Let me start off by telling you all that I am not an authority figure on hair nor do I claim to be the best parent in the world. Now that I put my disclaimer out there, let me introduce myself. My name is Asmarett Ashford and I am the founder of Living Naturally Ever After. I am a married mother of two who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I work full time as a school counselor in a rural school system outside of Atlanta. This is my first attempt at blogging so please be kind.
My daughter went to a well known and highly sought after private school in Atlanta, Georgia from the time she was 3 years old until she reached the 2nd grade. This school is known in the African American community in Atlanta as “the school”. Many prestigious and affluent families send their children to this school. My whole family loved the experience and did not have a singe issue until my daughter was in kindergarten.
My daughter and I both dislike having our hair washed, combed and styled. We both watched the Jetson’s and longed for the convenience that Jane use to have (push a style, sit under the dryer for 1-2 minutes then bam your hair is clean and styled). On this particular Sunday afternoon I was extremely tired and not interested in fighting with my 5 year old daughter’s hair. She saw her freshly washed hair in the mirror and asked if she could wear it loose with a headband. “Sure” was my reply because it was less work and she looked absolutely adorable with an afro. So on Monday morning we picked out her hair which looked like wild cotton candy. She was uber excited to wear her “cotton candy” hair to school with her headband that matched her uniform. I kissed her goodbye and my husband took my daughter to school.
Later that evening I picked my daughter up from school and she was in tears and her hair was in a wild ponytail. She wouldn’t explain to me why she was crying she just asked to go home. Needless to say that was not going to fly with me. I immediately asked her teacher what happened. To my dismay the teacher replied “she has been upset all day because you forgot to comb her hair”. The teacher then went on to ask me to make sure I don’t send her back to school without her hair “done” because it caused too much of a distraction in her class. I was very shocked and honestly did not know what to say. Just then another parent walked up to me and said “I hate when I am out of town and my husband has to do my daughters hair because they make a mess”. I suppose that the other parent had good intentions and she was trying to comfort me. Both the teacher and that parent were shocked when I told them that her hair was intentionally wild because my daughter and I liked her “cotton candy” afro.
My daughter and I left the school in an awful mood. As soon as we drove away from the school my daughter stated that she never wants to wear her hair down anymore because she did not have “good hair”! She immediately began to cry and asked why her hair grew “this way” moving her hands vertically and not “that way” moving her hands down her back vertically. My heart broke for my daughter and we had to have a talk on the 30 minute ride home about her hair.
My daughter went on to state that she liked her hair when she left home but when she arrived at school her classmates immediately began to laugh at her hair. The other 5 and 6 year old children told her that her hair was “ugly, not combed and nappy”. One little girl went as far as to tell my daughter that she did not have “good hair” like her so she couldn’t wear it down. My daughter then stated that she hated her hair and wanted good hair like __ (insert random female child’s name here). I asked my daughter what “good hair” was and what it looked like. She stopped and thought for a minute then said “good hair is long and goes down here” pointing to the lower portion of her back. “Good hair is curly when it is wet and dry and it swings when you turn your head”.
I decided to stop on the way home and get my daughter some ice cream so that we could sit down and have “the talk” face to face. So over two sugar cones my daughter and I had a very difficult conversation about self-esteem and hair. I tried to explain to my 5 year old daughter that God and her parents gave her the hair that she is suppose to have. I explained that there is no such thing as “good hair” just like there is no such thing as “bad hair”. She then asked me if we could “call God and ask him to make my hair grow long down her back “. I asked her why it was so important to have long hair. She explained that the little girl in her class with long hair that reaches the bottom of her back always get picked first by the teacher and their classmates. The little girl with the long hair always has cool hair bows and all of the girls play in her hair at recess. The little girl with the long hair is always called pretty and all of the parents tell her how pretty her “good hair “is.
I was very shocked at how consumed my daughter was with her hair, her classmate’s hair and other people’sresponses to her classmate. My daughter is a beautiful little girl and random people always complement her on her looks, her afro puffs, her manners and intelligence so I was truly confused by her jealousy. In an effort to conform, my daughter I asked her what can she do better than the girl with the long hair? My daughter perked up immediately and stated that she was the best speller, recited poems the best, was always an All-Star student of the week, had the highest grades in the class on most tests and her art was always picked the “best in show”. My daughter went on and on about all the things she does well in and out of school but as soon as the topic of hair came up she immediately looked defeated.
Our ice cream was long gone by this time and on the ride home I explained to my daughter that she is the person she is meant to be. She should be proud of the way that she looks from head to toe because she is beautiful and unique. I explained that the term “good hair” is a bad word and not welcomed in our home. We then discussed the term “nappy” and “good hair”. I may have gone a bit too far by explaining the slave mentality and the Willie Lynch philosophy to a 5 ½ year old child but I wanted her to know where the term “good hair” came from.
I then went on to tell my daughter that “good hair” is any hair that grows on a person’s head. I asked her if her hair helped her get good grades, run faster, jump higher or read books better. She replied no to each of my questions. My daughter and I discussed the entire pros and cons of having longer hair. When she realized that the longer her hair was the longer it would take to wash and style it. My daughter was sold on her pretty curly puffs and her “cotton candy” hair. We then discussed the importance of being happy with yourself and simply not caring about what others say. She was told that the only people that she has to please are God, her parents and herself.
After dinner that evening my daughter, husband and I continued our conversation about “good hair” and how others should not influence what we think about ourselves. My husband even touched on the topic of that green eyed monster, jealousy(side note- thanks to that talk my daughter thought that the green eyed monster was real and slept with us for a full week!). We went on to listen to the India Arie song “I am not my hair” and continued to give our daughter positive affirmations and celebrate her.
Before she went to bed for the night (in our bed) my daughter said her prayer. I asked my daughter if she had anything that she wanted to ask God or tell God. She thought for a few moments then she asked God to help the little girl with long hair to be nice to and stop talking like a slave. Clearly she got the gist of the message but was confused. She then thanked God for her cotton candy hair.
The next morning I woke my daughter up 30 minutes early so that she could make that decision on how to wear her hair for the day. Without a second thought my daughter asked for her “cotton candy” hair. We combed out her afro and placed an obnoxious princess crown headband on her head. She looked a bit nervous on the way to school but both my husband and I took her to school. When she walked into the classroom a few of the students pointed at her hair and one stated “ Aja’s hair is still not combed”. Her teacher was not amused and I received a stern look from her. Before I could say anything my daughter told the boy in a matter of fact tone “my hair is combed and it is just the way I like it slave boy!” Needless to say we had to go to the director of the school and explain the entire situation. She was also not amused and my daughter had to apologize for her inappropriate outburst. The director then talked to the entire class about diversity and how to treat people.
Again, I am not going to ever win a parent of the year award nor will I ever apologize for explaining the world as I see fit to my children. Today my daughter is a happy and healthy 10 year old child with an extra helping of self-esteem. She loves her “cotton candy hair” and does not let the opinions of others determine who or what she is. Shortly after my daughter and I had the “talk” I began transitioning from relaxed hair to being a natural bella.
The reason I wrote this blog is because I have encountered many people who say they can not go natural because they don’t have “good hair” like mine. My daughter is often stopped by strangers and random comments are made about her “good hair”. To this day my daughter will still say “thank you but I don’t have good hair I have my hair”. It truly saddens me that in 2012 people still buy into the “good hair” philosophy. I love the definition that that The Good Hair Diary adopted.
GOOD (good) adj.
-In excellent condition; healthy: Good Hair.