Growing up, my mom always emphasized how much she envied mine and my sister’s hair. My dad has really fine pelochino as we called it— straight black thin locks that were a breeze to maintain. I took after him more so than my sister, who had more of a mixture of my parents hair.
I was always so jealous of her— the way it curled and retained that wafty shampoo smell and was so dark and wild. Mine always sat limp on my shoulders, greasing up around the scalp before the day’s end.
My mom wore her hair natural maybe 4-5 times in my life. It was coarse, strong, and beautifully curly. She dyed it, blew it dry, used hot curlers on a daily basis, and tried every frizz tamer known to man. Anytime I’d watch all the effort her and my sister put into their hair, the hours they’d spend straightening, moisturizing, dying, and attempting to tame their locks, I’d grow more and more jealous, wishing my hair could match in some way.
Of course, I was lucky if my hair showed one slight curl near the ends. I think part of me wished I was more stereotypically Hispanic looking growing up. I was confused for anything from Russian to Hawaiian to Greek. Unless I left the dirty Dade, I never once heard someone identify me as part of the tribe.
As an adult, and living in Memphis, an almost frighteningly homogenized place of racial boundaries, I stick out like a sore thumb. When I first started teaching, my female students begged to touch my hair, asking me when I’d wear it natural, not understanding that this was as natural as my hair got. Suddenly my hair was somehow desirable, a thought I’d never had.
I’ve got about a month left before Baby Arcelia gets here. Chances are, given mine and Louie’s genes, she’s gonna have wild curly hair. I want her to know that even though her hair might not look like mine, it’s still beautiful. Not only that, but my hair is beautiful too. And so is Tia Nicole’s, Tia Lay Lay’s, Tia Samantha, Tia Elizabeth, and all the other amazing women she’s blessed to have in her life.
Hair is something that I’ve never thought so much about until I became pregnant. Knowing my baby will have different hair than me makes me quite cautious. It’ll be a learning experience for me, learning how to care for hair that will be a totally different texture than mine. But I want her to know that she’s beautiful exactly the way she is.