January 26, 2015

dove love your curls


Few people know I have curly hair. I just don’t wear my hair that way too often. And I do my best to keep it straight. Although I am very low maintenance when it comes to my hair, the fact is I almost always blow dry my hair. If I know I’m not going out I may let it dry naturally, but that’s not common.

When I went to get my hair cut this week, I had already started seeing the new Dove campaign called “Love your curls”. It made me cry. Then again, those kind of ads with little girls and their moms do that to me. I hate to see little girls and tween girls so down on themselves. Do we have to keep that cycle of self-dislike alive? Have we not learned how to raise our girls in the nearly 40 years since I’ve been a little girl?

According to the Dove Hair Study, 1 in 3 US women have wavy to curly hair. That’s half of the global number, which sits at about 65%. Yes, there are studies that show more than half of the women in the world have wavy or curly hair. Yet, pull up a gallery of women from any Hollywood awards show and see if you can find but a few with curly hair.

There are formal and informal studies about the perception of women based on their hair. Consistently, women with curly or wavy hair don’t fare as well as those with straight hair. Dove’s study on curly hair is reporting slightly different results than the one Loreal conducted less than two years ago when it came out with its line of products for curly hair. In the Loreal study, it seems that there was a more positive response to curly and wavy hair. So why the difference?

Part of it is marketing. Well, a lot of it is marketing. Loreal took a different angle and went with the perspective that people found women with curly hair to be “fun” and “adventurous” and “sexy”. Dove, on the other hand continues its theme of how women (mainly moms) feel about themselves and how that impacts their daughters. When looking at the limited results that were published, both are correct. Because it has a lot to do with who you ask.

I like the message in the Dove ad, don’t get me wrong. Maybe this time the message will be a bit stickier. Perhaps now is the time for the media, in general, to project positive messages and public discourse about curly hair. But I’m not sure we’ve moved away from the obsession over straight hair and its association with being “classy” or “sophisticated” as opposed to “frazzled” or “unkept”. The conversations about Michelle Obama’s hair, and that of the first daughters‘, often provides praise when it is straight. And let’s not mention Beyonce and the uproar that was Blue Ivy’s hair. And we wonder why little girls with brown skin want straight hair.

So me, what does this have to do with me? Well, I’m part of the conversation. A conversation about hair and the social pressures it creates and the stereotypes that come with it. It’s a conversation that takes twists and turns, like the ones surrounding Merida from the Disney movie Brave. When Disney re-imagined the spunky teen into a full-fledged Disney Princess back in 2012 there was quite an uproar. Much of it had to do with how her body was changed, but there were many who felt changing Merida’s “frizzy” hair into something more smooth and wavy was a disservice to curly-haired girls everywhere. Petra Guglielmetti, beauty writer at Glamour.com was not happy, saying ‘Having a curly-haired daughter has changed my feelings about hair texture in this world. More specifically, I wish there were more celebration of natural curls in our popular culture.’ She said that 18 months ago. Yet, here were are. No further in this conversation.

There is obviously a need to have this conversation. And any time a little girl feels bad about herself because of the way she looks we need to take a long hard look at why. We can blame the media all we want, but Dove is right. It starts with us, moms. It aways starts with us and how we look at ourselves. The problem with putting all the responsibility on us moms is that we still have the societal prejudices of the past and present to deal with. We still have to reconcile it within us, which doesn’t make it easy for us to put on a happy face after years of wondering if things would be different if we did our hair a different way.

I’m generally indifferent to my curly/wavy hair. I don’t have an agenda in drying my hair straight. That is, I don’t have an overt agenda. But may, just maybe, all those years of being made fun of for having wavy hair did take its toll. I’m not all of a sudden going to change how I do my hair. What I will do, though, is make sure I’m much more cognizant of the women and girls I come across who have curly or wavy hair and be sure to let them know they are beautiful. Not because of or in spite of their hair, but just because they are!

My hair does not define my beauty, neither does your hair define yours. But until we make it clear to the pundits, the commentators, the gossip writers, and the media that using someone’s hair style to define the person we’re not righting this ship any time soon. When we can look at women with curly hair and see their beauty without commenting on their hair we’ll know the conversation with our girls will begin to get easier. Until then, I’ll continue to focus on what’s inside my head and not what’s on the outside. As it should be.

Watch the ad below and let me know what you think.



January 22, 2015

Israel Bat Mitzvah

This year BabyGirl becomes a Bat Mitzvah. In fact, according to the Jewish calendar she has already become a Bat Mitzvah. At the age of 12, a Jewish girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah, literally “daughter of mitzvah”. It means that she is viewed as an adult with regard to mitzvah observance. This is the more technical side of this ritual coming-of-age event, while most people are more familiar with the public celebration and commemoration.

When I was 12, it took many conversations with my grandparents to finally get approval for me to have a public Bat Mitzvah ceremony. My mom worked at a reform temple but we were what I’ve come to call “conservadox”. My grandparents were orthodox for much of their life, but by time I lived with them they were much more conservative-leaning. Still, they had not fully embraced the idea of my having a Bat Mitzvah. It was when we moved to California and I went to Hebrew School at the temple where my mom worked that I wanted to be part of what all my friends were doing.

At the end of the conversation I was able to have a Bat Mitzvah ceremony; but it had to be Havdalah, the Saturday evening service that marks the end of Shabbat. I would still be able to learn to read Torah and prepare the Haftorah but there would be limitations. Something was better than nothing. That’s how I looked at it. At least I would be up on the bimah leading the service and my friends and family would be there to celebrate with me. Family. An extended family that came together for this very important day in my life.

Now, I have a daughter who has become a Bat Mitzvah and it’s her turn to stand up and take her rightful place among the many strong, generous, kind, brilliant, and giving Jewish women who have come before her. Only now there is no family to come to town and fete her milestone. And there isn’t a class of peers who are part of “the circuit” that is the bar and bat mitzvah season when you’re 12. Instead, we are an unaffiliated Jewish family. I say unaffiliated but that’s not really true. No, we don’t belong to a synagogue per-se. But we are part of our local Chabad.

That came to be because of my grandmother, of blessed memory. She was involved in their Smile on Seniors program and during her final weeks I had the good fortune to see why she chose Chabad after she moved here. But now she is gone. A year ago. Yet I still need to give my daughter her special day even though our family is now just the three of us. While there is very extended family, the reality is that other than her dad and me there would be no other family. Which is why we’re going to Israel.

In her final days, my Grandma’s had me assure her that we’d make a Bat Mitzvah celebration for BabyGirl. We talked about going to Israel and as she shared stories of her and my grandpa’s several visits a smile came to her face and her eyes began to tear. She knew she wouldn’t be there, yet she knew that going to Israel was the right place for Baby Girl’s Bat Mitzvah.

So Israel it is! When I tell people we’re going to Israel I get that look of “are you crazy” coupled with “that’s so amazing”. And to tell you the truth it’s a bit of both. Yes, it’s a crazy idea to plan a bat mitzvah in Israel when you know no one there and are not doing one of those package deals. But at the same time it is so amazing to be able to do this for my daughter, for my family. It will be a bit bittersweet, although I’m sure I’ll look out among the people of Israel and know that we’re exactly where we should be for this special event.

If you’ve been to Israel and have suggestions, let me know. Planning a trip like this does, as they say, take a village.

Image Credit: imnewtryme (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) graphic added



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