George Graham

Don’t Cry, Gabby. You Can’t Please Everyone…

I suppose we’re all like those folks in the Aesop fable, you know the one where the old man and the little boy are taking a donkey somewhere and passers-by get on their case? As I remember it, the old man is riding the donkey and the passers-by are shocked because he is riding while the little boy is walking, and when he puts the boy on the donkey instead, they criticize the kid for letting the old man walk. So they both climb on the donkey and the passers-by are horrified at their cruelty to the little animal… Eventually, the old man and the boy try to carry the donkey, and end up in the looney bin – or something like that.

The fable came to mind this morning when I read a piece in Salon.com about Gabby Douglas’s hair. Hair is a sensitive subject to start with. I don’t take it kindly when someone notices the way mine has diminished over the years, for example. And, if you come from Jamaica, you know how self-conscious people can be about their hair.

Looked at objectively, you might think hair is not a major concern in a world that’s facing so many frightening crises. I think God must have been in a frisky mood when He planted those tufts of hair on various – and eclectic – parts of our bodies. But through the magic of marketing or whatever, hair has become a multimillion-dollar industry – and a vital concern to us humans.

I’m sure little Gabby isn’t looking at the topic objectively right now. She might be crying her eyes out, poor, little darling. But I hope she’s smart enough to … well… let the fuss that’s going on blow through her hair.

In her moment of triumph, in the afternath of winning two gold medals at the Olympics – as well as the hearts of millions – that talented little gymnast is being blitzed because of her hair.

I suppose she never thought much about her hair when she was training for the Olympics. She just pulled it back out of the way. But when she appeared on TV, flying through the air like Tinkerbell, winning medals and evoking thunderous applause, those wretched “social networks” were abuzz with critical remarks about her hair.

According to the Salon.com article, Gabby’s mother reported that:

It’s really been African-American women that have come out and attacked her. They don’t know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28-30 hours a week. In gymnastics you’re tumbling around on your hair. You’re falling backwards on it. You’re doing “timers” and your hair is constantly snagging on the mat, and for our hair that’s very detrimental. You’re going into foam pits – and any hair stylist will tell you that foam on African-American hair is destructive. It breaks the hair horribly. We had to come up with creative ways to keep [Gabby’s] hair looking good. We’ve tried the short hairstyle, we’ve tried long. We grew her hair out because she preferred long hair. I’m not going to make her cut her hair just to please someone else.

Apparently like the folks in the fable, Gabby decided to go along with popular demand. She recently sent out pics of her sleek new long-haired look, courtesy of celebrity hair stylist Ted Gibson (see before-and-after photos above).

And what happened? You guessed it.

The critics are in full throat again.

As I read the story, that old Ricky Nelson song kept echoing in my head… You know the one that goes:

I went to a garden party to reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories and play our songs again
When I got to the garden party, they all knew my name
No one recognized me, I didn’t look the same
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself

 Now, let me go rub some Rogaine on my old pate…

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com