Whitney L. Carter and the Teddy bear hair

I’ve always had a tenuous relationship with the brown mop atop my head.

I’ll get to the point about how this relates to my time in Ukraine if you’ll just bear with me for a moment. This will probably be split in to a few parts.

Whitney L. Carter and the Teddy bear hair

When I was little, my mom had to learn how to do black girl hair, which is no small feat. She learned all kinds of tricks, like doing zig-zag parts, which look WAY cooler than your basic straight parts and also you don’t have to be precise because it’s a dope zig-zag. We always got lots of comments on those.


I had all your classic “little black girl” looks. Giant puffy ponytails, braids, twists and then natural in the back, head full of twists, with these weird beaded hair ties that will ACTUALLY GIVE YOU BRUISES ON A REGULAR BASIS. One thing I never had was relaxed hair. For my white friends, relaxed hair is basically the opposite of a perm. It’s putting a chemical on your hair that “relaxes” it and makes it easier to manage aka straighter.

I liked my curly hair. My white friends did too. I pretty much never wore it down, I hated brushing my hair, I was 100% ‘tender headed’ (@white people, it just means I cried when I had to get my hair brushed).

When I was little, we had a ‘hair chair,’ it was just a little stool where we’d sit in front of my mom so she could manage our manes. My mom still has that chair and I’ve maintained that I want the hair chair when I have my own kids eventually.


I loved all the ways my mom would do my hair and got used to white people touching my hair and asking if I had a ‘fro,’ but there was one style that I had once and never again.

I was eight years old. The fact that I remember this so vividly should tell you how defining of a moment this was in my life. My mom did my hair in these adorable little puffs on the sides of my head.

I was enthralled. I thought I looked like a million bucks. I went to a private school in the Seattle area where I was usually either the only black kid or maybe one of two some years. They didn’t quite think the same.

They said I looked like Mickey Mouse, some compared me to a teddy bear, others Princess Leia. I WAS DEVASTATED. I thought I was SERVING LOOKS, not embodying stuffed animals. I cried in the car on the way home.

This was one of the first times my curly locks let me down.



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