Clueless Caucasian Parents Doing Their Son’s Afro
By: Ted Peterson
I think we’ve got a pretty good handle on most aspects of parenting Mikey. The care and feeding of our three-and-a-half-year old hasn’t exactly gotten boring, but the “Oh my God, what the hell are we doing?” moments seem rarer and shallower than once they did.
The exception to this is on the subject of hair. Completely falling into the cliché of the clueless Caucasian parents, the hair of our kinky-haired heir is, pun intended, quite a tangled web.
The cliché seems to be true even among the rich and famous. While browsing around a web board for advice for our son’s hair care, I came upon several discussions about how Madonna and Angelina Jolie were not doing an adequate job caring for the hair of their respective adopted daughters, Mercy and Zahara. Obviously, there was a general acknowledgement that it’s unlikely either lady was hands on with the washing, moisturizing, and braiding, but still, the comments were withering.
The best thing Ian and I have done is embrace our ignorance. A week after we got Mikey, we brought him to his first stylist, Althea, who has classes wherein she teaches white parents how to care for their adopted black or biracial kids’ hair. Only in Los Angeles.
Althea gave us our first advice on Mikey’s hair, sending us off with a shopping list of special shampoos, conditioners, and combs. She also put the fear of God in us, letting in on the whispered conversations particularly common among black women seeing kids with badly kept hair. Almost as bad, she said, were those parents who simply shaved their boys’ hair to a shade above bald, for easy care but no personality.
No fear of that. We are fascinated with learning all things about Mikey, and hair is no exception. At least, we had a boy: anyone who has ever seen Chris Rock’s hilarious and oddly moving documentary about the politics and enormous expense behind the world of black women’s hair “Good Hair” has an inkling of how many traps are along that path.
Althea worked in a salon filled with the type of ladies “Good Hair” was about, spending many hours and lots of money on weaves, relaxers, blowouts, and other techniques completely alien to us, even as gay men who never frequent Fantastic Sam’s, and aren’t strangers at the local manicure / pedicure clip joint. Under her tender but firm hand, Mikey obediently let himself be shampooed and deep-conditioned, even sitting under the heat lamps really let his dry follicles drink deeply. Unfortunately, Althea spent most of the time chatting on her headset, and ended up clipping rather weirdly.
We held off getting Mikey’s haircut for a while, until Ian, on a whim, took Mikey into a children’s hair salon convenient to where he was shopping that day. They assured him that they could take care of African-American hair. With hindsight being 20/20, it should have been a sign when they said everyone got the same hair conditioner regardless of the texture and type of hair they were sporting. The salon was so cute with balloons and bright colors, he was seduced. I don’t blame him. It wasn’t until thirty minutes later, when he was putting Mikey into his car seat and noticed that the leave-in conditioner was turning the consistency of thick putty that he realized he’d made an error. Two shampoos and an hour later, Mikey’s hair was free of the sludge, and he was not the only one who was cranky.
We decided to skip haircutting for a while. Ian and I decided that our ideal hair for Mikey was that of Will and Jada Smith’s son Jaden, who had grown an afro two feet in circumference which he later – when he played the new Karate Kid – turned into cornrow braids. All it would take is time. We diligently did our best, and in time, he had a hairstyle we thought was very cute, a vast mane full full of corkscrew curls like mini-dreds.
This is where we faced an interesting cultural divide. Our white friends agreed with us that it was adorable. Our black friends thought that it was cute but a bit wild. No one ever said anything to us, but we started thinking about what Mikey would think, looking back on his childhood photos. Maybe it was time to brave another trim.
The next stylist we used was thanks to Groupon. A salon in Santa Monica, which had a children’s and an adult’s section, advertised a Mommy and/or Daddy & Me special, which sounded charming. Lots of dads out there imagine themselves coaching their son’s Little League games or helping them carve blocks of wood to make into pinewood derby cars. I imagined my son lying in the salon chair next to mine, both of us sighing as our stylists suds up our hair and kneaded our scalps.
Unfortunately, though the treatment was called Daddy & Me, in actuality they couldn’t do it simultaneously. It’s hard to enjoy your shampooing when you have one eye on your bored kid running around the salon. By the time Mikey could be worked on, he was ready to go and squirmy, and the stylist cut a little here and a little there. It was even less even than his last two cuts.
That was November of last year, and we haven’t taken him anywhere since then – almost six months. Mikey’s mane grew tall and wide. I came upon the name of a stylist who was praised all over Yelp, and we dragged Mikey in.
We like Mikey’s new haircut and so does he.
Here’s the advice we have received so far:
1. Don’t shampoo hair more than once a week.
2. When shampooing, use Just For Me brands.
3. When shampooing, use DevaCare No-Poo.
4. Comb hair through every bath with Kinky-Curly Knot Today.
5. Condition with Dermorganic masque once a week.
6. Moisturize and detangle daily.
7. Moisturize with Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme.
8. Moisturize with jojoba oil.
9. Moisturize with olive oil.
10. Style with Kinky-Curly Curling Custard.
11. Use Infusium to make the hair more manageable.
12. Don’t use Infusium or his hair will calcify.
13. Use a Miracle Brush to detangle.
14. Use a wide-toothed comb to detangle.
15. Use nothing but your fingers to detangle.
16. Have him sleep on satin pillows, because cotton will soak up all the moisture and product
What we do with all this advice is we follow it all. Randomly. I have to say, no one has come forward to us and said we’re making our son look bad. And some folks have said we’re doing a good job with it. Of course, those are the folk we tip generously.