In what should be my last post on my LTYM experience, here’s the essay I read in my performance.
by. Jessica F. Hinton
My three-year old and I are just finishing up brushing our teeth for bedtime. I’m staring at my reflection in the mirror in front of us, when I notice that she’s staring at her reflection with an angry look on her face.
She did this in silence. Her lips were pursed and brow was wrinkled, making the curls nearest her forehead hang in her eyes.
Not sure of the gravity of this moment, I watched her like this for a while before asking, very nonchalantly, “What are you looking at?”
She then stares up at me from behind the dark brown curls hanging in her eyes and said, “My hair.”
“What about your hair?” I asked then. And as soon as I hear myself out loud, I already know what she’s going to say.
“I don’t like it,” she said.
I fumbled out some questions then, questions like “Why?” “What do you mean?” And “Why would you say that?” Then I offered praises. “I love your hair.” “Your curls are beautiful,” I said.
But she didn’t agree. I felt that. She didn’t like her hair. And when I asked her why, she had an answer.
“Because it’s all poofy and curly,” she said, yanking at a tangle near her ear.
“Mommy, I want princess hair.”
Now, to be clear, I know what princess hair is. But, I assumed she didn’t or that she shouldn’t. So I asked her then, “But what’s princess hair?”
Her response? “Oh, you know. It goes around and around and it’s long.”
“But, I said then, “you do have princess hair because you are a princess, after all.”
She didn’t look amused, so I said, again, what I know to be true.
“Your hair IS beautiful.”
“I love your hair.”
I say these words again and again in different variation until she finally smiles… not a happy kind of smile but the kind that seemed to indicate her desire that I just stop and let her go to sleep.
“It isn’t that serious, mom” I’m sure she would say if she had the words to say it. And it really wasn’t that serious. I mean, plenty of girls want princess hair, right? I did.
I was six when I got princess hair.
It came in the form of a My Little Pony ponytail. It was straight and brown and really long. The hair was attached to a golden bow. And behind the bow was a clip-on comb that made it possible to discretely wear this fake horse’s mane.
I put it on like a tiara, attaching it to the bush of my real hair in the front and allowing it to hang low against my back.
It swung when I moved. It swung and danced and seemed to sing to me.
I remember shaking it as my mother swept our front porch, oblivious, it seemed, to my first, and, likely, only girlhood moment in glory. A car drove by as I sung 80s pop music and danced on the sidewalk, swinging my hair like I was crazy. The driver in the car just stared. Was she concerned? You know, I do wonder that now, but back then, if you’d ask I’d say “no.” With hair like that, she had to be jealous.
No one ever told me my curls were beautiful or good or even wanted. So, that ponytail was like my chance to be the girl I thought I wasn’t: The one with the beautiful hair everyone else wanted.
I didn’t call it princess hair back then, but it was magical hair and it was something that I considered more beautiful than my own.
I could relate to my three year old in that way, or as a child who wanted something she didn’t have and feeling bad about it.
It didn’t get over this complex until my 20s. It wasn’t until I learned to let go of what I didn’t have and embrace and love what I did, that I could love and see my curls for what they are.
My real hair isn’t straight. It curls with water. It shrinks when it dries and it’s amazingly huge.
It’s not like that fake ponytail I had at six. But it’s my hair. It’s a part of me so I love it. And anything that I love, I have decided, in my head, is wonderful.
My curls…our curls look different than the princess hair of most movies and fairy tales. But when I see our reflections in mirrors or storefront glass windows, I see only beauty in that difference.
We lay in her bed silent that night. I hold her hand. I smile and repeat what the girl with the fake ponytail never heard to be true: You are beautiful. Your curls, like my curls, are beautiful.
She softened then, smiled, a real smile, and said, “Okay, mommy.”
She rested her head more firmly on her pillow and began closing her eyes, settling in for sleep.
I stroked her curls, as she lay, believing them to be every bit as beautiful as any princess Disney could ever fathom.
And as she lay, I settled into believing that with time, she’ll settle into believing this, too.