Most mornings, I spend about five minutes pulling my freshly washed hair into a ponytail. It’s easy, it’s efficient, and, I like to tell myself, it’s even chic. When I know I’ll be meeting important people or attending special events, however (like, say, the United Way annual campaign kick-off party or a chamber of commerce breakfast), I break out the products and utensils and spend an extra 20 minutes or so coaxing my locks into what I hope is a more professional-looking style.
After applying leave-in conditioner and a shine serum, blasting my head with a blow dryer and smoothing away any remaining frizz or fly-away strands with a straightening iron so hot it occasionally lets off little puffs of smoke as I run it over my hair, I’m ready to go.
As I stood in front of my vanity and trudged through this routine Thursday morning, I thought to myself, “In a few years, I’ll have to show Reese how to do this, too.”
And then I paused.
My daughter, who will be 2½ next month, has a head full of bouncy, baby-fine ringlets. I think they’re adorable, but I realized I’d just been assuming she’d want to want to flatten them out in an attempt to achieve a straight, glossy look. After all, as most ladies will confirm, we all long for the hair texture we weren’t born with. Women with naturally curly tresses often spend lots of time, money and energy trying to make them look sleek and silky. Gals with stick-straight hair will readily rise well before dawn to ensure they’ll have enough time with their curling irons, hot rollers and scrunching spray.
When I was a child, my mom permed my hair. She permed her hair. It was the 1980s and early 90s, so pretty much everyone had permed hair, which is why I don’t blame my mom for the heinous, feathered, crimped-looking hairdos I sported for years. She helped me achieve a look that was trendy at the time — the same look all my friends donned.
I suppose, in assuming Reese would want me to show her how to straighten her cute curls, I figured I’d just be helping her fit in and look like her friends. But what if, instead of slathering slimy goop on my daughter’s head and singeing her tresses with a white-hot “weapon” of sorts, I just encouraged her to embrace her natural look?
I wondered if it would work. While trying to convince Reese to love the attributes God blessed her with, I might come off as “old-fashioned” or clueless about what all the popular kids are doing these days. There’s always a chance she’d procure a blow dryer, a straightening iron, a few bottles of chemicals and figure out the process on her own. But there’s also a chance she might believe me when I tell her she’s beautiful as-is and doesn’t need to waste time working so hard to change her appearance.
Honestly, that mentality could be applied in so many other areas and situations as well. Sure, it could start with something as simple as hair, but what if all the young girls out there — thanks to a little encouragement and assurance from their moms — had the confidence to love their locks, which gave them the confidence to love their bodies, which gave them the confidence to love their personalities, which gave them the confidence to love their quirks and mannerisms? What if girls stopped trying so hard to change everything about themselves in an attempt to fit in or impress their peers?
We’d raise a generation of truly amazing, courageous, self-assured, independent young woman, that’s what. They’d be too busy loving life and themselves to judge anyone or teach their daughters to judge and conform, and perhaps an even stronger generation would follow. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
I know it’s probably silly to think we moms could start a revolution of sorts by doing something as silly as dissuading a pre-teen’s use of a hair straightener, but it’s something to consider. Every journey begins with a single step, after all.