I remember walking in and already imposter syndrome fell over me. It was a Sunday morning and I was on time for my appointment to get knotless box braids. I got Senegalese twists in college and enjoyed the convenience they provided. Sure, I got the occasional comment and judgement from peers, but overall, I would say it was a positive experience. Now, nearly seven years later, I decided I was going to give it a go again as I had travel coming up and the 90% NYC humidity was officially pissing me off.
The first feeling of regret in my decision came when I walked into the salon. Not only was I the only one light-skinned, but I came unprepared with purchase hair and cash only (which apparently, I should have just known). I sat down and she asked me what kind of hair I wanted. To anyone else, this is a simple question, but for me, I was essentially asked an astrophysics question. I simply nodded my head nicely and proceeded to sit down in the chair and let my hair out of the ponytail.
I won’t bore you with the long details of the hair braiding, because that would be six hours of root-pulling torture, but regardless, I finished about 4 hours later and realized that I had gone too big in my initial estimate of size. Now for anyone who has done their hair before, there is a “pivotal” point in the first 20 minutes where you MUST communicate to your stylist whether they are directionally correct in size and length. However, with my stylist starting in the back of my head, and me already being uncomfortable by the situation, I remained silent.
Fast forward and with my finished hair, I walked to the subway and immediately started crying. I didn’t stop for the entirety of my 57 minute subway commute home. Thankfully, with my face mask on, people could not identify the random girl crying on the subway for apparently no reason, yet seemingly in pain.
I just remember going home, seeing my mother’s reaction, popping ibuprofen and going to bed. My mother is blonde and blue-eyed. It’s safe to say her first look and reaction was not “positive” but rather, read more like “WTF”. I remember not being able to sleep well because of the pain, but I woke up and was secretly hoping that all my fears had been for nothing and that I was about to be the Zendaya of August 2021 walking the streets rocking my look and owning my confidence.
I woke up and felt numb. I don’t hate the look. I actually love box braids, hence why I decided to give them a try in the first place. But as a mixed woman, it wasn’t just about how I looked. Immediately, when I looked in the mirror, I heard the voices of people judging me, people saying I was reaching for black culture, friends asking me what happened to my hair, my family saying “what did you do?” followed by 50 questions of the process purely from interest. I felt a cloud of voices overwhelm me and the worst part was, I believed them all.
Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I believed I was too light-skinned, white-washed of a woman to get my hair done in box braids, because that’s what the voices were telling me. I spent the next three days on over 20 calls with friends talking about whether I should take them out or keep them in. It’s like each call I was secretly hoping someone would validate or completely reject what I had been thinking on my own.
That’s when I decided to sit down and write. This is the exact experience that I deemed triggering in college. It’s the same experience that isolated me from my monoracial peers, yet brought me closer to my Mixed Millennial co-founder, Ruby, who was the only person who accepted me and supported me, exactly as I was. It was the same experience that led me to want to start Mixed Millennial.
Scary as it is to be vulnerable and share this deeply personal story, I write this blog post for those who are experiencing or have experienced something similar. I write to say that the process and journey for a mixed person never really ends. You will grow and progress, and you’ll get the occasional kick in the face. But this time, I am looking down at a necklace that not only connects me with Ruby but with thousands of people around the world who would support me and accept me during this moment.
With that in mind, today feels a little less heavy, sad, and judgmental. Instead, sitting here writing, I feel empowered, supported and loved by my Mixed Millennial community. Love you all and thank you for reading.
Perfectly mixed & imperfectly connected,
(a light-skinned mixed woman rocking jumbo knotless box braids with a smile)
Written by Taylor Clarkson