More Than Hair: How a Mom’s Blowout Affected Her Daughter

So you can imagine my trepidation when I got my hair straightened last weekend. After 3.5 years of wearing my hair curly, and months of prodding from a couple close friends, I was starting to worry that my ends were splitting from all the rough detangling. I finally visited a salon that specializes in healthy natural hair and had it blown out with low heat, so I could have them clipped. Now, my hair is hanging down my back in the most discomforting way, and I only made it a day before I pulled it into a lose ponytail.

I was struck by something my stylist said while I was in the chair. I asked how often I needed to come in for trims (quarterly), and told her that would be the extent of my hair straightening. She said that wearing it straight is a good option for “special occasions.” Which made me wonder what makes straight hair, special occasion hair? There is a value judgment inherent in that statement, and I’m not a fan. I guess I could take it as, it’s special because its different—and I have enjoyed changing things up a bit for the first time in years—but my experience as a Black woman says that’s naive. Besides, I feel anything but special with straight hair; I’m having total hair envy when I see girls with Afros and twists. I want to rush up like a lunatic and tell them this isn’t the real me, that we are curly sisters, so they don’t judge me for straightening my hair, or horror of horrors (!) think I’m wearing a weave, because its so long. My prejudices are showing.

Anyway, the biggest trial was when I went to pick up Babygirl after my appointment. I was afraid she wouldn’t recognize me, but the reality was even worse. I leaned over to take her out of the car seat, which was strapped in my sister-in-law’s car, and she let me hold her. But as we walked into Bed Bath & Beyond to help her auntie find a new shower curtain, I realized something was wrong: I was talking to my child and covering her face with kisses, but she was studiously not looking me in the face. She gazed just past me, and when I leaned into her field of vision, she moved her head to avoid making eye contact. She wasn’t quite sure it was me!

After a minute of prodding, she finally locked eyes with me. As I watched, she slowly reached up to her own afro and pulled on it, her eyes still on mine. She all but said, “Et tu, mama?” I felt terrible. My child had immediately noticed that my hair wasn’t the same as hers, and I worried that she thought I had deserted her. I explained to her that my hair was styled differently, that it wasn’t any better, or any worse, just different, and I’d be back to my Afro in a few days. For the sake of not being neurotic, I’m going to say she understood. Anyway, moments later, she gave me a hug and kiss and all has been normal. She has only pointed out my hair one other time, and plays in it while nursing the same way she does when it’s in Afro form. Me, meet relief.

Lots of women cite having kids as the reason they went natural. Sometimes because they are trying to limit their chemical exposure during pregnancy, sometimes because they want to be living examples of self love. Do your kids influence the way you wear your hair? Tell me why and how!

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