I had a specific blog in mind. I wanted to write about the masses of women who embrace “natural” weaves and wigs as opposed to embracing their natural hair. The piece was going to be called “The Unnatural Natural” and it was sparked by an article that I read online a few weeks ago. While trying to find this article, via Google, I ran across a few articles that I thought may be helpful. And indeed they were helpful…in inciting an inner monologue that wouldn’t shut up or be shut down. So I am writing to you.
The title of the first article seemed to pose a question. “Why Do So Many Black Women Wear Fake Hair, Weaves, and Wigs?” I think I can safely say that this question was not posed by a person of color. And instead to seeking to really understand the decision to wear weaves and wigs, the author makes a very general blanket statement that all black women with long hair wear weaves that they try to pass off as their own. After all, all of her black friends wear weaves and none of her none black friends do. They are “all natural”. This author was of course read the riot act and that was that. No new perspective was gained most likely because the rebuttals were all so very defensive. As if anyone has to defend the decisions that they make about their hair.
Skip ahead to article number 3, which was titled “My Thoughts on African American Women Wearing Hair Weaves” by Celin Childs. This article was my favorite of all the ones that I had read this morning for a few reasons. This was a woman of color writing about her own experiences with getting weaves and relaxers. How she felt when her weave wasn’t in and how she felt ashamed because she had failed to embrace who she really was intended to be. She described her obsession with weaves as a disease…almost an addiction and stated that she has since gone natural. She also maintains that a lot of women of African descent struggle with the same issues. I agree because I did. I had embraced a standard of beauty that didn’t really include me or anyone who looks like me. But without hesitation this woman was also ripped to shreds. And some of the comments were so hurtful that I wanted to cry. One reader commented that by encouraging us to be natural, the author just wants us all to be fat and ugly like Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. I wondered how did we get here. A woman was celebrating the fact that she had found herself and that she was beautiful. Without perms or wigs or weaves. She didn’t condemn those who still wear them but she was inviting everyone to take the journey to personal intimacy and appreciation with her.
I couldn’t really grasp a hold of how we had gone from 0 to 60 that quickly. And I think maybe the cause of all the frustration stems from the fact that some of us want to be autonomous and self governing, meaning they deem what is correct and good and acceptable. And when anyone goes against what they think a fire grows.
Something like hair shouldn’t be the cause of spewing hate for another regardless of what we look like or how we wear our hair. Nothing is more personal than hair and so how you govern yours is your business.
is it selling out???
So….. I’ve been natural for almost seven years now and I feel that I have found a way to integrate my natural hair culture into my everyday life. I haven’t used a blow dryer or worn my hair straight in two years because I opted for the ease and benefits that protective styles provide. Cornrows, twists, roller sets, etc. Last November I cut my hair all the back and wore very short finger rolls that would bush out into a short curly afro with a matter of days but, blessed be Jehovah!!, my hair hair has been growing very quickly and the finger rolls just ain’t working any more. Now I do a modified twist out with Creme of Nature Moroccan Argan oil and water as a leave in. This gives me a small tight fro that lasts for about three days before I twist it up again or pick it out into a full fro, which honestly is what I’ve been waiting for.
I recently had an interim manager at work and the chemistry in the office changed dramatically. I would twist my hair every three or four days so that my hair would never bush all the way out. The day that he left I wore my hair all the way out. Picked and Patted Perfection. It was haute stuff if I say so myself. I didn’t feel it was an intentional move but I realized when I was on my way to work that this was the FIRST time I’d worn my fro like this. And subconsciously I was probably trying to assimilate to what my manager deemed appropriate. He is not one who approves of ethnic flair in any way. I honestly feel I was skating by with the jewelry that I wear so maybe in the back of my mind I just didn’t want to push the envelope any further. Whatever the reason, I had let someones opinion of me encroach on who I am and that’s just not cool. I have since been assigned new management and I am loving the sense of freedom in my office. Not only are my ethnic eccentricities accepted but they are noticed and commented on in the affirmative.
But I questioned myself because I wanted to know had I sold out on a small scale. I don’t know. I didn’t violate any moral principal, did I?? By letting someone dictate what is good and beautiful and acceptable I had compromised a small bit. I had given my power of personal freedom to someone else, which I have since sworn to never do again.
