Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#82411 My Hair as a Metaphor

I forgot....
I used to get drunk and he would brush my hair for me.

I was so sensitive. When I drink, it dulls my inhibitions and it makes my senses so alert and awake; my scalp felt alive. I was completely in tune with how I felt. When he brushed my hair, it was soooo soothing. We used to drink so much that we would completely lose track of time and it would feel like he'd been brushing my hair for hours.  My hair got sooooo long when I was with him.

We used to drink a whole lot.
We used to drink a whole, whole lot.
And when I would get drunk, I'd ask him to brush my hair.

Funny the things you forget about the people you should most remember.

I've never been tender headed. How could I dare be so with all the hair I have? When I was a baby, I didn't have any hair for the longest time.  My mother was afraid I would grow up and be baldheaded woman. She always wanted to protect me from the sun.  For the first few years of my life, you'd be hard pressed to find photos of me with nothing on my head. Mommy believes strongly in covering up babies' heads. Especially bald babies. I was the only baby being toted around in dorags, sunhats, bonnets.

Then something happened. My hair grew and grew and grew and grew.  It wasn't necessarily long per se, but it was thick.  Mommy had to get extraordinarily creative with how she would tame it. I never had the stereotypical little brown girl multitudinous braids with all the 50,000 barrettes. Mommy always used to say "I don't know why they've got those poor little girls out there looking like a pinata on their heads."  I did have the most unfortunate collection of braids and plaits ever.  My hair REALLY did look like I was one generation removed from slavery with the way she used to comb it.

I remember I always used to see the other little girls with their hair out.  All the little Black girls I went to school with had relaxers and the little White and Spanish girls just had hair that was long and hanging down their backs. Sometimes when I was at school, I would take my hair out of the confines of the barrettes she used to bind my hair into submission.  I would pull my hair to make it feel longer and straighter and I would run up to my mother when she came to pick me up after school looking like I had a cloud of brown cotton candy hovering over me flying every whichaway. No order or direction or shape.  My mother would get sooo mad at me as if the plaits were maintaining order. Or as if the crooked parts were keeping everything under control.

One summer, I stayed over my friend's grandmother's houses for a week in the summer. Her grandma lived in the suburbs so it was like a getaway for us without really ever going far.
Her grandma had cable and neither of us did.
Her grandma had central air and neither of us did.
Her grandma also let us eat whatever junk we wanted and weren't allowed to eat at home.

She also had a hot comb and pressed hair. She pressed her granddaughter's hair. She pressed my hair.
That was the first time I'd EVER gotten my hair pressed. And I almost didn't want to turn back. But then I was told I couldn't run. I couldn't sweat lest my hair would "go back."
It was summer and I couldn't run?
I couldn't sweat?
I couldn't do any of the stuff I liked to do because I had to maintain how my hair looked.

I thought "How funny! To look pretty, I can't do stuff that I love." I wondered if there was some sort of trade off or correlation you had to have where in order to be pretty, you could no longer do what you loved.  When you're pretty, it means people are looking at you and paying attention to you. You're gettin praise and whatever else. I sat and thought about it. I didn't think that long about it.  But think about what kind of thing that is for a child to weigh and measure.  The implications of what that choice meant to a little girl who liked to run and be herself: If you want to do things that you love, you might not be accepted by those around you.

That kind of stayed with me for a while. The notion that in order to be accepted and valued and praised, I had to stifle who I was or pretend not to like the things I loved.  I would have to turn down who I was if I was going to be accepted. As a result of wanting to be accepted and loved and valued I tried it for a little while. I pretended to be someone else and I was MISERABLE. I decided that acceptance by the ignorance was overrated.
I've always been eccentric.
I've always been different.
I've always wanted to stand out.
I've always who I am and just recently realized that I shouldn't apologize for that anymore.
You can be loved for being who you're supposed to be. If people can't love the woman I am, they aren't the right ones to love me.