When a child’s natural hair doesn’t fit the mould

I was that child with natural hair that didn’t fit the mould.

These days I have an actual fear of salons. They give me so much anxiety.

No I didn’t read some article about bacteria lurking in communal brushes (probably shouldn’t google that). It’s not the idea of it so much, it’s past experiences. (PS. I know some really nice stylists, the experience just makes me uncomfortable)

Hair salons became this place where I would literally pay to be ridiculed. I’d sit there being pulled and prodded and my “bad hair” discussed with other people.
But honestly sometimes you don’t even have to be pay to be made to feel inferior. Families often do it for free. My slick haired father doesn’t let his feelings towards my hair go unnoticed.

Every birthday and Christmas gift is a salon voucher, THIS MAN! IMAGINE!!! He will always mention how much skinnier sleeker hair makes me look (good one dad, use my one self esteem issue against the other) Can we just chat about my little nose too and go for a self esteem trifecta.

Shame, he is an amazing dad on all other counts. I kinda get him on hair thing too, the fact is he doesn’t really “get me”, all  he knows is that when I go to a salon I come out looking “more acceptable”, “more tame”, “more like him”.

[Us coloureds are known for checking hair on babies to see if the child is #blessed, I was at a party once and someone took off  (infant at the time)  Aidan’s hat to see his hair, why must we be so?]

I sort of wonder if this is the case with people who adopt across the colour line or have kids with someone of a different race or are just “mixed race”.

I wonder if people whose kids “don’t look like them” (and I’m not talking ALL PARENTS, I know all about the chocolate hair, vanilla care thing and think it’s awesome) ever look at their kid’s hair and say, oh crap what now? (I sort of do, because Aidan and I DO NOT have the same hair type).

I just wonder if the reason moms relax the hair of toddlers, put weaves on preschoolers and get weekly hair dressing appointments for their little girls is a subconscious need to have the kids look more like them?

Maybe it’s not that, maybe they just don’t want to deal with the tears and the tangles, I don’t know.  I’m just not a fan of artificially changing a kid’s appearance, I wouldn’t spray tan or get a little kid make-up so why would I straighten their hair.

Maybe these feelings come from my own lack of feeling accepted when it comes to my hair and the general opinion of others that not getting my dad’s hair was some sort of birth curse.

So maybe I have a chip on my shoulder? It wouldn’t be the first chip, it would sit neatly between the chip of being treated badly because of my race and the chip of being treated badly because of my gender.

Anyways it’s not all about me (Even though I am the ELLA in JustELLABella) . I found this woman online. Not in a Russian bride way.

She had a post on one of the natural hair groups I follow on FB asking if anyone else suffers from the “curse” of their hair not being accepted by their families.

So I inboxed her quick sticks like a Nigerian Prince (or a South African Prince, I am not Xenophobic, I have no fear of Xenos only Monkeys and Bill collectors).

Anyway this is what Maria Louw has to say about hair and families and acceptance:

My name is Maria Louw. I’m a payroll administration clerk. I live in a small town in the Overberg called Greyton. I have been natural for almost 2 years. I did the big chop 3 times. My first big chop was in 2008 ,my matric year, I had short hair with loose curls, everybody loved how curly my hair was and I loved it too.

As it grew longer I started to use chemical treatments (sheen strate) to keep the shape of my curls. There weren’t any comments made about my hair at that time. After my hair got damaged from all the chemicals I big chopped again in 2013. That didn’t last long and I went back to getting my hair straightened. I tried relaxer this time around and my hair was very thin and too straight for my liking and I hated it. No fullness, no bounce. In 2015 I decided to cut my hair again. I wanted to do things differently this time. No relaxers, and no heat. As my hair grew out I started noticing tighter curls not like it was in 2008. My hair is more kinky and coily and with this new hair came the ordinary hair problems but also weird stares and comments.

Before I leave for work my dad will always say: “You should comb your hair”, “Are you going to work like that?” I would just walk out and laugh.

One morning I woke up with my hair untamed as I was too lazy to tie my hair up or put it into twists the night before. So my aunt came to visit and saw me with my hair untamed and said: “Wat gaan aan met jou hare?” (What is going on with your hair) “Why is it like that?” and the look on her face was of pure disgust with the state of my hair. I was deeply shocked and hurt. It wasn’t what she said but how she looked at me. Till this day I can’t get that out of my head. It hurts when I think about it because when I look back I realise that is what I will get from everyone else. It is as if when you have natural hair you become less of a person, you become less beautiful.

With this new journey ahead of me despite what I feel and what more I will hear from friends, family and the rest. I’m am lucky enough to have an amazing boyfriend who have supported me from day one. Whenever I get doubts or discouraged he lets me know that I should never let people’s opinions get me down because im doing this for me and it is my life.

I will stay natural and one day teach my kids the lessons I have learned about loving and accepting your hair, having the patience and confidence to stay on this exciting but scary route and in the end I know it will all be worth it.

6 thoughts on “When a child’s natural hair doesn’t fit the mould

  1. Zoe Hawkins says:

    LOVE this! I think every parent fights with their kid about hair care, but it’s so much worse when the parent just doesn’t get it. Sure, you have to find a way to avoid the tears and fights, but also ensure your kid knows they are loved and accepted, no matter what kind of hair they have.

  2. Rozanne Reid says:

    My daughter and I get this all the time. My mother even asked me if I’m ok cause she doesn’t know me like this.. that being not relaxing my hair and said I must please do something about my daughters hair and the looks we get from family members and here I am trying very hard to teach my daughter self love.

    • Eleanor Douglas-Meyers says:

      I often wonder if I would feel different if I had a daughter? like is it easy for me to be on a high afro horse cause Aidan is prob going to end up with a crew cut sooner rather than later? Ek weetie man! I just want to not have to check my hair before i see family. BUT I managed to get my mom to do the big chop so #winning

  3. Kaylyn Van As says:

    It’s painful being judged for being yourself- as if that’s not good enough. We need to teach our children to love themselves and accept others. Thank you for sharing your feelings. x

  4. Tamarah says:

    I have no idea what this must be like, but I think it’s sad that family would make you feel inferior for nothing, even if they don’t realise they’re doing it. I get that tighter curls can get quite “woes” but so can any other hair. I really want my daughter to just rock her own self. And I’d like that for all women. There’s so much beauty in diversity. Have fun with it.

  5. Pfano says:

    Your hair is beautiful. Great post aswell of you sharing your hair experience. It’s beautiful and freeing when one trully starts embracing themselves fully. In my experience, I noticed that when I started being confident and embracing my natural kinky coily hair, other people noticed that confidence and that’s what’s most attractive.

    Looking forward to reading more. Please check out my blog here (hadassahmmmblog.wordpress.com)

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