By Taisha Feldhaus
When you go to the doctor you expect many things: sitting in a waiting room thumbing through old magazines, getting your blood pressure taken, maybe having to put on one of those hideous gowns. But you probably don’t expect to have your doctor make fun of your hair. However, last year this happened to me.
I was wearing a braid-out, one of my normal go-to styles, when I went to see my rheumatologist. Nothing earth-shattering or especially risqué. My doctor came in, looked at my hair, and made a comment about me looking like I was struck by lightning. I certainly felt like I had been because I was so taken aback that he would say something like that.
You may wonder what scathing denunciation I came up with to make him wish he hadn’t opened his mouth, but unfortunately I was so shocked by his behavior that I just sat there like an idiot. My mind went completely blank and I spent the rest of the appointment uncomfortable and feeling more and more insulted by the second.
There aren’t very many rheumatologists in my area (at least ones who are good at their jobs) so I was faced with several choices: leaving my condition untreated, putting up with his behavior, or saying something to him about it.
Weeks later, before I’d figured out what to do, I had another follow-up appointment and I’m ashamed to say that I put my hair in a ponytail as a stalling tactic so he would have nothing to comment on and I would have more time to come up with something as a response in case it happened again. And I was wrong. He again made fun of my hair. Apparently ponytails are targets for derision as well. I was pissed now, really pissed, which is exactly why I didn’t react at that moment. Responding in anger and without forethought would have made me look bad, not him. So I was still facing the same decision minus one option: there was no way I could keeping going to him and letting him get away with it.
So what happened? The story isn’t over yet because I haven’t had another appointment. But it’s inevitable and now I don’t want to avoid it because I feel strongly that he needs to know that his behavior has been way out of line.
I’ve tried out various replies in my head, but it seems like this is a time to come up with a thoughtful answer. I don’t mean thoughtful as in considerate, I mean thoughtful as in what I say will matter and may affect how he sees black hair in the future.
My last pretend conversation with him has me saying “Do you have a problem with African-American hair?” and letting him respond. Because I’ve been going to him for several years I have a feeling that he honestly doesn’t know how offensive he’s being. He thinks he’s being funny (he’s not). It’s my hope that saying something to let him know that his comments about my hair texture are racist will wake him up to pay attention to his attitude and his words. If it doesn’t, I have decided that I will have to search for treatment options elsewhere.
So, what would you say if your doctor made a derogatory comment about your hair out of left field?
Taisha Feldhaus is a natural hair and gaming enthusiast. You can find her on Instagram @naturalgamergirl.