Field Notes: Hair Description

As my eyes scanned across the Pit, they stumbled upon a boy on his cellphone. He was quite the unassuming individual, with the only remarkable feature about him was his thick, luscious mane of hair. It was parted on the right side of his face–my right, his left. The brown tendrils were quite wavy; there was no rhyme or reason to the way they fell. Some spilled into perfectly manicured, camera ready curls, while others knotted themselves into bits of tumbleweed. The bangs tickled his brow line, leaving his forehead dangerously exposed. It was the type of hair fingers get lost in, the type of hair that inspires both awe and envy.

There was a special bit of magic that occurred every time the light hit his hair. It almost coaxed the curls to life, commanding them to dance. With every gentle movement of his head, the curls swayed, waltzing with the sterile air. I sat transfixed, watching this dance. I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but they twirled to the rhyme of the music from the Marketplace. It drifted into the pit, wrapping the scene in a musical fantasy.

I could tell that the boy knew I was looking at him and I tried to be inconspicuous  but I couldn’t help it.  His hair reminded me of someone special–a man in my life who had a similar head of hair. Both mane’s shared the same trait and as I watched the curls bounce, the memory of that man appeared in my mind. It’s amazing how many memories hair can evoke.

When the vision left, the boy was still there, scrolling through his cell phone. He changed positions on the couch and his hair caught the light in a very special way. A tiny halo hung above his head, adjusting perfectly to every slight movement. Thoughts ran through my mind: is it possible to brush such hair? Would taking a comb to this tangled mane ruin the beauty and texture? If so, how does he take care of such hair? Do men tease their locks? I’ll never know.

 

Reflection: The whole experience of acting as ethnographers in the Student Center was interesting. I felt a bit intrusive as I watched people in the Pit. Witnessing my fellow students in such a natural habit put me in a very uncomfortable situation. I wanted to jot down all the notes I could, but at the same time, I found myself holding back. I thought about how I would feel if someone was watching me. I would be extremely uncomfortable. The concept of voyeurism, (let’s not pretend that taking field notes is not a form of voyeurism) is a delicate one. There are times when the voyeur could push the boundaries of what is acceptable. I was always aware of the boundaries. Even though we were asked to talk to someone, I felt weird about it. Most of the people I saw were studying and I didn’t want to disturb them.

Truthfully, I’m uncomfortable with the whole process. It’s not in my nature to confront other people. I don’t mind occasionally people watching; it’s an activity I indulge in from time to time, but people watching and taking notes is something completely different. It’s definitely something I will have to get used to.

When it came to taking notes, I focused on multiple things at a time; the sights and sounds overwhelmed me. My notes read as a stream of consciousness. That really surprised me because I am not a big fan of that kind of writing. I like things that are structured, but I guess when you are taking field notes, it’s hard to structure your writing. That’s what will happen when I actually sit down to write the piece.

My feelings are mixed on the whole process. Perhaps if I had more time, I could have really gotten into taking field notes, but I felt so rushed, like I needed to take down everything before it was too late. Another problem I had with taking field notes was the actual space. If we had arrived earlier, the Jazzman’s Cafe & Bakery would have been opened, and that had so much potential for observation.

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