Pic of Antoinette’s daughter, Kennedy.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time in beauty salons. I would go with my mom as she got her hair done, and she would take me to a stylist for new ‘dos for dance recitals as well as for long-term styles, like braids or hair pieces, which gave her a break from having to style my hair each day. Black women in general spend more money on hair care products and services than any other demographic, and most of what we do incorporates changing or masking the texture and appearance of our natural hair.
My daughter, being of mixed race, has hair that is a combination of mine and my husband’s – loose, spring-like curls that are bigger than typical African American texture, but thicker in volume than most Caucasian curls. Upon birth, her hair was straight. It wasn’t until she reached 9 months that her hair started to curl up. Around that time, I can remember running into a friend and having an exchange that has greatly impacted my walk in motherhood. I was wearing my baby girl as I headed into Trader Joe’s, and my friend stopped us in the parking lot as she was heading out. She congratulated me on having a beautiful daughter, but then said, “Good luck with the hair,” in a sympathetic tone. The comment stung me a little bit, but I smiled it off at the time. Comments from others trickled in during that time as well, with some friends remarking that my daughter was so blessed to have the “good” hair, and others asking what I planned to do with it as she grew older. The texture of my daughter’s hair has been an unexpected topic many have approached me with, despite my non-solicitation.
No, you can’t just comb through her hair in one fell swoop, and moisture is crucial to keep the scalp and tresses healthy. However, I see these as small steps in maintenance for the glorious reward of her curly coif. She wears barrettes, headbands, and hair ties just like other girls her age. And, just like other girls her age, I don’t think she should ever have to fuss or worry about whether or not she’s beautiful based on her hair alone. I spent a lot of time doing that at a young age, because my perception of my hair was that it wasn’t beautiful and therefore needed to be changed with heat and/or chemicals. Nobody’s childhood is perfect, but no child should grow up hating his or her hair.
Times are changing, and our outlook toward hair and curls has become very different since the 1990s thanks to enlightening documentaries on the topic, and the powerful “Love Your Curls” campaign by Dove. My only wish now is that I could have had the same exposure as a child. As an adult, I’m forced to reprogram my thinking from fearing curls to embracing and loving them for both my daughter and for myself. Curls are not a curse or disadvantage. They are fun and beautiful. We should teach the same to our daughters (and sons!).