Good and Bad Hair: Little Black Girl Blues

What does it mean to have “presentable” hair for a little black girl?  For many little black baby girls, having presentable hair means having whatever little locks are growing out of their heads shellacked with products, twisted and pulled into the smoothest possible configurations. Gotta show off those baby hair edges, right? Before the age of one, many black baby girls have hair that has been pushed and prodded for the sake of “taming.”

So, when we see little black girls with their hair exactly as it grows out of their heads, some people equate that with being unkempt. When new pictures of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s little girl Blue appear online, you can count on comments remarking on how Beyoncé needs to find a comb to “do something” with her child’s hair.  Mind you, Blue just turned two years old. She has a head full of wild and free curls that is occasionally accented with a flower or a headband.

Blue always looks healthy, cared for, well-fed and most important of all, loved.  She is the child of one of the world’s biggest pop stars, a beauty icon. Believe me you, Blue will have plenty of opportunities in the future to be scrutinized, over-analyzed and unfairly compared to her mom.  This might be the only time in her life that she can just let her hair be its own bad self (bad as in good) without feeling pressure for it to be or do something else. Let Blue be a free black baby girl.

As black women, we have so many unrealistic and completely ridiculous hair “aspirations” and those aspirations are foisted upon us at a very young age.  All the pulling and smoothing and straightening basically says “Your hair texture is not acceptable.” I have friends that started getting relaxers when they were toddlers. That’s kind of insane, right?  These women have literally no memories of the texture of their natural hair.  Little black girls get an early education on standards of beauty, especially the standards to which they allegedly fall short.

I’m not opposed to those adorably complicated cornrow hair designs or the adorably simple afro puffs, but not everybody has to do the exact same thing. Seems like clean, moisturized hair that is free of foreign objects (as much as possible for a toddler) would be a reasonable standard for what is acceptable when it comes to little kids.

When you were a little girl, what messages did you receive about your hair? Did you carry any of those messages into adulthood?

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.

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