When my niece, who we affectionately call Sydni Bean, was born, I released all the built up anticipation and excitement of being a first-time Auntie by writing on my high-school classroom board, “I’M AN AUNT,” along with all of her vital statistics in perfect bubble-letters. It has been nearly 13 years since then and I am still in awe of her beauty and brilliance. She is perfectly cool, much more like me, than she realizes. She has all of her mother’s intellect, and her father’s bravado, but she gets her unwavering sensitivity from me.
This past Thanksgiving as her father was projecting images of all the kids onto my livingroom wall he came across a picture that she said she didn’t want shown. She said, “I don’t like that picture, it looks like I have an afro.” So I ask, “like that would be the worst thing in the world?” And she piped back, “yeah, it would!” I think I would have been able to more effectively articulate the “Black is Beautiful!” discourse that I know I have in me, if I wasn’t hurt personally as I stood there, with my afro, poised to affirm my niece’s beauty. Hurt, not as much by her desire to disassociate herself with the fro, as I was by the smile I also noticed on my husband’s face when she said it. It would have been funny to me too I guess, if I wasn’t so “sensitive.” (That being said I have also had a heart-to-heart with my husband where he admitted he likes my hair “straight-er.”)
My family, like many black families, has some ugly hair politics. I too, am to blame. I have not consistently worn my hair natural and I think it is because I fall in and out of love with my natural hair. I do not love my hair in either state, truthfully, and I’m also just not a hair person, but when I periodically “loved my hair,” it was either in a permed, short, precision cut, or in a perfectly unruly head of natural twists. Go figure?
Recently, my niece has expressed a desire to her mother to wear her hair natural. (She has never had a perm, but by natural she just means curly, not flat-ironed) She also, cut it in a bob. My sister sent out the pictures, and asked the troops (my mom, me, her other aunts, etc.) to be affirming. My mom responded by stating something like, “where is the flat-iron?” 😦 which I now understand she believes was only because she presumed when my sister said a “bob” that she meant a straight-bob. I saw the first pic and said it was cute . . .
though I secretly could not understand why it looked so overproducted and wet. 😦
I saw the second pic, and i FELL IN LOVE . . .
I thought it was not possible for it to be any cutter and immediately responded by sending her other pics of women with fros and was so stinking delighted that i had someone else on the fro team. 🙂 Then i got the pics from a Bar Mitzvah she attended post-poof . . .
and I’m like what happened??????!!!!!!!?????????
I know that being a pre-teen is hard, cause let’s face it, it’s just not our best moment as women. But isn’t it supposed to be easier when we get older? Aren’t we supposed to “know better,” and love ourselves more?
Tanji is a wife and mother of three. She has two boys and one girl. She lives in Philadelphia, her favorite chocolate city. She is an educator and her first “baby” is now a Howard University graduate and a Cocoa Mama.