Good Hair and the Talk…….

Let me start off by telling you all that I am not an authority figure on hair nor do I claim to be the best parent in the world. Now that I put my disclaimer out there let me introduce myself. My name is Asmarett  Ashford and I am the founder of Living Naturally Ever After. I am a married mother of two who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I work full time as a school counselor in a rural school system outside of Atlanta. This is my first attempt at blogging so PLEASE be kind.

                                                                   Good Hair and the Talk.

                My daughter went to a well known and highly sought after private school in Atlanta, Georgia from the time she was 3 years old until she reached the 2nd grade. This school is known in the African American community in Atlanta as “the school”. Many prestigious and affluent families send their children to this school. My whole family loved the experience and did not have a singe issue until my daughter was in kindergarten.

                My daughter and I both dislike having our hair washed, combed and styled. We both watched the Jetson’s and longed for the convenience that Jane use to have (push a style, sit under the dryer for 1-2 minutes then bam your hair is clean and styled). On this particular Sunday afternoon I was extremely tired and not interested in fighting with my 5 year old daughter’s hair. She saw her freshly washed hair in the mirror and asked if she could wear it loose with a headband. “Sure” was my reply because it was less work and she looked absolutely adorable with an afro. So on Monday morning we picked out her hair which looked like wild cotton candy. She was uber excited to wear her “cotton candy” hair to school with her headband that matched her uniform. I kissed her goodbye and my husband took my daughter to school.

                Later that evening I picked my daughter up from school and she was in tears and her hair was in a wild ponytail. She wouldn’t explain to me why she was crying she just asked to go home. Needless to say that was not going to fly with me. I immediately asked her teacher what happened. To my dismay the teacher replied “she has been upset all day because you forgot to comb her hair”. The teacher then went on to ask me to make sure I don’t send her back to school without her hair “done” because it caused too much of a distraction in her class. I was very shocked and honestly did not know what to say. Just then another parent walked up to me and said “I hate when I am out of town and my husband has to do my daughters hair because they make a mess”. I suppose that the other parent had good intentions and she was trying to comfort me.  Both the teacher and that parent were shocked when I told them that her hair was intentionally wild because my daughter and I liked her “cotton candy” afro.

                My daughter and I left the school in an awful mood.  As soon as we drove away from the school my daughter stated that she never wants to wear her hair down anymore because she did not have “good hair”!  She immediately began to cry and asked why her hair grew  “this way”  moving her hands vertically and not “that way” moving her hands down her back vertically. My heart broke for my daughter and we had to have a talk on the 30 minute ride home about her hair.

My daughter went on to state  that she liked her hair when she left home  but when she arrived at school her classmates immediatelybegan to laugh at her hair. The other 5 and 6 year old children told her that her hair was “ugly, not combed and nappy”. One little girl went as far as to tell my daughter that she did not have “good hair” like her so she couldn’t wear it down.  My daughter then stated that she hated her hair and wanted good hair like __ (insertrandomfemale child’s name here).  I asked my daughter what “good hair” was and what it looked like.  She stopped and thought for a minute then said “good hair is long and goes down here” pointing to the lower portion of her back. “Good hair is curly when it is wet and dry and it swings when you turn your head”.

I decided to stop on the way home and get my daughter some ice cream so that we could sit down and have “the talk” face to face.  So over two sugar cones my daughter and I had a very difficult conversation about self-esteem and hair. I tried to explain to my 5 year old daughter that God and her parents gave her the hair that she is suppose to have. I explained that there is no such thing as “good hair” just like there is no such thing as “bad hair”. She then asked me if we could “call God and ask him to make my hair grow long down her back “. I asked her why it was so important to have long hair. Sheexplained that the little girl in her class with long hair that reaches the bottom of her back always get picked first by the teacher and their classmates. The little girl with the long hair always has cool hair bows and all of the girls play in her hair at recess. The little girl with the long hair is always called pretty and all of the parents tell her how pretty her “good hair “is.

