“Mommy, Is that a boy or girl?”
My mom and I were on an elevator to go on the Astro Orbiter ride at Disney World. I was 7 years old. There was another child with their parent in the elevator opposite of us, and that child spoke those painful words. What I’m sure was not meant to be a hurtful question, felt like a punch to my little stomach.I was born having naturally curly hair, which led to an epic afro. Looking back, I think I looked adorable, but my peers did not agree. As hard as I tried, my hair would not grow down and would only grow up. In kindergarten, I gained a “harmless” nickname, Cotton ball. It probably didn’t help that in elementary school I would twirl my pencil in my hair and then forget about it. That’s right… I walked around with a pencil in my afro on numerous occasions, which I actually find pretty hilarious now.
Ever since that little boy asked that question as Disney World, I no longer felt like a girl. I didn’t feel pretty. I didn’t feel like anyone would ever like me. Standing in front of my bathroom mirror, I would lift my shirt above my head but stop as it reached my hairline. I would then pretend that my shirt was long hair. I felt like a mermaid, I felt beautiful. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk around like that all the time, so I stuck to wearing lots of bandanas, hats, and headbands. Anything I could do to make myself look more feminine, I did.
I don’t believe that most of those kids meant to cause any true harm, and in fact I’m friends with a lot of them on Facebook to this day, including one who threw chunks of food in my hair because they knew I wouldn’t be able to feel it. Kids can do really stupid things, but thankfully most of them grow up to be kind and loving people.
With time and a lot of money, I was able to make my afro grow down at the age of 13. I finally felt free, but I believe freedom was always available to me. If I could go back in time, I would tell little old me to embrace how unique I was. I was a little girl with a legendary afro and an unheard of name, Jubilee.
“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”- Wonder