19 March 2011

When "Beautiful" Means "Different"

There is a post on mybrownbaby.com that really hit home to me. With permission, I share it with you.

When “Beautiful” Means “Different”

By Stacey Conner

" 'Who does her hair?' She asks me gruffly. I look up from the table where I am trying to manage my four young children and squint into the glare of the insanely fluorescent lighting of a local burger restaurant. I rarely take the kids out to eat alone, but day after day trapped in the house have driven us to this corner burger place. The freezing rain taps against the dark window. I try to block it out along with the difficult drive home.
'I’m sorry?' I reply as she registers over the chaos and the demands for fries. She is barely taller than my oldest children with a pretty face around a prominent nose. I notice first the red apron that she wears around her waist and blush at the french-fry explosion under our table. The red glow in my cheeks burns deeper when I finally understand her question.
" 'O-oh,' I stammer. 'I do. They’re only box braids.' I am immediately apologetic and defensive, explaining my short-comings to this stranger who has asked me a simple question. 'I can’t corn row.'
"She touches one of my daughter’s thirty braids and feels it from root to tip with expert hands. 'They look good,' she answers me, 'but they need more oil. They’re too dry. Our hair needs oil every day.' "
"I wince. I know. I have wonderful oils at home. Mango. Olive-infused. I have never been into hair. My own long, auburn locks can be gorgeous, if done by a hairdresser, but I have never learned to style them and I wear a perpetual ponytail with straggly broken fly-away fringe. The foreign texture and baffling care of my daughter’s hair has sapped whatever energy and interest I ever had for primping. We consider our bi-weekly box braiding a mutually endured chore. The oil applications slip my mind sometimes, I am ashamed to admit.
"I nod now, feeling like a failure in a fast food restaurant with my pale ketch-up-smeared boys and my unoiled brown daughter. 'I know, I don’t stay up on it enough.'
" 'I used to do all of the kids’ hair in my neighborhood,' she tells me."


I too worry that when people say she is "beautiful" what they actually mean is "different". I want her to be complimented, but am afraid she will pick up on over-the-top compliments meaning that she is being treated differently. Oh how I worry about this sweet baby of mine. I want the world for her, and I want that world to be perfect. Since that'll never happen I need to learn how to help her be happy and comfortable living in this unperfect world.

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