Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Sabine has curly, curly hair. It's not the texture of an Afro, but it's curly with some amount of frizz to it. I, too, have curly, frizzy hair. But I regularly have my hair blown out or straightened. And since she's only one-and-a-half, there's no way I'm taking Sabine to get her hair blown out. Nevermind the fact that she'd chuck the brush and the dryer across the room, chew the cord, eat the hair product and jump up and down in the chair until it was sufficiently broken.
The thing is, I don't want to straighten her hair even when she's older. Her curls are beautiful. But why don't I think MY curls are beautiful? And how can I teach her to feel good about herself and love her curls when I pay way too much money to have mine sucked out of my scalp by pulling and yanking with hot instruments until there's smoke wafting above my head and my face is shiny with sweat? Someday she's going to notice that mine is straight and hers is curly and she's going to wonder why.
From the time that Sabine was born until about six months ago, I did wear my hair curly. I did so because I wanted to lead by example. I would teach her to love herself by learning to love this part of me. But I hated the way my hair looked for that entire year. I felt ugly and frumpy and frizzy. I was reminded of being in the third grade, when the vocabulary word of the week was "frizzy." My teacher was struggling to give the class a satisfying definition of the word, so he asked me to stand up and used my hair texture as his in-the-flesh illustration. Everyone laughed (which inspired me to feign a stomachache and stay home from school the next day).
Ugh. So I guess I sometimes still feel ugly because I have frizzy hair. And I still look at women and girls with long, straight locks that you can run your fingers through--and I want that, and not what I've got. Apparently, so do billions of other people. Have you guys seen the Chris Rock documentary "Good Hair"? It details what black women go through to have straight, smooth hair. It's crazy: the amount of time and money they spend and the harsh chemicals they endure (In one scene, he submerges an empty soda can in the chemical used to straighten hair--lye--and the can is completely dissolved.). All of this because they feel their own hair texture isn't pretty or good enough. Rock made the documentary because his little girl, Lola, one day longingly referred to her Caucasian friend's hair as "good hair." Doesn't this just kill you? A tiny girl already feeling like what is naturally hers isn't good enough?
I don't want this to be Sabine. But at some point, I'm sure that it will be. And there's absolutely no way that I can look her straight in the eye and tell her that she is beautiful and that her frizzy curls are beautiful with straight hair on my head. For that reason, I'm going to wash my hair and wear it curly tomorrow. And I'm going to try--again--to love myself just the way I am so that Sabine has a better chance of loving all of who she is.
And if that doesn't work and I find myself going straight again because the hair thing is just bigger than the both of us (I'm pretty sure it might be), then I will do my best to teach Sabine to like who she is even if she's not in love with her hair. I will support her in her effort to express herself through her hair and her clothes; to experiment with being different and being the same; and arriving at whatever place she feels the most comfortable when it comes to her appearance. I will tell her that while people do judge you by the way that you look, what's inside is far more important.