Let me first admit that I didn’t make the decision to go natural all on my own. I had a few “bad perms”, one of which left a quarter sized burn on my scalp. The hair in this spot is still thin and very delicate. After that I figured I’d give my scalp a breather and go natural for a few months. It was at this time I began to do a lot of work on me. Getting some very deep rooted things uprooted. How I saw myself and the world was challenged and I just figured if God in all his infinite knowledge and power wanted me to have straight hair, I would have been born with it. I can rock a natural…no more perms for me!! Easier said than done. Even with the recent emergence of natural hair and its images in the media, the majority of Western society still thinks that straight hair is better. I had no idea what products to use or where to get them. But I’d find them because I all I wanted was a big pretty fro like the ones the women wore on Soul Train in the 70’s. One that I could pull down in the front like bangs like Christie Love. I even bought a fro wig to see what I would look like when it came in. The problem is I have what I guess would be called type 3 curly hair. I have a lot of hair but the strands themselves are fine. It would take years of cutting back the perm and then all permanently colored hair before I would have a somewhat decent fro. All the while I would sit back and look at women like Jill Scott and N’Dambi and wonder, “When the hell is my hair gonna look like that!?” I became a little resentful when I would see women with pretty afros because mine still hadn’t come in yet. And I became impatient and failed to enjoy the journey and lessons that going natural could have taught me. And what’s worse I was ignoring the thing that is always with me…everywhere and is always putting up with my shenanigans. My hair. I had fallen out of love and needed to get back. In November 2011 I decided I need a change. My hair was shedding like crazy and breaking off and I know it’s because I wasn’t loving on it the way I needed to. I woke up on a Sunday and I cut it all back. to 2 inches at the crown and less in the back.. I wore twists for the first 2 months and now I see my fro coming in so good. For the first time in a long time I am all natural. No processed hair…no colored hair…and it’s the most beautiful thing in the world to me. And I’m having fun with it. And what’s better, I no longer compare my hair to anyone elses. This crowning glory is mine alone.
Wow. What a week. We lost a beautiful voice, a beautiful woman, a mother, a friend. Whitney Houston. I remember being in elementary school and singing Saving All My Love For You to myself. I didn’t know but one third of the words and I was struggling to hit the high notes and hold them the way she did. I remember when the Bodyguard came out. I remember when she remade I’m Every Woman. Her music is a part of the soundtrack of my life. After I heard about her death I began to think…we all know what it is like to feel like someone’s always looking at what you are doing…or saying…or wearing. But I cannot imagine what it’s like to feel that way on such a gigantic stage, when everyone is actually always looking at what you are doing…or saying…or wearing. Ready to pounce and pass some type of judgement. As an artist there is a certain amount of ego you have to have just to get out there. On a clear day I feel like I can stand toe to toe with anyone and sing. And I feel like no one’s jewelry is cooler that the stuff I make. But there is also a certain element of vulnerability. Wondering if people really like your art. If people are with you because they love you, or because they love what you can do…for them. Sometimes its easy to get “stuck” in the vulnerability of it all. I truly believe that artists are more temperamental than most. Whitney will be missed.
On the Couch-Just Do It!
Sometimes what looks like a huge a leap of faith… is a single step.
On the Couch - Eye of the Beholder
Recently had someone tell me, “You know…you’re very pretty for a big girl.” Huh? I have to admit that I was kind of taken aback by the statement because it felt like a backhanded compliment. The kind that will make me give you the stink face, like I just smelled three week old cabbage. I mean, who says that??
In my not wanting to be insulted I tried to figure out why this statement would come out of anyone’s mouth. **Disclaimer- I’ve heard this statement phrased this exact same way more times than I would care to recount. I even had a saleswoman tell he how ironic it was that all heavy women are so pretty. What…?**
I have to say that I think in a way we are all to blame for these kinds of ridiculous statements. So many times so many of us have stayed quiet when we have heard this. And the rest of us buy into the hype, literally and metaphorically, that being thin is the remedy to unhappiness. We’re bombarded with images that try to dictate what we should think is beautiful…give us a goal of what we should be striving for. This kind of body…this kind of hair…these kinds of clothes. And then we are bombarded with more commercials and ads that tell us how we can achieve said goal.
So maybe it comes as a surprise when someone defies the standard visual of what beauty is supposed to be. Maybe this woman was shocked that I’m not a size 4 and yet she still thought I was pretty. I can’t say for sure, but I do know this. People who are happy generally do not do things to harm themselves. That includes indulging in unhealthy eating habits.
I am an emotional eater. When I am stressed, or upset, or sad I’m looking for something sweet to shove in my mouth to numb me. Even if for a few minutes I forget what was bothering me. But the “fix” isn’t permanent. Then I feel guilty. And I feel defeated…so I eat more. It’s a vicious cycle that I am determined to break. I am learning to be happy with me and how to handle my feelings without eating every time I feel unhappy.
So maybe instead of promoting the latest diet, we should be promoting forgiveness, self love and acceptance. Because when we get back to us and deal with what is ailing us everything else is a piece of cake.
Have you ever felt like the entire world was moving and shaking and you’re standing still. Just watching the grass grow under your feet. That’s how I’ve been feeling for some time. Kind of like moving fast but only going in a circle. Instead of the new year bringing its usual joy, I felt a little mournful as I recalled bad decisions and squandered opportunities.
Yesterday I went for a short walk and pondered how I could “right” my “wrongs”. And then I thought, “Who’s to say that these are wrongs?” To feel that way would make me regretful…something I think we confuse with being penitent. Regret keeps you enslaved to the past. Penitence leads to forgiveness…of yourself and others.
So I have decided to forgive myself for not always putting my well being and happiness first. And I have decided to invest in my own progress. To challenge myself every day. And to love myself unconditionally.