The Hair

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As a white woman with super-stright, incredibly fine hair, I was worried.  I mean, really worried.  Before our referral, I secretly hoped for two boys, so I could just keep both their heads shaved and not have to worry about learning to braid.  Then we found out we were getting a girl.  And the panic set in.  I started following chocolate hair vanilla care, watched youtube videos on braiding and rented Chris Rock’s Good Hair.  I learned about natural vs. processed.  I went to Sally Beauty Supply and consulted with a (not-so) helpful salesperson who told me what I needed.  I bought it all.  And then Lucy came home.

Now that I had this precious head of hair in my control, I faithfully applied creams, conditioners, shea butter, coconut oil, smoothies, and curl enhancers.  I tried braiding, with little success.  I painstakingly put in beads that fell out the next day.  I only washed once a week.  And, if I do say so myself, she rocked it.

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Then, I took her for her first hair cut.  I’d been nervous about this because it’s one thing for a woman at the grocery store to compliment you, but it’s another to have a professional evaluate your work.  I felt like I was showing my stick figure drawing to Claude Monet.  And you know what he told me?  She doesn’t have African American hair.  Ummm…what?  Yea, she has middle eastern hair.  Huh?  It’s curly, but with loose curls, and is finer and more elastic than African American hair.  Wow.

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So I know that I have it pretty easy when it comes to Lucy.  We comb out her hair every night after bath and every  morning before school.  Yep, it’s that easy.  And we don’t use as many products any more.  I gave up on braiding after a woman at the salon told me they wouldn’t even be able to do a style that would last more than a day or two.  The exception is when I do this, which may be my favorite style:

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Then a few weeks ago, I read an article.  And I realized that I do deeply care what black women think about Lucy’s hair.  I am mortified when Andrew takes her out of the house for a weekend breakfast without doing her hair first.  I hate it when Eleanor tries to be helpful and puts Lucy’s hair in a ponytail because she doesn’t get it all to lay flat.  I hate going anywhere after nap time because I don’t want people to think her hair started out that way this morning.  I’m not normally a vain person and don’t really care how I, myself, look, so it was puzzling why I would care so much about Lucy’s hair.  But that article made me realize what it is.  It’s because I feel like an ambassador.  I am on a goodwill mission between races.  I feel like one way I can show transracial adoption as a positive is simply by being aware of what’s important to another culture.  And to black women, hair is important.  I respect that.  And I want them to see that I respect that.

A while back, I had braided Lucy’s hair in two french braids down the sides, like I used to do for Eleanor.  It was a very simple style, but looked pretty cute.  An African-American woman was behind me in line at Target and asked me if I did it myself.  I hesitantly answered yes, not knowing what was coming next.  And then she began to gush about how great it looked and that she couldn’t braid at all and so her daughter’s hair was always a mess.  I felt a wave of relief and then a jolt of pride.  She may not have African-American hair, but I’m doing something right anyway.  Who cares if she sometimes looks like this after nap time?

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One response

  1. You’ve done great! Her hair is so different from any other Ethiopian I’ve seen. And, of course, it is absolutely beautiful, too!

    I had a discussion with my MIL about a month ago about K’s hair. I was fretting about it, having tried out a new style that wasn’t looking or staying great. I was worried about going out in public and having someone criticize it. She told me that all little girls go out with hair that’s not perfect, which of course is very true. I tried to explain why I was a bit hyper-sensitive about it, and when I explained that hair is very important to black women, she finally got it a bit, having a couple of black women as coworkers. And like you said, we are in an interesting position, being very noteworthy when out in public and sort of having something to prove a bit. I haven’t received any comments yet, negative or positive, but I do know I will get some some day. Until then, and beyond that, I’ll keep working on it.

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