Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good Hair

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.


Madeleine Kerr said...

I think it's just fine, Ms. Laura, to be the master of your unruly hair! The message of you feeling good about yourself is as important of a message as self-acceptance. Ok. Don't laugh, but through my eyes, aren't you simply taking advantage of technology that makes you feel good. Like getting your nails done or buying a new shirt, you get your hair done. This is where you may laugh. I'm being a little dramatic, but think of it this way. In not taking advantage of the beauty tools that bring you ease and help you feel good about you, you could possibly be sending the message akin to this: suffer though you are unhappy with something, or even, don't change what you can change because you should just accept what's natural. Natural isn't always better (see bikini wax), and I think it's subjective. My mother had (and I say had because her gray grew in pin straight) naturally wavy hair that she didn't love. She straightened, I mean ironed, her hair and colored it and then even went in the complete opposite direction and permed it. As if it would make things easier. It did not. And, I didn't think a thing about it. Other then that perm. My entire family campaigned to have her shave it off. I loved my hair when I was a kid, and it was just like her hair. I didn't wonder why my mom kept doing odd things to her hair or thought she didn't like herself or that if she straightened her hair that I should, too. I just thought she was doing grown up things to her 'do that were not among my choices, and ran off to play with my friends. And, being that Sabine's hair is not like yours, and knowing that she may have hair that's easier to work with, she may just figure that out on her own. "Mommy's got hair that makes her crazy, but I've got hair that makes everyone else crazy...'cause it's awesome." Once again, I've got my "I'm not a parent disclaimer" to throw in here, but I work around kids and parents a lot. A LOT. One thing I've come to think is that kids are really capable of speaking for themselves if they need to. Meaning, if she feels weird that you straighten your hair and she doesn't, she'll likely tell you. And then, you can school her on the wonders of product, technology and differences in hair that makes us all lovely and unique in our own way. And that yes, when she's a grown-up, she can do grown up things to her hair.

Laura Mauk said...

Ohmygoshness, Maddy. I adore your comment. It's a whole new way of not looking at things so intensely. You have some excellent points that are ripe for stealing. Should I credit you when Sabine grows up and I give her the--I mean YOUR--hair talk? Thanks xox

Madeleine Kerr said...

Nah, take the credit! But I'm so, so happy that you adore my comment. It's written from the heart! It's much easier to see things a wee bit differently when you are not only a non-parent, but around them all the time. xox


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...