I just posted on my Facebook page the following:
It then occurred to me that not everyone would understand why this graduation "award" was bothersome to me--after all, ten years ago, while I felt irritated as the Senior Class Presidency announced it, I couldn't at the time quite articulate what bugged me about it.
Some context: As I've said in various other posts, I am ambiguously brown. I also have naturally curly hair--tight curly hair. My hair is dark chocolate brown and thick. For most of my life, I've kept it long, though currently it is quite short (and AWESOME! Loving my new do).
When you have curly hair, regardless of your skin color, there is a lot of pressure to straighten it. If it is dark, there is pressure to lighten it. If you don't do these things, but instead embrace your curls, people think it is fun to throw bits of paper into it to see if you'll notice (Note: Of course I won't notice! My hair sticks out at least two inches from my head!). Strangers touch your hair and ask you where it came from. When you're a child and less sure of yourself and your appearance in a largely white and blond world, you feel like you don't belong. When teachers, church leaders, babysitters, etc. tell you to brush your hair because it's messy (Note: messy means curly in this situation) and you literally cannot pull a brush through your hair if it's dry, you just long for the smooth and sleek hair that all your friends have.
Now, add brown skin into that equation. I should make it clear that I don't have "black" hair. My hair is thick, curly, and has a mind of its own, but it is not the same that black people have so I cannot and don't pretend to understand the pressures black people have on their hair. However, I can't separate the curls from the skin in how I perceived myself as a youngster, and how people treated me or continue to treat me.
Some more context: Women and people of color in particular are regularly ignored for their accomplishments but are instead given attention for what they look like--whether it's specific to "level of beauty" or using stereotypes as fact. Women are taught that looking a certain way is an "accomplishment" while black people are often portrayed as scary and dangerous--and are literally killed for that stereotype.
Even more context: As anyone in America who has had any association with high school through media or personal experience knows, the typical "awards" in high school are a series of Most Likelys: Most Likely to Succeed. Most Likely to Be a Famous Musician. Most Likely to Publish a Book. Most Likely to Start a Business. These are all awards for things graduates might accomplish based on their past behaviors and accomplishments.
Now, compare that to Most Likely to Lose Their Keys in Their Hair. It has nothing to do with accomplishments--it's not even a strangely phrased compliment. It has everything to do with being a cheap shot at hair that white people with straight blonde hair can't understand. Instead of saying, "Wow, your hair is so cool," they're doing the high school graduation version of throwing bits of paper in my hair to see if I'll notice.
Well, that time I noticed. I haven't spent much time dwelling on this "award" for the last ten years, but remembering it after all this time while being in my more "woke" state brought up some belated annoyance while providing more clarity and language to my initial agitation ten years ago.
So, there it is. My hair is awesome. I am lucky enough to truly love my hair in a world that tells me I shouldn't. But, my hair is not a weird phenomenon, and it certainly isn't a joke.
Happy 10-Year Reunion, folks.