Real Men Cornrow

OFTEN, the women let out a little gasp. I look up, a hair twisty dangling from my mouth, a clump of my 5-year-old daughter’s hair clenched in one fist, a comb in the other, ready for attack. She squirms on the bench in the family locker room at the local Y, freshly showered after a swim class and bracing for her hair appointment with me, her father, hellbent on taming those tresses.

“Wow, you are really good,” one approving mother says one morning as my fingers weave three strands into a tight braid. I nod thanks and press on, fussing with another braid as I demand again and again, “Lyla, keep still for heaven’s sake.”

As Lyla and I depart, the receptionist at the counter coos.

“Who did your hair, sweetie,” she asks, knowing the answer.

“Daddy,” Lyla says matter-of-factly.

“Nice job, Dad,” says the receptionist. In another context, the look she gives me might land us in trouble with my wife.

To continue reading the New York Times article (3/22/07), click here


Aly Cat 121 said...

My father combed my hair a few times before but no one ever commented on it. My mother was more of the "let the hair be free" type of person.

sfashionista said...

first of all, i love this blog. I just gave birth to a son three weeks ago, but I've been reading it since early in my pregnancy. love it!

secondly, i LOVED reading this entry because i, too, as a young girl, had a dad who did my hair every morning. my mother had to be at work early so he was my stylist, chef and chaffeur, all before he went to his real job (or his side-hustle, in my eyes.) he was not one for complicated cornrow styles like this dude, but Daddy could plait with the best of them and finish me off with color-coordinated clips and barrettes. i remember him being very proud of his handiwork, not hesitating to show me off to various uncles, aunts, grandparents, neighbors and his many male friends. I love thinking about those daddy-daughter times, and how special it was (not that i realized it then, but who appreciates anything when they're young?)

i understand the writer's comments about how men get credit for things that gain no such attention for women. and maybe i'm contributing to this double standard by exalting such acts by my father and other men like them, but the simple truth is this: at the same time my dad was bypassing the gender double standard and grabbing that Goody brush like he'd be doing it his whole life, I had friends at school that asked me incredulously, "your daddy still lives with you??" the fact that these men are not only there but are choosing to be active participants in one of the most mundane of everyday tasks is something i will always celebrate.

kim said...

Sfashionista: wow. "Your daddy still lives with you?" Yes, that often seemed a modern day miracle by the time I was a teen. So strange to have you say it, and throw me back into the time when I began to realize the world was beginning to view my mother and all of us young ones as, essentially, asexual, and our lovers viewed us as dispensable. And it was everyday normal. Sigh.

Mrs. J: Years and years ago, in college, I photocopied an article on the acts of love present when a Dad braids and styles a little girl's hair. I was in college! I was so moved, so quietly haunting, for all of its unfamiliar aspects and overtones of tactile ever-there fathering, was the article. It had been written by a Dad who had sole custody, I believe, and he chronicled the growing awareness of his handling of the business of raising this girl-child, and, in the process, raising himself to a new level.

Your reminder takes me back, and makes me ponder so many of the things I thought possible in parenthood, things I thought possible of fathers...hoped possible of fathers present.

Hmm. Thanks.

Kim said...

I'm into my fourth box; still looking for that article...actually registered at the link to read the rest of this one (now you know I'm really feeling it-patience gone and all that).