I am white and have long straight hair. My adopted daughter is black and has very curly, very thick hair. It is the kind of hair that some folks would call “bad hair.’ Not me. I think her hair is lovely.
My daughter has a beautiful, dark face, gorgeous eyes, dimples, perfect skin and a contageous smile. If I looked like her, I would have my hair cut extremely short and wear it natural. Sometimes she does that now. She has her own sense of style – and it is really good. I take her to a salon when I can; she likes having her hair washed in the sink. I hold her hand, sometimes she wants me to – it can be scary. But I let her tell the stylist what she likes and wants, like any other teenager would do.
When she was little, I braided her hair, styled it, bought hundreds of barrettes and thousands of beads. I took a class to learn how best to care for her hair and keep it healthy. I consulted with neighbors and other moms at school. I understood that to some people, having hair that looked unkempt meant you weren’t well loved. My daughter was always well loved.
We briefly tried straightening – I would not recommend it – it made her healthy hair weak and it did not give her what she wanted, which was ‘wiggly hair.” Long skinny braids with beads on the ends gave her the wiggle she wanted…so we spent many Saturday afternoons watching videos and braiding. I spent far more time and money on her hair than I ever spent on my own.
Were all my styling attempts successful? No. There were days when my daughter was having problems far greater than a bad hair day; days when it didn’t seem that important to have her hair ‘just so;’ days when her teachers kindly let her wear a scarf because she couldn’t stand to have her hair fixed. These were the days I dreaded having a mom approach me after school and say, ‘You should fix that girl’s hair!” Or, being offered advice by someone – how can I say this nicely – someone who needed to take their OWN hair care advice…or at least look in the mirror before leaving the house. These folks were NOT helpful.
When I see someone who is having a bad hair day, or whose child is having a bad hair day, I smile at them and offer a kind word, like ‘love your shoes.’ Now THAT would have been helpful.