My friend texted me recently from a salon in NYC specializing in curly hair. “I couldn’t help but think of you,” she stated. She preceded to tell me a little black girl, with her hair in a bun, came into the salon, with her white Mom. When the girl’s bun was taken out it revealed a humongous knot of hair on the top of her head. As the stylists were trying to be gentle combing out the massive knots, tears were flowing down the poor child’s face. Her mother was holding her hand with a look of grief, and possibly a bit of shame. Why did my friend share this moment with me? Because that exact thing happened to me!
I would tell my black college girlfriends this story and they would just be dying laughing at me in disbelief? “Your mother didn’t know how to take care of your hair?” NO, she did not. She is white with wavy hair and had not a clue on how to deal with unruly curls. In the 70s there was this detangling spray with a blonde girl on the bottle and that is the only product I had! You can’t make this up! Today there are thousands of excellent curly hair products to choose from, if you are in the know.
I don’t know if my Mom was so busy or didn’t have enough interest in managing curls, but in middle school, she left me to my own devices. Since I had not one mixed girl with my texture hair in sight, I had no clue either. I just put my hair in a ponytail braid and called it a day. No one told me to use deep conditioners and a wide tooth comb to comb my curls in the shower. And so, one day, in desperation, my poor mother had to take me to a salon to get my enormous knot out of my head. The ladies at the salon just couldn’t believe their eyes. From then on, my mother just started getting my hair relaxed. That was the end of her curly hair drama. As an adult I learned that my texture hair never ever needed to be relaxed. But that was the only solution of the times. My hippy Mom had more important things to do than worry about my hair every day. She may be a serious change maker, doing her part to save the world through social justice activism and education but hair was just not her thing.
The moral of my story are many. To all the moms that truly do not know how to handle your kids hair……ASK FOR HELP. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. No need to be embarrassed. It’s a hell of a lot better than having your kiddie looking like a hot mess. I’ve seen it so many times and felt so bad for those poor cute girls and boys. Mama just doesn’t know how to do your hair. Maybe my mom did ask her black friends, but since my hair was different, she definitely got poor advice. ASK the right people to support you in times of need. Don’t be afraid. We all need help sometimes. One of my Korean mama friends was asking around for referrals to come to her house to braid her Blasian daughter’s hair. I asked why she couldn’t just make those two cornrows her her daughter’s hair and she simply admitted it was just too much hair for her to handle and she couldn’t do it. At least she was wise enough to ask for help. Proud of her. I know a white women with a mixed black daughter that put dreads in the child’s hair but then doesn’t maintain her dreads. It hurts my soul every time I see that beautiful child with a mess of a head. I simply do not understand the disconnect.
So back the salon with the crying girl…by my friend went up to the Mom to give her an empathetic hug..to let her know someone understands the challenges. Tears were abound. I’m proud she reached out. It’s important to know we are not alone. (I also did forgive my mother for an entire childhood of jacked up hair.)