Last week, my girlfriend and co-worker’s teenaged daughter Kim* visited our office. She had an early day at school and stopped by, as always, to visit me at my desk to say ‘hi’. On that particular day, she was flanked by two of her schoolmates. As I am close to her mom, I had heard the stories of this threesome of friends who do everything together. However, I had never met the girls. They are all high school seniors, preparing for college- at least Kim is. Here is what bothered me the most. Contrary to Kim’s very naturally beautiful look (she wears no makeup, has her own natural and full head of hair, although she loves painting her nails, she does not wear false tips or overlays and she keeps a very casual chill look about herself- no heels or tight skirts and dresses), her friends were a little glam. One had a full weave. The color chosen was black, which is such a hard color for most to pull off, especially when you’re young and have her complexion. The fact that it was long (past her shoulders) just highlighted how bad it was. I could tell from my amateur eye, that it was human hair- I’ll give her that, but it was a low-grade selection. The other friend had false eyelashes. Anyone who has ever worn lashes knows that even with “individuals” (which she wore) there is a very short, acceptably cute lifespan. Do not get me wrong, my intent is not to bash these girls. I cringe at some of the outfits and makeup choices I have made in my youth and in some cases, not so distant past. So I understand a young girls desire to be ultra-feminine and mature beyond her years. We all have witnessed little 3-year-olds pressed to get any kind of lip gloss, even if it’s just Carmex. My problem is with the moms. I know as a woman with no kids, my 2 cents may not be looked at as much. But as a woman, especially a woman of color, furthermore a Black woman, I shudder to think of how these girls truly feel about themselves- their true selves.
For the record, my mom was not spending crazy amounts of money on hair or anything else for that matter. If I got individual braids, it was more about convenience and upkeep, than style. But whether I chose to adorn my hair with afro-centric fabric covered headbands to jazz up my mom’s homemade cornrows throughout junior high (yes, that’s right). Or, I fell in love with and worked intricate earrings, I made the best of what I thought was a bad situation. I felt pretty in my own way. Did I want a relaxer? Oh yes! But my mom had seen my hair fall out previously from the chemicals and did not want to further damage my follicles. As a woman now with “big hair”, I am so grateful. Instead of helping your daughter learn how to manage her hair, whether it’s relaxed or natural, you have added a couple of packs of nonsense to it! This is why there are grown women walking around who are crippled when it comes to their hair. They never got to know or understand it. If they have an interview, date, big event, etc., they shell out money at the salon or slap a wig or hat on to create a diversion. The last time I went to the salon was in May. I miss my stylist like crazy, but if funds or time do not permit, I am still okay. The reason I, like so many other sistas, feel so liberated with natural hair is because the message it sends not only to the world, but to yourself is that, I am good enough. I am pretty enough. With the lashes, I love lashes. I think there is no quicker way to spruce up your face than a little eyeliner and lash action. However, this look can still be achieved with good ole mascara and drugstore eyeliner. As someone who suffered from (and still does monthly) acne, I know how hard it can be to feel totally comfortable with one’s self. Instead of buying me the whole caboodle of make-up, like some of the girls in my class, my mother let me get a pigmented Clinique Cream Stick. That was my makeup. And I thought I was doing it! What message are you sending your girls if you do not stress the beauty they possess without and within?
Yes, hair and makeup take us to another level; but a good, workable canvas is essential. Recently, while vacationing in Mexico, I noticed that after the first couple of days, a clean face with sunscreen became my beauty regimen. Although I brought some product to do my hair at night in order to keep it “stretched”, coming in from partying at 4:30am, made that a task that would not be accomplished. So my hair, affected by the humidity, stayed soft and fluffy, and short. At an intimate gathering hosted by the same previously mentioned girlfriend, a friend of hers, who happened to be a professional photographer, brought his “big boy” camera. I asked if he would take my picture. My instinct was to stand up and pose. But he instructed me to, “no, sit back down, that was a good shot.” I did, and the pictures are beautiful. There is one close-up and the other showing the full body. Taken at night, he captured my glowing skin (my home body scrubs are indeed working) and yes, me being critical of myself, I noticed the slight dark circles under my eyes. But if I am fair and honest with myself, there is not that much to critique. The picture is all me- sans makeup. I may have worn a little of eyeliner and/or mascara, but beyond that, the picture is me at my purest form. We should teach our girls to appreciate themselves, as they are. Then they will know how best to accentuate their assets and love themselves without any additives.
*Name has been changed.