This question is such a dynamic one, isn’t it? I’m glad we decided to make it a re-occuring theme around here. Because we both know it’s something we spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about. But also because the definition of beauty for us constantly changes as we grow and change as human beings. If you had asked me this at eight my response would be completely different when I was 18. Even now. If you had asked me at 22, that response would differ completely from 32. (It’s odd typing my age for the world to see. In the misogynistic world we live in, we are taught as women to keep that close to our chest because our age can be used against us. Only today I thought about how stupid that was and decided to give up that notion for good.)
So I guess I’ll go with the definition of what beauty is for me, right now on this chilly August night in Virginia. I feel extremely beautiful when I am comfortable and playing with my niece. Beauty is always being comfortable. (This is why in my life I have flat out refused certain garments which restrict comfort. Panty hose, Spanx and thongs I’m looking right at you. Though I haven’t yet kicked my heel habit.) When I take my niece to the playground and we run around in the grass with our shoes off, I feel oh so buoyant. But recently I’ve started feeling beautiful when I run my hands through my natural hair and find crazy curls. I’ve been chemically straightening my hair since I was nine years old. I stopped 1.5 years ago and I’m convinced it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I could drone on about beauty for ages if you let me. But I’ll tell you about what happened tonight instead. After you and I finished chatting about boys (3:30am your time, 9:30pm mine), Dad trimmed the shaved side of my head. This is something he always does and I’m pretty proud and lucky because he saves me cash and it’s a nice little tradition of ours. We think that perhaps we had Barbers in our distant lineage because slaves were often given the last name of the occupation they were trained to do. (You can find more information about it here. It’s actually fascinating in a depressing sort of way.)
My Dad loves cutting hair. He used to cut my cousin’s hair when they were little boys. And his grandfather used to give haircuts in the kitchen for everyone on the street. So it’s definitely in our blood some where. Tonight when he was combing out my fro and getting ready to cut he paused and said,
“Look at what you’ve got here. It’s beautiful! It’s strong and healthy and thick! You’ve got beautiful hair.”
Thanks Dad! It’s important to feel beautiful every now and then, which is why I’m happy you’ve had some company this summer. As a black person in America it’s a struggle sometimes. You don’t always find representations of yourself so prominently displayed in the media. The pressure to chemically straighten ones hair has always been there, hanging over a particular group of people like a dark storm cloud. People will tell you everything under the sun to rally against natural hair. In the past you could be discriminated against in the workplace for wearing your hair natural. But some how through all the chaos and pain, beauty always shines through.
(According to twitter, apparently only white people kiss their dogs. Lies, lies, lies.)
I will tell you (though it will make you blush), when I thought you looked THE MOST beautiful. Sure, there were loads of blog photos that you took that were nice. You inspired a purchase or two for sure. But not the blog photos. Those were beautiful in a performance way. In the time that I’ve known you, I thought you were most beautiful when you Skyped me from your hospital bed just an hour after giving birth from your son. You had done it all alone and I was so proud of my amazing friend. You were clutching him to your bosom while telling me (your vaguely terrified of childbirth friend all about it and that it wasn’t that bad). You were smiling happily in this way that I have yet to experience in my own life and your face glowed like gold. Childless lady that I am, all I could think was “Wow! She’s incredible! Look at this strong woman who I am so lucky to call a friend!”
PS – I told my Mum about your birth story tonight and she used the slogan she usually reserves for me when I do something wild like go on a roadtrip alone to a place I’ve never visited.
“She’s a bold sister!”
It’s the highest of compliments, I assure you.