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  • Elizabeth Lee

She's a Wonder

When I was a little girl, I had a head full of thick and dark brown hair. It was as free as cotton ball fluff and as huge as threatening cumulonimbus clouds. I had never felt like anything was wrong with my hair before my 2nd grade picture day. Up until that point, I had never been called anything but beautiful from my family and their friends. The untamed nature of my hair was always fun for me because I did not have prior knowledge that my hair was not considered socially acceptable. On picture day, I had experienced my first real negative response towards my hair. I had always worn it in twist or braids for easy keeping, but that picture day I was determined to try something different. Out I came with an afro that seemed like it could literally swallow me whole. Coming from a predominately white elementary school in the country, many of my peers had never seen this hair on anyone before. It was very different than anything they had experienced. So, of course, they ridiculed me. I cannot blame my classmates because I wholeheartedly believe they did not know better because they were not raised better. After that experience, I reverted into a shell. My natural afro never saw the light of day again until around sixth grade. That hiatus consisted of pressed and sleek buns, more twist, more braids, and more insecurities being locked away with each tucked strand of my hair. Of course, like my hair, I have always longed to be free. And in sixth grade, as I matured I realized that it was no longer about the hair but what it represented to me.

My parents gave me the middle name “Wonder”. When I was younger I always questioned them as to why they didn’t give me a real name. It was not until two important men in my life told me similar things the encouraged my self love and acceptance of my hair, my body, and myself. The man I consider to be like an Uncle to me, the late Pastor Lucas Woods, would always sing a jingle to me that made me smile.

“She’s a wonder, she’s a wonder.” he would say.

After those beautiful memories became a tradition, I began to research my middle name. Wonder means something beautifully unexpected. And that, I am. As for my dad would always sing to me. Of course, when I was a kid I did not really appreciate it as much as I should have because now I consider it special. He would sing this first line of “When I first saw you” from Dreamgirls. I would cringe and tense up out of embarrassment from all the attention, but, as a 16 year old girl, now I see that my dad was trying to show me that regardless of what anyone says I am a dream. I am God’s dream.

With all the knowledge I had acquired over the years of my confidence and growth, I decided it was time for a drastic change. I cut off all of my hair. As the snipping sounds of the clippers swiftly passed my ear and the hair fell to the floor of the salon, I surprisingly felt no remorse. There was no sorrow for the hair the ceased to be a part of me any longer. I expected there to be a breaking point of me crying over what I had lost but to this day I do not regret that decision. Like I said before, my hair represented freedom to me. Cutting it off and feeling the wind on my scalp as my short curls bounced while I ran through a small patch of dandelions still has the same feeling of freedom as wearing my afro proudly for the first time in the sixth grade. My beauty did not fade because of the length of my hair. I did not grow from the evolving amount, peak, and fall of the makeup I have worn. I have always understood that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but it is now evident that I am the beholder of my own self-worth. My eyes are the only ones that matter when it comes to how I see myself.

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