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Letters to My Preteen Daughter: Letter I

When I was a child, and I would watch movies in which a dying mother would film or write letters to her children, I always thought it was such a loving and powerful gesture. Thankfully, I’m not dying, l’agbara Olorun. But since we’ve had this rare opportunity to sit at home together this summer, and be girls and do our nails and hair and make amala and watch movies and eat ice cream, I thought, wow, I finally get to begin to teach you everything I know about being a woman. And you’ll actually probably understand and remember most of it. And as fallible as the human memory is, I realized that it is important to document these lessons, not just so that you can reference them when you’re in boarding school ;P and when you’re married, and you don’t feel like calling me, or so you can pass them onto your daughters; but also because tomorrow is promised to no one.



First of all, let me remind you that your father loved you very much. He would proudly wear you in a baby bjorn and walk with me to the coop and all over Brooklyn, looking like a big black teddy bear man with your brown marshmallow legs dangling against his belly. He bought us a car even though he couldn’t drive because he hated the idea of you being banged up and down subway stairs in a stroller. He marveled at your intelligence and how you managed to eat fish with your hands at two years old without ever choking on a bone. At how happy and peaceful and sweet you were. He fought for you to get more amala and ewedu than quinoa and avocado, and you would relish these meals together. He gave you your patience, your daintiness and your affable nature.


Don’t ever feel like you don’t have a father. Uncle Wale is your father, Uncle Nathaniel, Uncle Jide, these are your fathers now. They have a lot of your DNA and they love you like they born you. Use them as such. Lean on your grandfathers and great uncles and gain wisdom from them. Your presence brings them glee.




It is the patience, the quiet and persistent strength, the wisdom and diligence that you possess that make you a woman. It is your gentle, loving nature, your compassion for others, your effortless insights into the pains and joys of others. It is your ability to predict the future, and your ability to soothe a sad baby, these are the things that make you a woman. It is your capacity to do anything at all, from calculus to yam pounding to childbirth to needling that makes you a woman. It is your incisive mind. It is the fact that you possess all the power in the world, and yet you can still with a gossamer touch, change someone’s emotional state from despair to peace. It is your ability to hear crystal clear messages from God. Protect your womanhood. It belongs to no one but you. Shape it and nurture it and continue to redefine it for yourself. Do not be confused by the world. Listen to your soul always.




Now your hair. You have gotten very accustomed to people marveling at your hair length. It has begun to go to your head. Stop it. Hair is a dead protein that everyone grows. It’s length and strength is a matter of good health and good maintenance. So be grateful that you’ve had the good health and the luxury of decent, though simple, hair care. I will not always be able to do your hair for you, so it’s time you take it over. It’s time you get to know your hair, its texture, its strengths, its weaknesses. Your hair crowns your face, and it can be a crown of glorious beauty whether it is one inch or one yard. Remember that whatever your hair looks like at any given moment, you are a glorious beauty within and without. Don’t ever let a soul confuse you about that for even a hair of a second.


Your father sometimes had to get his hair cut twice a week, because it grew so fast. Your grandmother, my mother, has a pretty fine texture. I had a glorious crown too, once upon a before-motherhood time. Your DNA has helped you to have hair that is not too difficult to manage. If you want to preserve its length and strength, you will do the following…


  1. Eat your vegetables. This American diet, and many around the world, are now loaded with sugar and wheat. These are not your friend. Chlorophyll is the pinnacle of the food pyramid. Eat your greens. Every day. Their vitamin E and D and B and Zinc (and so much more) will feed your hair after feeding your body.
  2. Drink Water. You are mostly made of water. You lose a lot of that water in the course of the day. Replenish it by drinking plenty all day long.
  3. Deep condition every week. Twist your hair into sections. Wash, rinse each section separately. Put a shea butter and aloe vera based conditioner cap on each section and then wear a cap. Sit under the hooded dryer for 30 minutes. Rinse the conditioner out and put in a leave in and your trusted Un-petroleum Jelly. Two-strand twist it and then let it breathe.
  4. Twisting your hair (two-strand) will always be the most length-and-moisture-retaining thing you can do to it. Your hair grows on a coil. Respect that coil, acknowledge that coil and your hair growth and health will astound you. And this will also sharpen your antenna so you can hear from God crystal clear 😉
  5. Your hair grows and breaks from the ends. If you have just one inch of product and you don’t know how to stretch it, always treat the ends of your hair first. This will allow you to seal the strands where splits would normally form. By sealing your ends–and trimming often–you can prevent split ends, damage and excessive shedding.
  6. No braided extensions. Extensions pull your hair from the root. It may take years to notice the damage, but eventually you would see that your hair would be thinner than before. This is because braided attachments literally pull your hair from the root–and many of those hairs may never grow back…unless you massage them with onion juice *insert puking face here*.


To be continued soon…

About Lolade

Lolade is a Gates Cambridge Scholar, starting her PhD in Sociology with the 2019 class. She recently graduated with her MA in African Studies [Sociology discipline] from Yale University where she researched ethnic identity formation among Nigerian immigrants in New York, Tokyo and Mumbai. She is the author of 'Market of Dreams' a radical poetry collection about love and freedom. She obsesses over indigenous textiles, cultural preservation and innovation, and intimately connecting the African Diaspora.

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