AN Essay Contest HOSTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
DOTDASH MEREDITH & REAL SIMPLE
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays.
I used to hate the rain
By Natalia Lashley
Discussed: RaciaLIZED BEAUTY STANDARDS
Acceptance comes after the storm. It poured and poured.
I used to hate the rain, scowling and whining under clear umbrellas, clutching anything I could find to cover my hair. The hair I worked so hard to erase and burn away, resenting its ocean waves and spirals, too tumultuous for me to manage, for me to love. Broiling its beauty away with the crackling heat from my blow dryer and straightener. All my curves and bends crushed in the wide black clamps of ceramic, shining with coconut oil plugged in the outlet closest to the mirror. Wrapped with silk scarves or holey hairnets secured with bobby pins, or plastic grocery bags or sweatshirts or even bookbags in an attempt to preserve the only thing I liked about myself. The humidity would puff and poof and undo everything I worked so hard to hide, uncovering the burning truth, which stung me deep like a salty wound. I was not like them. I was the other. The black girl. So I hated the rain, cowered when I walked and whispered when I talked, dulled the bright light of my hair, rejoicing in every sizzle and crack, breaking myself into more manageable pieces, and it worked for a while: people complimented me, told me I looked pretty, that I should do it more often, that I looked better that way. I took their words and planted them, letting the hate for myself grow like well-watered saplings. I hated the rain, but also I hated my lips, their size and pout, how they were lined with brown and my nose, the way it grew wide when I smiled. It was hard to see beauty in something I was taught to despise, to cover, to lessen, to hide, to unrule, uncoil, uncurl. Taught that they were defects and not features. That day I had no umbrella, no hood attached to my coat, no bookbag, and I walked, sulking under the black scaffolding, feeling my tears like hot candle wax, dripping down to my chin. A great sinking feeling began to settle on my heart, beating more and more aggressively as the scaffolding ended. I stood there for a minute looking down at my phone, desperately trying to lift my shirt over my head, but there was nothing I could do. All of my hard work, all of my beauty would be curled and coiled into what I would learn to love, as I walked away from the white poles and stood under the sky which cried along with me. I felt the fat drops hit my scalp, watching my hair begin to revert to its original glory, raindrops clustering on my glass frames, blurring my vision. A greying sky with smokey clouds and fog left only the slits of a pale yellow sun. The beats of nature, a symphony let down so heavenly which revealed again my gift to me: the beauty and resilience of my natural hair. I learned to love the rain.
I was inspired by my own personal narrative and was supported by my mentor. It was a journey to write this piece, but I am so grateful that I did it.
My Simple Realization: An Essay Contest & Story Collection
14 Girls Write Now mentees share mini- and mega-moments of clarity in these personal essays. This contest was produced in partnership with Dotdash Meredith and the team at Real Simple as part of the SeeHer Initiative.
Natalia Lashley is an 11th grader at the Chapin School. She loves writing as it gives her an outlet to express herself.