"It looks like pubic hair on your head!"
I don't remember a day that went by without hearing those words - or something like unto it. I had bad hair. And nobody let me forget it.
|Me. 6 or 7 years old.|
But, I was born in CA. The land of sunshine, beaches and blonds. Blonds with very straight, very obedient hair.
By the time I was on the precipice of puberty, things had gotten pretty dire.
|Me. 12 years old.|
No amount of product or overworking would help. It was hopeless. I was doomed.
Finally, my junior year of high school I had it pretty much figured out. I wore it in a bun. That way, no one could make some backhanded remark about my locks. I knew I would never have good hair. By my peers standards, I was a hair joke.
Then, I had a breakthrough of sorts. I kind of learned how to work with my hair. By my senior year, I wasn't so scared of it all. I was even brave enough to wear it down for my senior pictures.
|Me. 18 years old.|
"Your hair is gorgeous."
"Is that natural?"
"You have beautiful hair!"
I couldn't go a day without a compliment. What a change that made in my life. Those childhood definitions are hard to forget, though.
Then, a miracle. I was introduced to a competent stylist. One that knew "ethnic" hair. With a flat iron. Not only could I wear my hair curly, I could wear it STRAIGHT! Oh. my. gosh. Total liberation. I was no longer doomed to look like a member of a bad 80's hair band. I had options. Trendy cuts, here I come.
In many ways, my hair defines me. Still, I yearn for acceptance. I rate the success of any given hair style by the number of compliments I receive daily. Vain? Perhaps. But, when you go your whole life being the laughing stock of a lot of cruel jokes, for something you didn't even ask for, it stays with you. Shapes you.
Two of my three girls have my hair. Curly. Thick. Consistent, beautiful curls. They don't look like everyone else.
|Lexi. 2 years old.|
But, kids don't see through those eyes. I knew the day would come. A classmate or friend or passerby would say those horrible words to my girls. The same things I had heard.
Allen told me that when it happened I shouldn't even tell him. His eyebrows crawled above his hairline when he made it very clear that no one would make fun of them. I assured him that they would live with. Just as I had.
Sure enough Lexi had her first encounter with the "natural haters". She was telling me that she had told one of the boys at school he couldn't be her friend.
But, Lexi, that's not kind. We don't say that to people; it's hurtful. We are friends with everyone. We let people play with us. We show them kindness.
But, mom, he was touching my hair.
What do you mean, Lexi?
He was trying to pat it down. He said it was too big. So I told him he couldn't be my friend.
|Lexi. 4 years old.|
How quickly my feelings came to surface. Like a diver who comes up too quickly for air. With hot tears at the corners of my eyes I told her what I had been rehearsing in my mind for years.
Lexi, you are beautiful. You have beautiful hair. You are kind. You are caring. You are smart. You will hear a lot of people tell you different. Some of them will tell you your hair isn't pretty. YOU DON'T BELIEVE THEM! You are daughter of Heavenly Father. Lexi, you are a wonderful little girl and you are beautiful inside and out.
I wanted to brand those words into her heart and mind. I know this is just the beginning. I know there will be days when she comes home from school crying because someone said or did something mean to her.
Each of us has had the one thing that makes us stand out from the crowd used against us. Whatever drives those people: jealousy, sadness, loneliness, hurt, or otherwise, we've all encountered them.
I can't fight her battles. I can't disarm every threat in her life.
But in our house, she will find safety. We embrace all of the characteristics that make her who she is. The crazy, curly hair. The big, doe eyes. How she is quick to comfort others. And is the first to offer help when someone is hurting. The one who does kind things spontaneously. The little girl who is empathetic, charming, quick to laugh. Who ponders and thinks and makes logical conclusions at the tender age of four.The little girl who isn't like everyone else.
What I came to learn as my life progressed, is this: those things that define us as outcasts and jokes as children, are often our strongest features as adults. The skinny girl becomes the super model. The nerd becomes the millionaire computer programmer.
I'll just keep repeating the same mantra over and over until she can believe it for herself: You are daughter of Heavenly Father. Lexi, you are a wonderful little girl and you are beautiful inside and out.
And, I'll just keep repeating the same mantra over and over until I can believe it for myself: You are daughter of Heavenly Father. You are a wonderful woman and you are beautiful inside and out.