, but not that curly. When I was younger,” she gave an embarrassed giggle, “I tried to have an Afro.”
“You’d have to be born black for that to work,” I told her, becoming engrossed in my book again. I didn’t look back up until she got off. Then I rolled my eyes at the black man who had been sitting across the aisle from us. I couldn’t see his whole expression because he had dark glasses covering up his eyes, but I saw his smile.
See, this woman had curly hair. Her hair was curly. It was short, brown, and curling all over her head.
My hair isn’t curly. And don’t you be calling it curly. It was kinky when I had to straighten it to make it look like a white woman’s, and it’s kinky now.
Okay, maybe “kinky” is no longer le mot juste. I talked about this some with Nalo Hopkinson a couple of years ago. Since kinky has come to belong in a brand new bag, maybe it’s time to create a new word to describe the kind of hair I and my two sisters have, and my Daddy, cousins, uncles, aunts, et al. “Crinky” was the neologism Nalo and I settled on. Sort of a combination of kinky and crinkly. Or maybe we could call our hair “nhappy.” Nappy and happy.
In order to get into the collaborative, playful space where such terms arise, though, I would have had to expose this woman to my anger. Expose my anger to her. I just wasn’t up for that.
I have read a bit of pornography. (No, that’s not a non sequitur. Come on, stay with me. Still.) I saypornography rather than erotica because it often includes words made entirely of vowels.
The most unforgettable pornographic text I’ve ever read is appended to the end of a novel called Whirlpool. Whirlpool is an anonymously written novel, and the fragment following it is without either title or author. At one point in the fragment’s episodic paragraphs the heroine’s fifteen-year-old sidekick is asked by a debauched older man in a silken kimono if she’s a virgin: “‘If you like,’ she replied coldly. ‘I’ve been cornholed.'”
That statement is the essence of smile and nod.