All the talk about All-Around Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair took me back to the days when I was in middle school. I had long, pretty hair and it was really important to me because my closest friends had flowing hair. It defined how I saw myself and in turn how I felt I looked to other people. After all, all the cool, popular kids had pretty hair and hair that was always laid. My mother took me every week to get it pressed off of South Post Oak in Houston, Texas. And then I begged her to get a perm. I’m not sure she wanted to, but since I begged her, she obliged and immediately I started acting differently. If only in my head, I was officially a young woman.
In the summers, my mom forced my brother and I to go swimming . We loved hittin’ the pool and rarely came back before early afternoon. We were active kids so we didn’t mind being out of the house. So, off we went, and when we came back we were peeling from sunburn and looking like dark Rolo chocolate bits. But we loved it. I loved it. Until something happened.
Somehow, the chemicals from the perm got together with the chlorine from the pool and my hair started shedding. And then it broke off. It was a gradual thing and I didn’t realize it until it was ready to go back to school. I lost half the length of my hair right before the fall semester. Ugh. I remember the hairstyle I ended up with that had me looking like a 30 yr old woman trying to sell Clairol. It was rough. Even now, I’m cringing because hair was so important to how I felt about me but it shouldn’t have been.
Which brings me back to Gabby. Obviously talented and gifted beyond her years, she pulled her hair back and went to work on the beam, the vault, the floor and the bars. Her hair was the least of her concern, she was mesmerizing the world with her all around talent. The entire world! But unfortunately, the Black community paid more attention to the barrettes in her head and new growth peeking out instead of her incredible, monumental accomplishment. It took me back to the place where kids were cruel and would judge you based on what you looked like instead of who you were overall. Hell, it takes me to do a place even now where we judge a woman’s kids by how their hair looks. Gabby seemed to be affected by the criticism as she didn’t do as well in the days after the critical tweets and Facebook comments hit the web. Gabby is a stronger teen than I was and my prayer is that she continues to ignore the negativity and ignorant thoughts from the Black community that “hair makes the woman.” I remember a quote from a man I dated years ago who believed you weren’t a real woman unless you knew how to do your own hair without the salon’s help. In other words, can we get to the point where we learn that the bigger picture is more important than the minor details? I mean, she won Gold!!!!! I imagine with a little money from the endorsements, she can hire a stylist….but then we’d complain because she’s being wasteful and frivolous with her money. See how the cycle continues? Hair is an accessory that ADDS to who you are. It took me a while to get that lesson, but it seems like Gabby’s teaching us all something about substance. She’d prefer to be an all around winner than a diva with a done do but too prissy to sweat it out on the floor.