I braid my hair now. I started braiding it in the hospital and have been braiding it ever since. Have I told you this already? Well, tough. I’ll tell you again.
This braid is sacred. I celebrate my freedom with this braid. I celebrate my ability to be able to braid my hair unwitnessed by “staff.” I celebrate my ability to be able to braid my hair without being watched by a curious passer-by. I celebrate, too, that a well-meaning friend isn’t watching me braid my hair. Because if this friend is indeed watching, he or she has only been able to secure this privilege by coercing me into undoing my braid and re-doing it in his or her presence. A friend who coerces in such a manner is not much of a friend.
I celebrate the privacy of my body. I celebrate my right to ask others not to touch my body, that is, any body part, living or not living, in any way, without my permission. I celebrate my right to keep my body clean and do this entirely in private. This includes activity done while clothed, such as brushing my teeth and washing my hands, because these, too, are sacred. We Jews recite a prayer for hand-washing.
My braid symbolizes the statement, “Keep your comments off my body.”
I celebrate my right to wear clothes entirely of my choosing. I celebrate the right to ask others not to comment on how my body fits in my clothes, or make any other statement about how my clothes relate to my body.
I celebrate my right to keep my body in an environment that suits it, and of my choosing, and surround myself with people of my choosing.
My braid symbolizes freedom from force-feeding, metaphorical or actual, by my parents, the mental health system, society at large, the media, the “Welfare” system, and individual human beings who have harmed me through deliberate or non-deliberate manipulative or controlling behavior.
My braid symbolizes the freedom for me to pick up my fork when I choose to do so. What I put on the fork is my choice. I choose whether to put it into my mouth, and swallow. I celebrate the right to end my meal whenever I choose to do so, for any reason.
I celebrate, through this braid, the freedom of eating in an environment that suits me that is of my choosing, with or without others, people of my choosing. I celebrate the right to ask others not to comment on the quantity of food that I eat, or how I eat, or what I eat, or relate any of these to my body size or shape, or to my eating disorder.
I celebrate the right to know or not know the ingredients of my food or drink. I celebrate the right to read food labels and make wise choices based on what I read.
I braid my hair today as a symbolic way to say “no” to weekly weight-checks. This is a humiliation to me. Enough is enough. It is time to stop. I am not a number. A number does not live or breathe or feel. They should listen to me instead.
I braid my hair to celebrate the right to keep or not keep a scale in my home. It is my choice whether to weigh myself or not weigh myself, and to keep this result to myself, or reveal it to another. I can refuse to be weighed by another person or institution at any time. Ultimately, it is my choice to step on the scale, as it was July 1, 1980, when it all began.
In braiding my hair, I have the right to choose at any time to take the braid out or to not braid it at all, to cut it or have it cut or do anything at all to my hair. Not everyone has this simple choice.
Today, I pray for those who for whatever reason are unable to make simple choices such as how to wear their hair. Sadly, many people are imprisoned in relationships. Their partners are controlling. Their partners tell them what to do with a body part, hair. I wonder what other body parts they control. Parents, of course, have a say in how their children wear their hair. But at a certain point, they must loosen this control, and many don’t. Many are overly critical of their children’s bodies, or they are overly critical of many aspects of their children’s lives, or they demand perfection. Mostly, they do this covertly in their choice of vocabulary. Teachers also participate in this, and influence their students. Peer groups influence and coerce. When one student changes hair style, they all do. Many people have no choice about what to do with their hair for medical reasons because they have lost their hair. People in the military must conform to rules. The military uses hair to control their trainees and beat them down and shock them when they first arrive, to “develop character.”
So many people are imprisoned in their minds. They are not in jails or hospitals so in every way appear free to do as they wish, but this is not the case. Because of the way they think, they cannot be free with their bodies. They do not feel that they have choices in life. These people are not necessarily ill or unhappy, though they may be. They are boxed in. When you ask them, they will say, “I cannot do a thing with this hair!”
It is time to do something with your hair. Break free. Make a statement. It doesn’t have to cost a cent.
Remember the story of Samson and the strength he had in his hair. I am strong enough now to make a building topple down. So watch out.