My Daughter's Black/Jewish Hair – Kveller
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My Daughter’s Black/Jewish Hair

From the instant the sonogram technician said, “It’s a girl,” (and, for the record, after two sons, I didn’t believe it; I waited till the doctor came in to confirm), my mantra had been, “Hope she likes boys’ clothes, and short hairstyles, ‘cause that’s all I’ve got.”

Well, she’s almost 5 years old now. And guess what? She likes neither.

My daughter will give in to wearing her brothers’ hand-me-downs once in a while, jeans and sweaters with rocket-ships on them—because rocket-ships are cool. But, most of the time, it’s pink, pink, and more pink. Pink dresses, pink coats, pink underwear, and pink tights. (Luckily, she has a cousin with similar tastes, who’s six months older–and two sizes larger.)

Then there’s the hair.

My daughter has one Jewish parent and one Black parent. Ergo, my daughter has Black/Jewish hair.


For the first year of their respective lives, all three of my children had unbelievably straight, ebony hair. (In fact, when we sent out a photo of my newborn middle son, a friend responded, “What an adorable Asian baby you’ve got there.”)

And then, right as the first candle got blown out on the birthday cake, a single curl sprung up over one ear. Then over the other ear. The two tufts stuck straight out, devil-horn style, until they got too long and wavy and proceeded to droop downward. At that point, all three of my kids had themselves a nice set of payes.

By the second birthday, however, all three had their own ‘do. My oldest son has tight, kinky curls like his father, but brownish in color, with even a red highlight or two. My second son has the darkest hair of anyone, but his curls are thick and full so that, by you-need-a-haircut-yesterday-time, he resembles a 50s’ teen idol with a carefully coiffed pompadour, or Prince/El DeBarge circa the 1980s, minus jheri curl.

My daughter, on the other hand, has darker hair than my older son, but tighter curls than my middle one. Also, she is, as mentioned previously, a girl. With very particular opinions about how she wants to look.

For the first two years of her life, I–there is no nice way to put this–let her run feral. She didn’t care about her hair, I didn’t care about her hair, and the effort of getting a rambunctious toddler to stay still long enough for me to try to begin figuring out where I’d start the grooming process was, frankly, more than I felt up to dealing with at that time.

So, I let it go. Until it got tangled and snarled and impossible to ignore. Even for me.

At the age of 2 1/2, I took my daughter to the hair salon. (And not one of those places with the Princess seats and cartoons and attendants to cater to her every whim. We went hard-core SuperCuts. Where they expect you to keep still and let the pros work.)

She sat in the barber chair (on a booster seat), glaring at me accusingly, her lower lip trembling… trembling… trembling… but bravely refusing to succumb to tears.

The woman cutting her hair spoke Spanish. I do not speak Spanish. And yet, every time she’d hit another snarl or knot and turn to her colleague with a long harangue, I felt as if I understood every word.

I’d let this mess go on for far too long. Bad Mommy.

In the end, I thought my daughter’s new, manageable haircut looked cute. She begged to differ. “I want long hair, Mommy! Like Rapunzel!” (There’s a reason Rapunzel was a blonde, sweetie…)

When I’d give her a bath, she’d lean her head back until the curls straightened and she could swish them along her back. “Like this, Mommy! Like this!”

So we made a deal. My daughter could grow out her hair. If I was allowed to brush it.

(Please don’t take the deal… Please don’t take the deal… Please…)

She took it. And then she had the audacity to stick to her end of the bargain. Which meant I had to stick to mine.

Armed with comb and brush and detangler, I am now obliged to do battle every morning with hair I have no idea how to style or control.

For a while, I just smoothed it back and she wore a headband. But then, it got too long for that, and we moved on to ponytails. Ponytails require an even part down the middle (or so my mother tells me). Even parts down the middle are hard. Especially with hair that, sometimes, I can’t even trace back to the root for all the zigzag paths it takes.

I thought she looked adorable in ponytails. But now my daughter wants braids.

I was born in the former Soviet Union. Trust me, I know how to do braids. I did my own from Kindergarten through high-school. I thought I could braid with my eyes closed.

But, braids also require an even part. And to be symmetrical (not one sticking out from the back, one somewhere atop her ear; or so my mother tells me). All my life, I braided hair of one length. My daughter’s hair is not all of one length. Some of it is short and some of it is long. Some of it is tight as a spring, and some of it just hangs there. Some of it is so thick I can’t get my fingers through it, and some is so fine it slips out no matter how tightly I bind it. (I’ve heard of combination skin, but combination hair?)

I’m obviously in over my head here. (Pun intended.)

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