So you already know that my oldest daughter HMG has a passion for ballet. Well, for the first time this year we decided to try having her compete, because she wanted more opportunities to perform. Our first competition is today, but it's been an interesting experience so far.
After all of these years in the same school, where nappy hair was never an issue--it became an issue for competition.
HMG wears her hair in braids/twists/cornrows 99% of the time. Her hair is always styled in small braids or a combo cornrow and box braid style for recitals. I've never tried to style her hair loose, because a variety of hairstyles has always been required in costume. HMG had to be able to move from the sleek bun, to loose hanging hair, to updo styles in short minutes. I don't use heat--EVER...and she has A LOT of hair.
I'm not always close enough to help her when she's backstage. The braids were always easier and the school never complained.
To be clear they never officially complained for this competition either.
My daughter had a simple conversation with her teacher, during which she was asked whether she had ever considered relaxing her natural hair. She was wearing medium to large box braids at the time.
I am so proud of my daughter.
She respectfully told her teacher, "Not really. It would be very damaging to my hair."
Her teacher agreed, but continued on to say that in the dance world, HMG shouldn't be surprised--should HMG choose to pursue professional dance--if she is asked to chemically relax her hair. They will want you to look like everyone else. Everyone is expected to look the same.
HMG's teacher told her it was fine for her to wear the braided style she was wearing--though this had never been a thought of mine for the competition in which only the classic bun is required. She merely suggested HMG position her bun higher.
I commend HMG's teacher for giving her the choice to wear even large fuzzy braids for the competition. I really appreciate her respecting our way with HMG's hair.
HMG did infer--whether right or wrong--that her teacher wished her hair was straight.
I had mixed feelings.
As always I felt frustration that this even has to be a discussion. I wondered if the recommendation of a PERMANENT chemical process would have been made to anyone else other than a person with nappy hair. I lay no accusation against her teacher though...perhaps she didn't know the different options we have to achieving a straight look.
I felt frustration that straight is once again the order of the day.
Finally, I chose to concentrate on the satisfaction burning inside of me at the very mature way HMG handled herself. I'm so proud of my daughter. It wasn't easy for me to make that sort of declaration as an adult, but she handled it with such grace and quiet confidence.
Since the classic bun is the ONLY style required I had always intended to style HMG's hair loose. Her ballet teacher has never seen her hair this way. I decided to unveil the style at dress rehearsal.
I washed and detangled HMG's hair, smoothed it back soaking wet using a natural boar bristle brush and molded it in place with olive oil and Fantasia IC gel. I fashioned her ponytail with a satin ribbon (too much hair for a ponytail holder) and pinned the ends under into a donut-shaped bun with a ton of bun head hair pins. I set the style with a satin bandana...for an hour.
Her hair was wavy perfection. Full of sheen. Texture UNALTERED. Long and lush nappy hair styled in a bun.
Her teacher's reaction was HUGE. She loved it and stammered over and over that it was so beautiful--as did HMG's classmates. HMG's teacher also remarked that she didn't know HMG's hair could do this, and asked her HOW were you able to do this.
That's when I understood.
Sometimes we perceive the demand that we ought to straighten our nappy hair as a statement that what we have is less than desirable.
I was offering HMG's teacher, the exact same hair--TEXTURE unaltered. I styled her hair soaking wet! The teacher loved the result--which looked nothing like relaxed hair.
If I had run to straighten HMG's hair, thinking I had no other choice, I would have lost the opportunity to show HMG's teacher (a person with the authority to make changes) that there are multiple choices for a person with nappy hair. Nappy hair is fabulous hair--we can mold it in so many ways. A permanent texture change is not necessary.
We DO have choices. We don't have to sacrifice our hair.
It is beautiful...and you don't need special eyes to see it.
Give it a chance.
I could have blown her hair out, coated her hair with heat protectant and flat ironed it.
I could, but if I don't choose to take that route---I shouldn't feel as though I am being forced by circumstances to do something I'm not comfortable with.
In this case, the teacher doesn't have all the power--it's my choice and more importantly HMG's choice to make sure all the possibilities are on the table and to choose with resolve.
Have I mentioned that I'm proud?