So I met with one of my mentors, a black woman who is respected in medicine and after a long discussion about personal statements, CV's and residency applications I popped the big question. The one that had been on my mind from day one.
"Soooo, what should I do about my hair, do you think I should wear a wig?"
I asked for her honest opinion because I knew that she would keep it G with me. Mostly because she black but also because she's bad ass and will tell you like it is. I already knew what the answer would be given my golden blond curls and shaved sides but I was hopeful that she would say, to just be myself and that my hair didn't matter! But I was living in a fantasy world and she told me exactly what I needed to hear,
"You should try to be as conservative as possible. The people who may be interviewing you or evaluating you may not be as progressive as you would like. Also you want the interview to be focused on you, not your appearance."
I sighed and decided at that moment that I would be getting a wig for my residency application picture and interviews. Funny thing is, several of my black female future doctor friends had to do the same thing. Nicole, one of my classmates who matched last year, wore a wig to all her interviews just to avoid all the stares and questions that come with sporting our natural curls Interestingly enough, this is a common occurrence, not just among black females but among everyone.
Girls with curls straighten their hair, men are clean shaven, girls with long locs cut them or tie them back, all to create this illusion that we are sophisticated and ready to become a doctor! Then people match and go off to residency looking as ratchet as they want to be. I plan to be one of those people, being matched and ratchet, letting the real me shine once I've signed that contract and hit those hospital doors. But until then, the wig is here to stay.
So now I was charged with the task of finding a wig that was both conservative and fly enough to be suitable for interviews. The journey began on a hot summer day in NYC. I decided to drag my boyfriend along with me to Brooklyn for his opinion and also because I promised him Jamaican food. Brooklyn has the best Jamaican food, mostly because its flooded with Caribbean people. It's like there is a direct passageway between the Caribbean and Brooklyn. Jamaicans know only a few places in America, and Brooklyn NY is one of them. In fact, my mom lived there when she first moved to the U.S. She told me they had the best beef patties which always had to be washed down with a D&G kola champagne. We had to settle for the ones in New Brunswick which she said were no where close the the ones they sold in Brooklyn. She always reminisced about Brooklyn, and when I was younger she would always bring me to the West Indian Day Parade. Hundreds of chocolate people would flood the streets every year to celebrate their heritage and unify. I always had fond memories of Brooklyn and couldn't wait to hit the streets in search for my new wig.
Gladyne had to give me instructions on how to get there. She's from Brooklyn and hooked me up with all the info I needed to have a successful shopping experience. I could always count on her for my daily dosage of blackness. Attending a school where I am clearly the minority sometimes made me feel isolated. Who would understand my references to rap music, or worldstarhiphop, or natural hair problems? None other than Gladyne. I knew I could depend on her for my black needs, and she came through with the tips for finding a wig in Brooklyn.
I was prepared to spend the whole afternoon shopping around to find the perfect wig. As we got off the Q train the hot summer air smacked us in the face. Because we worked out before our adventure, food was our first priority. We found a spot that had $5 lunch specials with all the things my Jamaican heart desired, including jerk chicken, curry chicken, jerk pork, brown stew, you name it they made it. Crazy thing is, they also sold Chinese food! Stir fry jerk chicken, curry lo mein. Never seen anything like it, but in NYC nothing surprises me. We decided to keep it traditional, scarfed down our meals and hit the strip on a wig hunt.
We stopped at the first hair supply store we found. It was huge! Like a hair warehouse! No places like this existed in Manhattan and if they did, they would want you first born child as payment for their products. So I was super excited that this place had so many options at what seemed like reasonable prices. I examined a couple of mannequins and wasn't impressed. I needed something short and plain and to the point. I had no idea what I was doing because I don't normally wear wigs and because I more recently was trying to cut down on wearing weave.
Wearing weave makes you feel great. It makes you feel like a different person, it gives you a sense of security that is ripped away from you once you rip out those tracks. Underneath the beautiful luscious locs live fuzzy braids with thread remnants and flakes. I used to hate the way I felt after I took out my weave. And after realizing the impact wearing weave had on me and my self esteem, I vowed to love my hair the way it is. So I had been out of the weave game for a while and had no idea where to start. They had such a variety, green wigs braids and twists wigs, short long, curly straight. It was so much to take in. And I had no idea what I was doing.
There was a woman behind the counter, looking uninterested in helping me with my dilemma. She was as skinny as a tooth pick with dark eye makeup and a long jet black wavy wig. She had tattoos all over her arms and looked and sounded like she was fresh off the boat from Jamaica. I explained to her what I was looking for and she pointed me in the direction of a few wigs she thought would suit my needs. "She's The Boss" she joked as she picked up this wig with lustrous layers and shine. It was beautiful and when I tried it on in the mirror, it felt right. I shook my hair like shampoo commercial , ran my finger through it and decided it was the one. I tried on a few, but none could compare to "The Boss", she was right. I guess I was wrong about her, maybe she smelled the jerk chicken on my breath and realized I was Jamaican too and wanted to help me. So I made my way to the register, made my purchase and operation interview wig was a success. Now to find a suit, ugh.