I guess I can't really blame it all on Tangled.
But the new Disney movie certainly made me think about it enough to blog about it.
My daughter's hair, in particular.
In the new movie, Rapunzel has long, long, long hair. Freakishly long. It's long, blonde and full of magical, healing power that keeps her mother young and beautiful. Anyone who comes in contact with Rapunzel is amazed by her shiny hair, which she uses to hoist things and swing from the tree tops.
And there's nary a split end or, well, tangle.
And all I could think about was how my baby girl was going to want that hair.
Just a few weeks before we saw the movie, Michaela put a T-shirt over her hair and came to me saying, “Mommy, mommy, wook (look) at my hair.
Then she added: “Aunt Jee-Jee hair pretty”, referencing my brother's wife, Jenny, who has long, luxurious brown hair.
As cute as it was, I was a little sad.
It was a déjà vu moment for me. I remembered me and my friends standing in front of the mirror, our own black locks covered with towels that represented the hair we wanted. We would walk and watch it sway and flip it over our shoulders like the women in Charlie's Angels.
I remember how I used to stare at the hair of one of my classmates, Sarah Howard, and wish my hair was straight and long enough that my ponytail would switch to and fro like hers when I walked down the halls.
But alas, I was a little black girl and my hair just wasn't intended to be that way.My poor mom would wash my hair and I would endure an hour or so in front of the hot stove while she straightened it with a pressing comb. And for her mighty effort, I would get a souvenir burn on my ear or neck and hair that stayed straight enough to wear pigtails for about a week. Or a little less if it rained.
I had longer hair than a lot of my friends, but all I wanted was “hair like a white girl”.
Of course, these days, any hair stylist worth her salt can take you from near bald to Rapunzel in a matter of minutes. And little black girls can see black women like Beyoncé and Tyra Banks flip and flash long locks on a daily basis.You may have some issues with texture, but length is nothing but a Sally's store and a perm away.
But as Chris Rock so bluntly put in in his documentary Good Hair, black women in particular do some crazy and damaging things to our hair to make it lay and sway.
It took me years and years to come to love my hair. Until recently, I was afraid to cut my hair for fear it would never grow back. Like Rapunzel, I came to realize that my life can be just as rich and sweet with short, dark hair.
And I want to spare my daughter the grief.I never want her to wish for someone else's hair.I want her to love her own locks and be a diva with the attributes and assets God gave her.
It won't be easy. But I'm making a conscious effort to do my part.
Her daddy and I tell her that her hair is beautiful every day. When she puts a t-shirt over her hair, I always say, “But where is your pretty hair? You're hiding your hair and mommy wants to see it.”
I make sure she has dolls with kinky hair. I made sure she saw the new video by Willow Smith for her song, “Whip My Hair” and that we watched the Sesame Street clip of “I Love My Hair.” I made sure she watched the Cinderella with Brandy, who wore her hair in braids. I got her a copy of the new Princess and the Frog movie.
And whenever she rubs her Aunt Jenny's hair, her little brown eyes full of wonder, her aunt makes a point to say, “Your hair is pretty, too, Michaela.”
I try to make sure she knows that she is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalms 139:14).
She's just a kid, so she is oblivious to the underlying messages in the movies she watches and painfully unaware of the damage society will likely do to her self esteem.
For now, beauty is what mommy says it is. I could convince her that grass is blue and that Elmo is the Devil and she would follow along for a few years.
It's my job to make sure she appreciates other cultures and hair textures, but loves her own. It's my job to tell her that every little thing about her -- from her sweet little toes to the ends of her hair -- is awesome. It's my job to tell her that everyone is beautiful in their own way.
It'll be years before I know if I've done a good job, but here's hoping her self-image doesn't get, well, tangled.