So I checked my messages today, and saw I got one comment on this blog for this column from someone telling me to “cheer up” “we all go through that”.
Whether the comment was intended to be harmless or not is irrelevant. It was triggering. To me, it was a casual dismissal of my mother’s verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of me as a child, which was exacerbated by the neglect of my extended family and the violence I experienced outside of the house–that abuse included her views and aggressive war on my hair.
My abuser felt even my hair was something I need to hide, extend with fake hair, or straighten. And it wasn’t shit if it wasn’t long enough–please examine the look on my face in college when this stylist cut it without consulting me when I went to get it relaxed which my abuser paid for–
I knew she was going to have some mess to say about it, including threatening to kill me while we picked out a coffin for my brother after his death, however playful she might have thought she was being.
Are you sure don’t need a bigger size? You need to get your hair done. Does that fit you right? Pull your shirt down in the back. Wooo, you must feel so much better now that your hair is relaxed! Are you stupid! We all need to lose weight–this is the kind of policing that can get you issues like the ones I have.
I’ve been cussed at, yelled at, and beat down, sometimes simultaneously. I do not need to “cheer up”. I am a survivor of abuse and my liberation from my mother’s reign over my body and resistance of her criticism is part of that survival and part of my regime of radical self care and self love.
An abuser, especially in intimate relationships, usually knows which buttons to push. And my mother knows that one little comment, word, or glance to my hair or body or even the clothes I am wearing makes me sick with anxiety. That’s how she raised me, to think her opinions and other people opinions about my body were more valid than my own. Therefore I never had any opinions, other than the ugly ones she fostered. And in the past I always thought there were things wrong with me because of things she said and did to me, someone who controlled my survival as my sole caretaker, who was the morning and evening star to me because she is my mother. Partly because of her abuse, I’ll have to fight that learned sense of anxiety, invisibility and self doubt probably for the rest of my life, whether its about living while fat or queer or with natural hair, or whatever.
I didn’t write that post because I need to “cheer up”. I wrote that post as an expression of my will and awareness, not to just vent. It was a daily celebration of the awareness that I understand the issues I have are ultimately not my fault and I can help myself, even if its only in small ways.
This is just a general message for anybody who wants to tell me to “cheer up”, even if the person who commented didn’t mean it like that. If my half problems could’ve been solved by simply and magically “cheering up”, I wouldn’t done it a long time ago. That type of shit talk is not welcomed here.
I know a lot of people don’t care what I do or don’t do with my hair, they don’t think its important and they don’t understand what this column is all about. But for a lot of Black people, especially Black women, our hair IS important, what we experience in our bodies, and its part of a long struggle for liberation and freedom.