I already blogged about this, but after going to this fantastic spoken word event on Friday Night, I’m feeling poetic:
My Mother’s Daughter
On nearly every flat surface to be found
in the living room on the second part of the first level
of a cramped townhouse in a worsening neighborhood
somewhere between small town and suburban New Jersey,
there are photographs of my mother’s daughter.
As my mother likes to note when her gaze falls longingly
on one of these photographs, or the headshot on my ID,
her daughter has beautiful, long, straight hair that curves inward
ever-so-slightly towards the ends, resting peacefully on her collarbone.
Her daughter wears glasses every day, and isn’t ever wearing makeup.
My mother looks at me, then her eyes dart to one of these photographs,
as if the frozen moment might come back to life and reassure her,
or transform the woman standing before her. There’s my daughter, she says
wistfully, as she smiles, practically begging the question: Who, then, am I?
A project she started gone horribly wrong? The little girl who had the nerve—
the absolute gall—to grow up with a mind of her own, a mind encased
by a hard head surrounded by black skin, a black face she has grown to love and embrace,
a face framed by a decidedly untamed collection of the coarsest variety of Shirley Temple curls:
they draw attention, seemingly warrant a ceaseless stream of comments and questions,
as if the choice to let my hair spiral into its natural thousands of revolutions
sends me spiraling into this unwanted label: revolutionary. As if just
letting my hair grow out of my head like anyone else is now somehow revolutionary,
funky, cool and new. As if my mane is a statement, not just a ’do. Though Akon and
India were a mismatched pair, part of me wants to scream I AM NOT MY HAIR,
but most of me recognizes that, somehow, that’s not exactly true.
If the decision to rock the kinky curls and show my eyes to the rest of the world,
to be natural in one respect, and highlighted and emphasized in another,
is, in her mind or anyone else’s, all that separates the woman writing these words
from the girl in all the frames, then I have to say I am my hair. And my contact lenses.
And my smoky green eye shadow and stone-and-seashell jewelry. As if.
As if, like my mother hopes, this is just some phase I’m going through.
As if it isn’t what I never realized I’d been waiting years to do.
As if I were born to bear the yanks and tugs, burns and burning, to be beautiful.
As if Beauty is the skinny, fair, straight-haired girl who tames the Beast, and nothing more.
As if I should be so easily definable, classifiable, able to be labeled and thrown into a box.
Dear Mother, and Spectators: I have three different shades of powder. I switch with the seasons.
My bra size seems to finally have settled on somewhere between a 38- and a 40 D. You passed on
your big booty, but not the rhythm to make it clap. I stopped hiding behind my frames and my bangs;
now I ask the world to open its eyes and see me. I am exactly who Nature and our salt-and-pepper
shaken family tree intended me to be, and above all else, I, not her, am your daughter.