Buying an afro wig for a Studio 54 theme party thrown by your work is a totally reasonable thing to do. Less reasonable is buying an afro wig, wearing it to your theme party, and then continuing to wear it around New York City on a journey of self-discovery, during which you frequently take pictures with black people. Alas, that's exactly what Michelle Lapidos has done. Welcome to "Before and Afro."
Before you go calling this a stupid idea, let Lapidos explain:
The afro changed my perspective; it made me think, walk, see and experience life differently. I wear it often. It's not about feeling black… what I actually feel like is ME, understood more clearly. It's not an alter ego. It's an amplified ego.
My ultimate goal here is to help people all over the world look deeper within themselves so they can master their consciousness and fall madly in love with every detail of their lives.
All of that might make at least some sense, maybe, looked at from a certain angle, from the perspective of a white woman who was once a Vogue magazine accessories intern. But it's Lapidos' afro-based jaunts, and subsequent Before and Afro blog posts, that start to veer into the surreal and absurd. For instance, there's the time she went to a warehouse party in Bushwick to soak up "the FLAYVAH" (not joking, that's the term she uses). The flayvah seems to mean black people, because Lapidos' post about the party is 90 percent pictures of black people or pictures of her standing with black people, like so:
After that was the fried-chicken festival she attended, which Lapidos says was "obviously an occasion to wear the fro." Obviously—it's fried chicken.
One needn't consume it in large doses before Before and Afro starts to look so ridiculous as to read like satire, a slyly didactic jab at white people who attempt to deepen their lives by looking at the world through the most superficial of ethnic lenses. I've emailed Lapidos to ask if her blog is indeed parody. She hasn't responded, but I'll update if she does. In the meantime, here's her blog message to the haters who can't comprehend her afro experiment's flayvah:
I have always been misunderstood. Misunderstood by groups of friends, people who know me from afar, and even by myself. I have always had people who dislike me, who push back on my ideas, and who don't appreciate me. As I learn to wean these negative forces out of my life and seek only the opposite, there is still an underlying inkling of comfort I feel from not being fully understood and accepted.
I don't think Lapidos is a racist, and, from an initial reading of her blog, her heart seems to be in the right place. But it would be good for her and any coddled, no-consequences, new-age-elementary-school kids like her to remember this: Sometimes when people criticize you, it's not because you're misunderstood, it's because you're wrong.
Update: In a new Before and Afro post, Lapidos says she's "deeply upset" and sorry she hurt people. In response to the criticism, she's decided to go blonde.