On Head Scarves, Bed Time, and Women's Hair


While I rep Philly to the death of me, there is a very big part of me that was born in Washington, D.C. The best parts of me come alive when I’m in the District, probably because most of the friends I love best in the world have scattered themselves somewhere between Baltimore and Alexandria.

Coming back to D.C. is something I do regularly. It’s a pilgrimage that keeps my soul glowing, a refurbishment to my wills to misbehave and do whatever the fuck it is I intend to do in a given moment. I am at my absolute best in Washington, D.C., and at am at Peak Maya when sitting around with my homegirls having bottomless mimosa brunch while I’m there, which I did last weekend.


Brunch is different things for different people. For me, more than anything, it’s an opportunity to fellowship and get vitals on everyone’s goings on. Sometimes, I it starts off like this: “Is there any new business?” and folks report as needed about jobs, real estate, boys, whatever. Brunch is also an opportunity to get advice on the fuckshit happening in one’s own life and to ask life’s burning questions.

This was last week’s: “How many times do y'all spend the night with a man before you break out the scarf?”

The bougiest one at the table [not me, shut your mouths] responded, “Well, if we’re dating for—“

“No,” I interjected. “Not how many dates. How many times are you sleeping over here or is he sleeping at your spot before you pull out the scarf?”


There was a pause and break around the table while everyone stopped to consider.

“Does this count for natural hair too? Like, how quickly am I putting my Celie plaits in?”


“Yes. Doobies. Pin curls. Retwisting. Scarving. Whatever you do. How early?”

One friend said four visits. Another said if the sleepovers are planned she’ll throw her hair in a bun before the night begins. Yet another said that after sex, she waits until her boyfriend falls asleep and gets up in the middle of the night to pin curl her hair. Keep in mind, they’ve been to-gether about four years.


The presumption, of course, is that if you’re sleeping with a black man he knows that there’s a routine and that eventually the scarf — the big, multicolored atrocity that keeps edges in tact and hair laid — is going to happen.

Me, myself, personally? I enjoy maintaining the illusion (either that, or my pride is just too damn big); I don’t think I can bring myself to do it before night five, and that’s with a fro. The idea of retwisting my hair at a new man’s house makes my skin crawl, so I bring every product I need in a travel size in case I gotta start over in the morning. Straight hair means Maya’s wearing three—yes, three—scarves to bed.


I posed this question to my girlfriends for the rest of the week. My line sister responded with her usual candor.

“I’m trash, Maya. I’m wearing that shit from the jump. I’m answering my door with that shit on. You’ve seen my hair cute, and you know I’m black so you know I wear one. A scarf has never stopped me from having sex. I don’t have time to pretend for these niggas. I just…nope. Day One.”


Another friend (who is marrying a white guy) said, “I waited awhile. Probably about three months in. And then I lied like it was some recent discovery, ‘My hair salon said I need to do this.’ (He knows it was a lie now, I confessed).”

There were more creative responses about satin pillow cases [doesn’t work], laying the scarf out on the pillow [nope] and other means of trying to “sleep cute.”


It all comes back to the unavoidable, that the scarf is eventually making its appearance and the real ones understand this (and generally, don’t care). And in some cases, it can represent a sense of comfort and normalcy. Once, in a moment of sleepiness, I had a man remind me to wrap my hair. He was rewarded for his thoughtfulness.

So, I’ve polled everyone I know. Now I’m going to pose this question to you: Ladies, how many nights before you tie your hair up? Fellas, how soon is too soon? Does it not matter? Am I just sensitive? Probably, but humor me anyway.


Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's 'The Philly Post' and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and EBONY.com. Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.

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