What is this strange obsession with hair?
Before my dad left for Vietnam on his second tour, he instructed my mother not to cut my hair. It was all the way down to my butt, and hung in two large braids that were thick and healthy. When mom had to wash my hair, it was such a task, getting a comb through it was even worse, and after a week of being in two long braids, it would still be damp on the inside. My mother hated dealing with my hair. I loved it, made me feel like Rapunzel. It was my favorite fairy tale as a child.
One Saturday afternoon, my mom was washing my hair and I was whining as usual. She stood up, gazed down at me in the tub, turned and walked out of the bathroom. When she returned, she had an afro pick in her hand. She worked it through my hair, got all of the knots out, and put my hair all in one braid down my back. She instructed me to stand up and face the wall. In one swift motion, she picked up a pair of scissors and began hacking her way through my braid all the way up by my shoulders. I remember screaming and hearing her tell me to hold still so I wouldn’t get cut. It was a truly horrific moment in my life. When she was done, I turned around and she was holding the braid in her hand.
I ran out of the bathroom, into my room, threw myself on the bed and cried myself to sleep. My hair was never the same after that. I had a nappy, puffy mess on my head that embarrassed me to no end. I finally convinced my mom to buy me a straight haired wig. She did and I wore that wig with a white headband for almost a year, right around the time my dad returned from Vietnam. He came home on Christmas Eve. My mother handed him my braid which was wrapped in Saran Wrap. It’s one of the few times I saw my father cry.
I had struggled with my hair and how it identified who I was since the day Rapunzel was no more. Three years ago I embraced what I was born with and I’ve been at peace with my curls ever since. I realized that I am not defined by my external attributes. I am defined by things much more profound and meaningful than what is on the outside.