I can't help it. I thought I'd stopped caring, but the other day I realized I haven't at all.
I recently asked my African American neighbor what she uses to smooth down whispies in her daughter's hair. She took me inside her house and began showing and telling me about the great number of products she uses for all different reasons. She told me I need a certain shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, head scarf, hair ties and styles. She told me I needed to watch a YouTube video by "this woman who is a black hair expert." She told me I needed to brush Sabine's hair a certain number of times and that if she cried, I should ignore her because I need to "break" her. Then she offered to braid, or cornrow, Sabine's hair for me.
When I left her apartment, my head was spinning with confused thoughts: That was so nice of her to take the time; she gave me so much information; but it was too much information; information I hadn't asked for: information I didn't really need.
I forgot about the encounter for awhile but then bumped into her again about a week later at the farmer's market. It was just after Sabine had been traumatized by meeting Santa Claus for the first time. The neighbor had a large, male friend with her and he kept talking to Sabine and touching her and making faces at her while my neighbor offered over and over again to braid Sabine's hair. Suddenly Sabine was swimming in a large puddle of her own tears, freaked out by too much stranger danger. So I said I had to leave, but was more than happy to do so since I was feeling overwhelmed myself.
I went home and told Kadin the story. He was excited that our neighbor was willing to braid Sabine's hair because he has always wanted to learn how to do cornrows. He kept encouraging me to have her do it. Before I knew it, I'd exploded into a verbal frenzy and was spewing feelings I didn't even know I had. And they kind of went like this:
The way my neighbor offered her services and gave me a mountain of information instead of just answering my one damn question made me feel the way I constantly feel when people ask me whether or not Sabine is mine. They assume we're not biologically connected because we don't look the same. That's painful because I've never felt more connected to anything in my entire life. She's my almost everything, literally a part of me, a piece of me and an extension of me (who is also her own person) after carrying her inside my body for nine months and so intimately caring for and growing with her for these past two and a half years.
When someone thinks she's not mine or that I'm too different from her or that I don't know how to take care of her or just her hair, I want to punch them in the face.
My neighbor may mean well, but she's not respecting my connection with my own daughter and she's assuming that my daughter is more like her than she is like me. But Sabine's hair is more like mine than it is hers (I just regularly have mine straightened). It's curly and frizzy, not a traditional afro. I know how to do her hair because I've been doing my own curly, frizzy hair my whole life. Sabine is mixed. She's not black or hispanic or white. She's all of those things.
When my neighbor bombarded me with extra information, all I could hear were all of the voices of the black women in my life who go on and on about how sorry they feel for black kids with white mothers who have no idea how to do their hair.
I think people should feel sorry for children who have shitty mothers, not children with mothers who do hair differently than someone else might.
I'm defensive or maybe overly defensive because of the constant questioning or assuming when it comes to my relationship with my daughter. My neighbor's hair advice somehow just felt like more of that. Whether it was or wasn't, it helped me to see that I will be dealing with the questions and people questioning our physical differences for the rest of our lives; that I need to learn how to better handle them for myself and for my daughter; and that those questions are probably the reason that I am super extra close and connected to Sabine in a way that feels unbreakable.