Are you a nanny?
How many times have you been married?
What?!? I don- Oh forget it. She's adopted.
If you assume she's mine we can advance to the second set of awkward questions:
So is adoption expensive?
How do you manage her hair?
Well, mostly trained monkeys, but sometimes I actually give it a whirl.
And that's where I'm camping today, folks. Hair. Pitch a tent, and get a fire blazing, because this is going to be a doozy of a camping trip.
First of all, I am aware that I'm white. I am also under no grand delusions that at the moment of adoption my fingers were infused with a special afro intuition. Any knowledge and skills I possess are the culmination of years of research, months of practice and a good dose of trial and error vigorously stirred together with persistence.
Unfortunately, there are times that I am judged based on my daughter's less-than-perfect hair style. There are sidelong glances, critical stares, obnoxious glares and even opinions voiced. I can handle the glances. Really, I can. I don't pretend to know the motive behind furtive appraisals from black women. I imagine any number of thoughts run through their minds: How does she know how to do that? I bet she had someone else do it. That looks terrible! That is downright impressive given her stick-straight hair. Whatever. I don't care. What truly bugs me are the not-so-subtle critical eyes and tongues. Partially I want to protect my own pride. I don't like feeling defensive around someone who happens to have more melanin than me. But, mostly I want to protect my daughter's confidence. God created her with tiny coils all over her head, and I'm in love with every single strand. One day soon she will begin noticing the disapproving eyes and taking notice of the negative comments. My response will play a large part in molding a tenacious love of her natural locks.
So, to the black woman in the grocery store, I know sometimes I don't strike the right moisturizing balance in my daughter's hair, or have the neatest, tightest cornrows. But out of love, I will continue to unpack this mysterious world (along with its bazillion products on the market, thank you very much). I realize I do strike a defensive posture and I'm sorry. I'm sure I come across haughty. Perhaps a warmer response on my part will encourage kinder words on your part?
And, to the black mama at the library, encouragement goes such a long way and I could have smothered you in hugs until we looked for all the world like a soft-served swirl ice-cream cone. Your sweet words were (and continue to be) a precious balm to my confidence as a vanilla mama to a chocolate daughter. I loved commiserating about the woes of misplaced silk caps, new hair growth that sticks out no matter what and the effects of dry winter weather on kinky hair. You offered a rare and far-reaching gift to my daughter and I: A soft place to land and grace to welcome us there.
Finally, to white folks near and far, my skills are rudimentary and I'm winging it 95% of the time. I am not an impressive white woman who has cracked the sacred hair code. I know we are used to running a brush through our hair and calling it good, so anything beyond fifteen minutes seems criminal. I do not feel that Sophia's hair is a burden. No, I don't enjoy every moment of detangling. Yes, it is wildly beneficial for attachment. Every style is an adventure and every product an experiment.* I am a mad scientist and loving it! There's no need to feel sorry for me.
To end on a high note, I'll share the latest hair lesson I have learned: Baubles at the end of the hair provide the perfect activity center on the go for a certain baby who-shall-remain-nameless. Also, a laundry basket + hair clips = a picture-worthy kerfuffle.**
|Yes, her hair beads got caught in the laundry basket, and yes, I took pictures.|
Learning As I Go,
*Eat your heart out, Indiana Jones.
**I wasn't fast enough on my feet to catch a photo of my oldest, who (somehow) managed to get her hair wedged fast between the seat and back of her dinner chair. Never. A. Dull. Moment.