He’s had this ongoing obsession with what I do with the hair on my head since I took over doing my hair at about 12, oddly enough also the year I declared I wanted to be a writer. My hair has consistently has been one of our biggest conflicts with figurative jabs and body blows lobbed in each direction. Over the years, I’ve wondered if this is a control thing, a previous generation thing, even a self-hate thing as I share my texture with him rather than my mother whose un-permed mane air-dries and waves, instead of kinks, curls, and fluffs. None of those explanations seemed to stick though.
This round, well beyond the twelfth, my father has gone a step further. He decided my desire to be “counter-culture” (his term, not mine) hints at deeper problem, namely my lack of self-love. He offered to pay for me to see a therapist.
At twenty-something, I would have hung up on him. Now I “woo-sah” and recall the Second Agreement: don’t take anything personally. There’s no sense in getting angry when his problem with my hair is his problem, not mine.
But still, I’ve spent the last day rolling my eyes every time I think about this conversation. (He also added that I remind him of “that girl at UCLA.” Daddy meant Angela Davis, and he meant that comparison as an insult, but I beamed at the idea.) As such, I finally arrived at a new reason we’ve been battling all these years. This was never about hair, and always about my inability to toe the clichéd line. My Dad will swear on a stack of Bibles that I’m wrong, but it’s the first answer that makes sense to me.
He’s a corporate guy and an ex-military man who believes in stability and structure and following the rules. I’m an artistic type who believes writing is an occupation, not a hobby (he told me the opposite upon entering college), a habitual line stepper who wants to explore and is frustrated by sitting still for long periods. As a teenager and young adult, I resented his way of the world, picturing a predictable life of contained complacency. Now, I acknowledge his stability granted me my sense of freedom and being his opposite actually gave me a feeling of having a place in the world.
My hair, natural or not, has mostly been my quiet, or so I thought, declaration that “one of these things is happily not like the other,” my Badu-esque signal that “I’m all right with me.” I guess my father heard my message loud and clear, and although my outlook has always worked in my favor, he isn’t so happy with it. I just wish he would address that instead of harping on my hair.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk