Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fitting in vs Belonging

‎12 year old wisdom on fitting-in vs. belonging: "If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it's fitting in." Amen.

Above is a Facebook post that Brene' Brown posted this morning. A quote that came from the mouth of a tween I know not, but the actions that flow in and out of our house, echo with that sentiment.

It all started about four and half years ago while my family was hanging out with my cousin and her family. Her great husband, who at that time only had sons, suggested to my then 7 year old daughter that her hair would look super cool if she put some funky red streaks in it, or maybe colored the bottom half of it. Really? Thanks a lot, Adam.

No, it didn't really start four and half years ago, it started the day she was born. She is her own person, she always has been and she wants to reflect that, and their conversation was merely a catalyst for an idea in motion. (But doesn't it feel good to have someone to blame when they aren't around to defend themselves.)

So now she is in middle school.

Sometimes I feel like that's all I need to say and we all (all of us who are past middle school, and not in it's midst) will collectively understand. We will all simultaneously roll our eyes, cringe from memories we try to block and sigh, "yeah, that's tough." And the conversation can be over.... except when you have a 12 year old daughter living it, and therefore, the escape exit is locked.

Today is picture day in seventh grade.

I completely expected today to have a fun before and after post of the hair dying party that we did last night. Through the process, I was so nervous I kept asking... What if you don't like how it turns out? It doesn't matter, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. And so it goes, the only outcome we had not discussed, is the one that happened.

Or didn't happen. (By the way, it mattered).

My girl has stick straight, shiny lustrous dark brown hair. The kind you can sell on the streets. Strangers ask if they can touch it (for real). Everyone loves it, except the girl who is growing it out of her head. She is always asking to color it, change it, color it, style it, color it, braid it, color it, curl it, color it.... you get the idea.

One of my big griefs with her coloring her hair (so I argue) is the chemicals. Mostly those involving striping her hair of the dark color so that the other color of choice (RED in this case) can be added. I felt like we came to a great compromise. No stripping, and we would use Henna hair dye. More natural, less chemicals, hopefully the same effect.

When I took her to the store to get it, she thanked me about nine million times. She skipped through the aisles.  We went home, did home work and then the serious business of following small print directions and dying hair began. (I mean really, color your hair before 7th grade picture day starting at a new school where you don't know more than a handful of people... who is that risky?)

I will spare you many of the details, but let you know she had a plan. Only the bangs and the under half of her hair was addressed, there was a style to it, we followed the instructions and let it sit (an hour probably wasn't enough) we washed the henna out of her hair, blew her hair dry to confirm.... and it was..... exactly the same color. Not the same color as on the container, the same color hair as when we started.

"I just wanted to do something different."

The quiet mourning began. The somber effect and let down of trying to express yourself and it not working out.

So here we are, still, trying to figure out what it means to be yourself. What it means to stand out but not for the sake of standing out. Learning to be different for different's sake is something that has always bothered me with passing fashions. But being different because your soul wants to stand out and say "I am not the same as you."

Can hair do that? Can hair make your soul tell another person that you are different? That you belong because you are yourself, and not the same as someone else. You belong, not because you fit in to be accepted.  But to be accepted for who you are. This is a hard courage to walk along side of. Coming of age and becoming yourself is a fine line.

The beginning.... these were the photos that were supposed to show before and afters...

The Red Henna as we were just getting started.
(you know, I didn't think it looked that red either...)

I'm so happy, right now.

Jeez, look at my face. I'm a little confused, scared, worried (grossed out).

Vasoline on the ears to avoid staining. Wouldn't that have been awful if the hair didn't change, but her ears did! Ack!
Mucky, muck, muck. Still doesn't look red to me... should it? I'm new at this.

You can see my technique has skills to be desired.

And the last photo before we forgot, left the kitchen, did some homework, blow drying, eventually washing, and then quiet mourning....

So what's next?

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