You might want to sit down for this one.
Take a good, hard look at this picture. Go ahead—I’ll wait.
Now go back and look at the conversation between the mother of this little baby and her mom’s Facebook “friend.”
Oh no girl—it’s not a joke or a game. That baby, only four months old, barely able to distinguish colors, not yet ready for solid foods, just learning how to say “da da,” has her hair straightened. It’s not clear if said straightening on said 4-month-old was done with skin-burning chemical relaxer, a fire-hot pressing comb or the burning-hot heat of a blow dryer. What is absolutely crystal, though, is that this child’s tender, baby curls were stripped, the child’s hair is damaged and her mother is a complete and total idiot who clearly is a few fries short of a Happy Meal.
Hell yes—I said it: This. Mother. Is. A. Dumb. Ass. Idiot.
What kind of sick, low-self-esteem-having, self-hating ignoramus do you have to be to sit your baby—BABY!—in your lap, take her baby-soft curls into your hands and decide that it’s so unmanageable, so unruly, so ugly, that you can’t go on one minute longer until your infant—INFANT!—has straight hair? How many f*cks do you have to not give about your child to pull chemicals/a hot comb/a brush and blow dryer across her tender, sensitive little scalp at just 4 months old?
I mean, I understand it’s hard to know what to do with kinky, curly hair when all you have to work with is a little bit of information, great trepidation and memories of your own Saturday night black girl hair kitchen torture squirm between your mom’s knees. I know this was a huge issue for me when my girls were babies; all of the how-to’s in the parenting books focused on hair and skin that didn’t look or feel like my girls’. I knew everything there was to know about how to care for a baby with thin, blonde hair, and it seemed like every product in the kids’ shampoo section was made specifically for them. But what was I supposed to put in my baby’s hair? What would keep it from drying out? How was I supposed to comb it? What was I supposed to do as the texture changed—sometimes just on one side of her head? Was it safe to braid it? Pull it into puffs? Put barrettes in it? And what was a nice, curt, way of telling my mom’s friends that my kid’s hair was in an Afro, sans braids/puffs/hairclips/lye because I liked it that way and it was actually better for her?
Honestly, there still aren’t any black children’s hair care books out that explain it all, only a few of the bazillion black hair care blogs actually focus on the delicate but thick tendrils of black children (one of my faves is Beads, Braids & Beyond). And only one line of products—Cara B Naturally—can claim to be all natural and, without any question, safe for a baby’s hair and skin. But dammit, lack of information and products should never be an excuse for straightening a 4-month-old black baby girl’s hair. Like, ever. Google it. Phone a friend. Buy a clue. Get your life. Do something—anything—other than torturing your baby and setting her up for a lifetime of self-hate.
I just want to rent a truck, fill it with copies of “Happy To Be Nappy” and “I Love My Hair!” and dump it all out on this fool mother’s front lawn. Something just tells me, though, that the beautiful messages contained in their pages—that African American girls with thick, curly, kinky hair are beautiful exactly the way they are—would be totally lost on her. Totally.
Hat tip to my girl Jennae Peterson of Green & Gorgeous, who spotted the picture and wrote a brilliant piece about it on her natural beauty blog. Check out her dead-on commentary here.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.