In 7th grade, I made a list of 60 goals I wanted to achieve in my life. Some were big (Win an Oscar, a Tony, and a Grammy) and some not so big (Read Gone with the Wind). After having a fabulous experience checking one SUPER item off, I decided to keep at it and achieve as many of my 7th grade goals as possible.
36. Have my hair in braids.
I have no idea where this one came from. I don't remember obsessing about braids or thinking one particular celebrity looked amazing in braids.
Either way, it was on the list and it seemed like an easy one to check off.
First off, NOT easy. Having my entire head of hair braided took TWO hours and my dear sweet generous friend Julie who did the actual braiding was having hand cramps by the end. Also, having tiny sections of your hair pulled tightly into a braid isn't exactly pleasant - a sensation that sticks around long after the actual braiding is complete.
Still, 7th grade Sarah wanted braids so braids it was.
I came home and Nicholas couldn't stop laughing. I sent the pictures to a couple of friends over text message and I thought they were going to have a come apart. Even though Amos told me I looked "VERY PRETTY," I acknowledge that braids might not be the best look for me.
First of all, I'm not quite sure my scalp is ready for a starring role. Second of all, I need something to frame my face. I've always wanted to shave my head and now I know why I shouldn't - my head.
Still, it was a fascinating experience to change my looks so dramatically - even if it was temporary. All of us, particularly women, take our looks so dang seriously. Sometimes it takes something as silly as braids to help you remember - IT'S JUST HAIR.
More than one person said to me, "Oh, I could NEVER do that." I heard that a lot when my mother cut off her hair and went gray. "Oh, I could NEVER go gray." I heard it when I got bangs. I hear it often about my red lipstick. I heard when I gave up pedicures.
It bugs me.
Mainly, it bothers me because it's not true. No matter who you are or where you live I PROMISE you COULD change your appearance in the most dramatic ways and live to tell the tale. If someone was holding a gun to your head, you could go gray, have bangs, or wear red lipstick. If the apocalypse came tomorrow, I doubt you'd be wondering whether or not you could survive without mascara. You just would.
There is a $170 BILLION industry that wants to convince you changing the way you look (or GASP! not caring about how you look at all) is a mountain too big to climb.
But guess what? They're wrong.
Plus, think about the message we are sending to little girls when we talk that way in front of them - how we look must be really important if we could NEVER change it. When we act like how we look is that important, they really have no choice but to believe that how they look is very important too.
Look, I'm not saying how one looks is unimportant. For better or for worse, how we look affects other's perception of us and can be a personal source of confidence, identity, and even fun.
I'm just saying maybe we don't need to take it all so SERIOUSLY.
If cornrows can't teach you that, nothing can.