Be Kind to Curly-Headed Girls
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is reminded of being a little girl with wild hair.
I was a 30-year-old woman before I owned a hair dryer of my own. Until that time, I would borrow someone’s hair dryer once a year to put plastic up on my windows. I never thought to use one on my hair, except when my hair was very long and I didn’t want to go out in the cold with it wet.
I have curly hair. I’m especially reminded about this fact these days, since I just cut about a foot of it off: childhood ringlets appear again. Despite my dark colouring and the fact her donor has one Chinese parent, my kid is blond. And it was unclear what the texture of her hair would be until recently; she didn’t actually have much hair and it’s still wispy, baby-hair soft.
In Toronto she sports a baby mullet, having never had a haircut and spending all of her outdoor time (for what seems like forever) with a toque on her head. In Florida, where we recently stayed with her great-grandmother, she has my ringlets.
The day my daughter was born, 99% of my family asked — I kid you not — if she had hair and what colour it was, before asking if she was healthy. My grandmother has been reporting to people that Anna didn’t have hair until she was two — which isn’t true, but wouldn’t be important to me if it were. Much like my grandmother’s comments every time she sees me that my adolescent acne has finally gone away, she has made a habit of commenting that Anna “finally” has hair when she sees us. Every time.
I was trying to brush this off as some kind of misplaced concern, or vanity. Until last week when my Bubbie asked Anna, and then me, if I’d ever “put a comb through” her hair.
“She has curly hair!” I replied. It’s not messy, it’s not tangled — it’s curly. It’s also not styled, given that she’s never had a haircut, and is three years old. There are various lengths happening at once, as often happens with little kid hair. It’s baby soft and beautiful.
Cue childhood memories of my mother breaking round brushes in my hair, trying to blow-dry it straight. To this day, I cringe when I see school photos of me with fake-straight fluff hair. (My current hair dryer has a diffuser; can someone please tell my mother circa 1987 that such things exist?)
I’m older than my siblings, so no-one remembers this particular torment but me.
But my brother, whose father is black, tells me our grandmother did not go easy on him when he grew an Afro in his tweens. (Truthfully, my brother did not use the word “tween.”)
My daughter is sensitive and doesn’t understand the exchange that keeps happening. I tried to explain that Bubbie thinks her hair is messy — but I think it’s nice. Now she’s running around worried that her great-grandmother doesn’t like her curly hair, which while true, feels somewhat tragic.
While in Florida, my grandmother asked Anna and I separately if she could brush Anna’s hair before going out with us, which I declined. She passive-aggressively complained about my daughter’s hair to her friends at a dinner we were present for and, as a last-ditch effort, offered to take Anna with her to the beauty salon. (My grandmother most definitely did use the words “beauty salon.”)
Much as that intergenerational bonding moment could have presented a great Instagram opportunity, I decided to make Saturday a beach day.