I was very shocked at how consumed my daughter was with her hair, her classmate’s hair and other people’sresponses to her classmate. My daughter is a beautiful little girl and random people always complement her on her looks, her afro puffs, her manners and intelligence so I was truly confused by her jealousy. In an effort to conform, my daughter I asked her what can she do better than the girl with the long hair? My daughter perked up immediately and stated that she was the best speller, recited poems the best, was always an All-Star student of the week, had the highest grades in the class on most tests and her art was always picked the “best in show”.  My daughter went on and on about all the things she does well in and out of school but as soon as the topic of hair came up she immediately looked defeated.

Our ice cream was long gone by this time and on the ride home I explained to my daughter that she is the person she is meant to be. She should be proud of the way that she looks from head to toe because she is beautiful and unique. I explained that the term “good hair” is a bad word and not welcomed in our home.  We then discussed the term “nappy” and “good hair”. I may have gone a bit too far by explaining the slave mentality and the Willie Lynch philosophy to a 5 ½ year old child but I wanted her to know where the term “good hair” came from. 

I then went on to tell my daughter that “good hair” is any hair that grows on a person’s head. I asked her if her hair helped her get good grades, run faster, jump higher or read books better. She replied no to each of my questions. My daughter and I discussedthe entirepros and cons of having longer hair. When she realized that the longer her hair was the longer it would take to wash and style it. My daughter was sold on her pretty curly puffs and her “cotton candy” hair. We then discussed the importance of being happy with yourself and simply not caring about what others say. She was told that the only people that she has to please are God, her parents and herself.

After dinner that evening my daughter, husband and I continued our conversation about “good hair” and how others should not influence what we think about ourselves. My husband even touched on the topic of that green eyed monster, jealousy(side note- thanks to that talk my daughter thought that the green eyed monster was real and sleep with us for a full week!). We went on to listen to the India Arie song “I am not my hair” and continued to give our daughter positive affirmations and celebrate her.

Before she went to bed for the night (in our bed) my daughter said her prayer. I asked my daughter if she had anything that she wanted to ask God or tell God. She thought for a few moments then she asked God to help the little girl with long hair to be nice to and stop talking like a slave. Clearly she got the gist of the message but was confused. She then thanked God for her cotton candy hair.

The next morning I woke my daughter up 30 minutes early so that she could make that decision on how to wear her hair for the day. Without a secondthought my daughter asked for her “cotton candy” hair. We combed out her afro and placed an obnoxious princess crown headband on her head. She looked a bit nervous on the way to school but both my husband and I took her to school. When she walked into the classroom a few of the students pointed at her hair and one stated “ Aja’s hair is still not combed”. Her teacher was not amused and I received a stern look from her. Before I could say anything my daughter told the boy in a matter of fact tone  “my hair is combed and it is just the way I like it slave boy!” Needless to say we had to go to the director of the school and explain the entire situation. She was also not amused and my daughter had to apologize for her inappropriate outburst. The director then talked to the entire class about diversity and how to treat people.

Again, I am not going to ever win a parent of the year award nor will I ever apologize for explaining the world as I see fit to my children. Today my daughter is a happy and healthy 10 year old child with an extra helping of self-esteem. She loved her “cotton candy hair” and does not let the opinions of others determine who or what she is. Shortly after my daughter and I had the “talk” I began transitioning from relaxed hair to being a natural bella.  

The reason I wrote this blog is because I have encountered many people who say they can not go natural because they don’t have “good hair” like mine. My daughter is often stopped by strangers and random comments are made about her “good hair”. To this day my daughter will still say “thank you but I don’t have good hair I have my hair”. It truly saddens me that in 2012 people still buy into the “good hair” philosophy. I love the definition that that The Good Hair Diary adopted. GOOD (good) adj.

-In excellent condition; healthy: Good Hair.


18 thoughts on “Good Hair and the Talk…….

  1. What a great first blog…..although I am not thrilled about the traumatizing experience that your little princess encountered. She’s happily living naturally ever after w her “cotton candy hair” and I love it!!!!

  2. Well done cuz!! Didn’t know you were the brain of this movement. I think your explanation was great and I think you and Ms. Reign look awrsome, ALWAYS. I was thoroughly entertained and you have all my support.

