My daughter has the most wonderful dirty blonde hair. Some strands are so dark they’re brown while others are golden or the pale yellow of early morning sunlight. One of my favorite things to do in the world is run my hands through her hair and watch the different sections play in different lighting conditions. With different…
Well, you get the idea.
Her hair is actually the same shade as my sister’s hair was when she was younger. A shade I haven’t seen in over a decade as she’s spent that long dying her hair. Something my daughter now seeks to do as well.
Instead of black, though, my daughter is going Indigo.
And this is where we run into life’s teachable moments. Allowing our daughter to have agency over her own hair teaches her several things.
It’s her body. She is responsible for it. This means that she gets to make decisions for it and deal with the results of those decisions. She wanted to dye her hair purple, so we sat her down and explained the difference between permanent and semi-permanent dye. We showed her pictures of my hair from high school growing out of its bleached state (and taking a year to do so.) We’ve told her that there’s no harm in trying the semi-permanent dye until she’s sure she’ll like having purple hair. So she’s decided to go with semi-permanent. They didn’t have purple, so she selected the indigo instead. And we’re waiting until closer to our vacation so it’s still vibrant when we arrive.
But that was mainly because I didn’t want to buy more hair dye. Originally she wanted to dye the second we got home. I know my daughter though and know that she will insist on re-dying it right before we leave because it’s no longer bright enough.
Now I regret that because I want to see her indigo hair so badly.
Of course, now she’s also worried about what her friends will think. Which brings us to the second teachable moment. If her friends don’t like her because of her hair, then they’re not really her friends. I will tell you that as I watched her cock her head to the side and ponder that, I’ve never been prouder. She really considered if someone could be your friend if that friendship was conditional on your physical appearance.
“But what about (name redacted),” she asked. “She’s one of my besties!”
“Then your hair won’t matter to her, will it?” I replied, even though I think it might, actually. We’re learning lessons here, though. And it’s better to discover that someone is a fickle bitch at seven than at seventeen. Trust me…
And that brings me to lesson three. That this is her body. I know I already talked about her agency over it and her responsibility for it. Just like we talked about others accepting it if they’re her friends. But the one lesson we didn’t discuss, the biggest lesson from this, is that it is her body. She might as well learn to be comfortable in it.
I still remember being in grade school, standing in the dimly lit bathroom, looking in the mirror, and wondering if they’d gotten it wrong. I have dark hair on my arms, prominent sideburns, and a unibrow. I did not look like most of the other girls in my grade. What if I was actually a boy and they just didn’t notice?
(So it had to have been when I was in fourth grade… “the talk” was in fifth.)
I’ve never been comfortable in my own body. Never. Not for one second. I’m awkward and itchy and I can’t even sit still right. And while I’m getting better about it, I still catch myself being disgusted with myself.
If I can help guide my daughter to acceptance over her body now? My god, that’s all I want in life. That this body is her canvas to express herself to the world. It’s the vessel that she’s taking this journey of life in. It is no more and no less than everything and nothing. And it will always be beautiful because of that.
So if she never wants to change it, that’s fine. If she wants to get covered from head to toes in tattoos once she’s eighteen that is also fine. If she wants to dye her hair or pierce her nose or shave off her eyebrows…
As long as it brings her even a moment of joy, I’ll be happy for her. And if she can be comfortable and love herself?
It makes me cry just thinking about it.
Which is my very, very long winded way of saying “hey you, you’re beautiful and I love you.*”
Even when you don’t love yourself. Even though I’ve never met you. No matter what your weight is, how tall you are, or how many toes you have. You’re perfect. You are. You’re the best you there is. So dress how you want to. You wanna wear skinny jeans? Rock the fuck out of those skinny jeans. You want to wear a dress? Slay, my friend. You want to dye your hair indigo and shave one side of your head. Do it.
Be proud of the person you see in the mirror. I know that’s not always easy, but goddamn it’s worth it.
*unless you’re a bigot. Then you’re as hideous as your hatred.