At the first elementary school I attended, I had two best friends named Meagan and Ashley. Our teacher called us the “Ponytail Girls” one day and Meagan loved the name so much that she began to call our little trio the name as well. Ashley and I were okay with it because it was true. We all had long ponytails at least down to our shoulders and our barettes always matched our clothes.
We had assigned seats but Ashley’s seat was at a different table. I could always look over my left shoulder and she’d be right there. Meagan and I sat next to one another at the table with two other boys both named Kendrick. We called one of them little Kendrick because he was one of the smallest kids in the entire class. Little Kendrick and Meagan would always argue over something. The class and our teacher had pretty much gotten used to them bickering. I ignored them most of the time because I had to hear it first hand.
I remember the day of the cut like yesterday. This was the first time I had ever gotten into trouble at school and sent to the principles office. On that day, little Kendrick and Meagan began to argue as usual. He got upset and asked the other Kendrick to switch seats with him because he did not want to sit by Meagan anymore. Whenever he would get mad this is what happened but I guess this time it hurt Meagan’s feelings.
I remember looking at Ashley to my left and then turning back around to look for Meagan but she was on her way to the teacher’s desk. I thought she had went to tattle tail on him but when Ms. W came back with her I found out that I was the one she’d told on. Our teacher asked me, “Why did you cut Meagan’s ponytail?” I was so confused because I had no idea what Ms. W or Meagan was talking about.
I told Ms. W that I didn’t cut Meagan’s hair at least five times. She asked the boys if they had cut Meagan’s hair or if they’d seen me do it and they both responded with no’s. Meagan insisted that I cut her hair but I had no clue at what point her hair would’ve even been cut because everything happened so fast. I was sent to the principle’s office with her. I watched her cry as I sat there in the front office waiting area in disbelief because one of my best friends had lied on me.
Loosing a friend for the first time…
The principle and Ms. W decided that they had no choice but to go along with what Meagan claimed because there was no way to prove or disprove that I did it. Her ponytail had definitely been cut about an inch straight across but I knew that I had nothing to do with it. I watched her take the phone from the principle when it was handed to her and tell her mother I had cut her hair. When it was my turn to talk to my mother I remember crying too from being furious at the fact that my own best friend betrayed me.
Meagan’s mother showed up first and mine shortly after. Her mother asked me, “Why did you cut her hair? I thought you two were the best of friends! Best friends wouldn’t do that to one another.” I didn’t respond but I could tell by the tone of her voice Meagan’s mother was mad at me too. When my Mother showed up, she talked to the principle and Meagan’s mother first. When she got done speaking to the adults she bent down in front of me and said, ” If you really cut Meagan’s hair I want you go over there and apologize! Now!”
I looked at Meagan, then at my mom and said,”No! I really didn’t cut her hair! Somebody else cut her hair but I don’t know who!” My mom stared me in the eyes for about 30 seconds, looked up at Meagan and her Mother and said, “Come on baby! Let’s go!” When I got home I had to convince my father as well that I didn’t cut Meagan’s hair. My father believed me and told me to stay as far away from Meagan as possible from now on so I did.
The guilt kicks in…
Ms. W moved my assigned seat to a different table but I could still talk to my remaining best friend Ashley. Ashley remained friends with both Meagan and I but whenever Meagan came around to speak to Ashley I would leave. Ms. W did her best to keep us separate without making it obvious to the class and still provided equal treatment to both of us. We would still play class games but we avoided one another directly for a while.
One day at recess while talking to Ashley, Meagan walks over and begins to talk to her so I began to walk away as my father instructed me to. Meagan says, “We can still all be the “Ponytail girls!” I turned around and said, ” No we can’t!” Meagan instantly began to cry again as I was confused again. Ashley asked Meagan why she was crying then Meagan yelled out, “I’m sorry but he always wants to sit by you and not me! Me and Ashley’s ponytails look the same but yours are different! You look different from us thats why he likes to sit by you!”
I was even more confused at this point because as an elementary student I had no idea how the boy even had anything to do with the whole situation… period! Apparently, Meagan had been paying attention to the way that “little Kendrick” interacted with me. At the time, I guess I wasn’t aware that I looked “different” to other Black girls because I thought being called Black meant we were all the same. Soon after her little meltdown, I found myself in the principle’s office again calling to tell my mother that Meagan admitted to cutting her own ponytail that day.
Thinking back on it today…
I remember Meagan being a very prissy, extremely girly, chocolate-brown girl. She had a bigger forehead but her mother always topped her head with the prettiest hair bow she could find to match her shoes for the day. Her shoes usually had sparkly stuff on them. Out of us three, she was the most ladylike for sure. I hated wearing dresses and skirts in school as well as little girly ballerina shoes. Ashley would switch up but I usually wore shorts and tennis shoes or my favorite black combat boots.
I have to admit that seeing Meagan in school after the day she apologized still hurt my feelings for a while but I never told her. As an adolescent I wanted to understand how I was “different” and what that even meant. I was the lightest out of the three of us and one of the lightest Black girls in our class. My ponytails were thick and curly but usually frizzy by the end of the day just like every other girl in the class. Ashley was lighter too, maybe not as light as me but Meagan was right… their hair looked the same because their mother’s permed their hair.
This was my first little taste of what it felt like to be called the “different” Black girl. I was totally oblivious to the fact that I was categorized as “light-skinned” and had “good hair.” After that, I began to pay more attention to girls around me at school and what they’d say when talking about other girls that didn’t look them. I remember my mother and father explaining to me what that meant and why it’ll continue being an issue as I grow and encounter new friends and peers. To me it just felt like I was being penalized by other girls for having traits that were out of my control.
I had never called any other girl ugly or told her she had “bad hair” just because she was darker than me or didn’t have the same “grade” of hair as me. Going into middle school and high school was a whole different level of ignorance to me when encountering negative confrontations with other girls. For whatever reason, me being “light skinned” was always brought up in these disagreements and “good hair” was always brought up during comparison’s from other girls when the topic was hair. I grew annoyed with the idea that I was always automatically stereotyped by other females who seemed to label me without getting to know me.
To be continued…