  3. This reminds me of my childhood and the girl with “good hair” in my class. Your respond was great. The only point was to help your daughter to see herself correctly. You did this. The confident child that she is now is the result. I pray that others reading this will take heed and do the same for the child(ren) that they love.

  4. No judgement Asmarett, for you are the absolute best mom for your daughter, after all, you’ve explained things in a manner that she understands, digressions aside, and she gets it. So begins her fabulous journey. It’s apparent you are doing a fantastic job. In college, I was teased about my nappy hair by a permie which caused me to do damaging things to my hair, including use a chemical product that would let you keep press and curls longer,(I can’t remember the name of it!!) then I succumbed to the perm. Now I’ve been natural for over 8 years and it takes me back to the times when I used to braid my hair for my afro in High School. Loving the softness and cotton candy feel of my hair didn’t quite empower me then as it does now, but I didn’t know then what I know now. As women, most of us are shaped by the “acceptable” images society dictates. but those images should truly beguided by the trusted input we receive from our Sisters, Mothers, Grannies, and beloved Aunties, without them we begin to doubt our strengths instead of being empowered by them. Continue to be an inspiration beloved, your beautiful daughter will follow suit. –Qweenvic

  5. I love the way you handled the situation, And the fact that your daughter walked away with knowledge of self, her history and more confidence than before, very inspirational.

  6. I absolutely love this! Most def have to save just in the event I need to have the talk with my daughter for some motivation on what to say. My daughter is mixed and it is definitely apparent that our hair is different from one another. I’m Puerto Rican and her father is Black/Dominican and she managed to inherit the thin fine hair of mine and her fathers curly hair. I do always make it a point to have her wear her hair out in all its natural curly and sometimes poofy glory. Having her feel happy and comfortable in her own skin is so important to me. I never want her to feel alienated. She starts kindergarten this coming fall I worry about her. Kids can be so mean to one another. Thank you for this!

  7. I am so happy to read this. I remember being that little girl back in the day & wished that my Mom could have helped me in that way. Alot of people say now “you must have good hair” I always tell them that this is work not good hair, I explain to them how I accomplish my look. Then its like they don’t believe me that I still have good hair go figure.

  8. As a mom, you handled this perfectly!! Unfortunately, the world we live in is not kind and gentle. And our children have to be taught how to handle the nay-sayers. Thank you for posting this because the principle of facing life and empowering our children is what matters and it applies in so many areas.

  9. Great job bulldog. Your story was well written and convey the triumph and tragedy of being natural in a society that is still reluctant to accept it all races included. Keep doing what you’re doing with and for your daughter. It will pay off in the long run. In a world where so many men and women feel that our hair has to be down our backs or wavy/curly and moving our brown girls need a lot of encouragement to just be them.

  10. I nearly dropped a tear reading this. I do not have any children, but am filing this away for future reference. Critics abound in our elementary schools.

  11. I’m late on the uptake as usual! Just found your article on CurlyNikki. I confess that I’ve been a blog snooper. Never really commented on blog posts. There is sooooo much I want to say! You should receive a medal, a prize, some public acknowledgement for how outstandingly well you handled that situation! So well, that in a less than 24 hour turnaround, your daughter was walking in the truth again, ready to take on the world (her little corner), and was fully confident in her resolve! Love you for that! You’re my BFF in my head, and I will be following your blog!
    As an imperfect mom of a six yr old girl and 14 mth boy, I am always struggling to walk the line of balance. I went natural when my daughter was about 2. Just got tired of trying and chopped the whole thing off! My daughter has curly hair and I HATE when friends and family tell her she has ‘good hair’! She walks between wanting the beaded braid her cousins wear and the straight hair of her friends in her classroom. She’s been into getting her hair blown out lately, and I work so hard to teach her to appreciate what she has. I, too, tell her she has the hair God wanted to give her. I tell her that when He was making her, he put together all the special ingredients that would make her like no one else, and that includes her hair. I
    To shut myself up, just a resounding “Thank you!” Plus an ovation!

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