This photo meme has been going around Facebook for a while now. I originally saw the picture behind it in an article about uncombable or “spun glass” hair. My daughter had this hair when she was young. We tried everything on the shelves for curly hair and nothing made it more manageable. It was possible (and necessary) to de-snarl it with a wide tooth comb, but there was no hope of parting it or making it look decent. Once our next door neighbor, with two beautiful girls of her own, managed to braid my daughter’s hair and it looked pretty good, but it took forever and was incredibly painful. A lot of the time my daughter wandered around with her hair sticking straight up and clumps of it stuck in mini-dreadlocks.
It certainly caused random strangers to question my mothering skills. I once had a stranger in the grocery store chat me up about foster children, and how hard it was to get them to trust you to do things like comb their hair. She encouraged me to keep at it, to build that relationship. Good advice, if a bit misguided.
I eventually grew so frustrated with the attempts at combing and the shrieking and crying that went with them that I cut my daughter’s hair off very short. She looked like an adorable little lamb then, but she was really angry with me. Her dream was to have hair like her neighbor friend’s; thick, stick straight, and down to her waist. At seven years old, she hadn’t accepted that this was highly unlikely for her particular head of hair. It took her a very long time to forgive me for cutting her hair when she didn’t want it cut.
That hair taught us a lot about control, yes, but also about trust. It also taught us a lot about other people’s assumptions based on appearance. We learned about perceptions of affluence and also of race. We even had a hair salon in Utah refuse us service, because they didn’t deal with “ethnic” hair. They told me to “go to her father’s people”, and then back-pedaled like crazy and offered us service when they realized that her father is a blue-eyed blonde. No, we didn’t let the bigots touch our daughter’s hair!
If the worst mothering sin one ever gets accused of is being an inadequate hair dresser, I guess that’s not such a bad thing. Neighbor lady never did manage to teach me the secret of tight braiding, but eventually my daughter grew out of the uncombable, triangular hair. Now she has lovely curly hair, and loves it. And we laugh and reminisce when we see this photo.