In today's Lifestyle post, Antidote Street hears from Lola, who shares with us how she hopes, through her own hair care choices, to imbue her daughter with a love of her hair type and the confidence to embrace its natural beauty.
My mother tells a good story about our first battle over my hair. I was 5 years old and we had just relocated to Nigeria from England. We lived in Ibadan, Ekotedo to be precise, by all standards it was a very deprived area. Fresh from London, I stood out. My accent, my clothes, my mannerisms, and of course my hair. My hair was long and full. Every other child’s hair at Ekotedo was short. Like a boy type of short. I didn’t want to stand out. Have you ever met a 5 year old that wants to stand out? So I asked for my hair to be cut. My mother pleaded with me but her piteous cries fell on deaf ears. I did it. A shave.
Some 30 years later I had my own 5 year old daughter. She is an ethnic minority in a very white village in Hertfordshire, England. She is the only black girl in her class. Her friends have hair that flow past their shoulders to their armpit. She wants hair like theirs, just as I wanted hair like my own contemporaries. For years I told my daughter her hair couldn’t grow long like Chloe’s, because black hair just doesn’t grow that long (lies). I simply wasn’t equipped with the right information and technique to help her attain long length.
My daughter started to ask me awkward questions – when would she be allowed her first weave? Can she wear a wig at 10? She was struggling to make friends at school. I’d ask questions and she’d become very defensive. One day her guard was slightly down and she let slip “well they just all flick their hair” At that point I knew she wasn’t getting enough positive reinforcement about her hair from me.
It wasn’t what I said, I said all the right things. It was what I did; weaves and braids consistently. My own choices betrayed my hierarchy of beauty ideals at the time. Confronting that was painful for me, but I did what I had to do, I gave the weaves and braids a break.
A lot of people are making the same mistakes I made. It is even worse among mothers who didn’t spend their formative years in this country. These mothers don’t understand what it feels like to just want to feel among. These mothers assume that their daughter/s will naturally feel secure in their black identity. This is not correct.
My experience has taught me that we need to work hard at building black girls confidence. The self-assurance I got from growing with everyone having the same hair type (even if texture varied) was a powerful confidence boost for appreciating my own beauty. My daughter doesn’t enjoy this. So I, YOU, AND WE COLLECTIVELY must work harder at instilling this confidence. And part of that is treating and nourishing their hair to its full potential.