"But, it hurts," I said.
"You'll get used to it," she replied.
She'd sit for hours examining tufts of hair to eliminate the offending intruders. I joined her.
Then, eventually I stopped. While plucking I realized if I kept doing it, all that would happen is that I'd lose a lot of my hair. And, to put it simply, my hair is my hair and I'd like to keep it while I can.
It wasn't until years later that I could realize how this childhood experience was fueled unknowingly by racism and the white ideal of beauty. I'd rather unthinkingly accepted that physically plucking out hair was just the expected cost of having blond hair.
The rationalization is that it's just one hair at a time. One pluck closer towards perfection. No biggie, right?
In a world created by racist thinking, even blond hair isn't pure enough or light enough without enduring actual physical damage. Eventually, after observing my sister struggle to achieve her vision of physical perfection with eating disorders I realized the lengths to which white women will damage themselves in order to maintain an ever elusive status of 'worthy of love.'
It was humbling. And, it continues to be humbling. I learn from this all the time.
And, these lessons ache.
They make me blush.
They make me want to swallow my words and hide.
They make me long not only for my sister to still be alive but make me long to tell the truth about my experience without seeming to tarnish her memory. She genuinely deserves more than that.
Watching how perfectionism, which in our specific case included a legacy steeped in the byproducts of Nazism, damaged my family was in many ways a catalyst for diving more deeply into understanding the history of racism in Europe and in America.
In this particular world, love isn't possible unless it is marinated in a form of purity that is unsustainable by its very nature. Love and acceptance remains elusive, as though it is the carrot on a stick we salivate towards but never achieve. This type of worth demands submission and recoils from anything resembling disorder.
"Alles muss in Ordnung sein," are the killing words that reign and they'll require millions of bodies before they are satiated.
Coming out the other side of it I realize how learning history is but one step, albeit an importantly crucial one, in a process towards laying this lens down and walking away from the recursive loop that excludes anything but self-damaging behavior.
We are capable of creating different worlds and have the tools to do so, whether we believe it or not. It may look awkward, stumbling, even foolhardy to trust in a deeper natural balance but it is possible. All halting steps, no matter how strange they seem, are a marker of a return path towards one's center after living only peripherally on the outskirts.