Tag Archives: black women and hair

Black Beauty

2 Feb

Thanks to yet another snow storm, I find myself at home with time to kill since with another foot of snow expected on top of the however many feet of snow already piled up in my yard, leaving the house is simply not an option. So it seems like a great day to break my blog hiatus and share some thoughts, after all it is Black History Month which is perfect for what I want to talk about today…black beauty.

Living in the United States which despite all the talk of being a post racial society is a hard place to be as a Black woman. Frankly it’s hard for all women, but today I speak as a Black woman because it’s my experience and I know it. From an early age little brown girls learn quickly they are not valued nearly as much as their pale counterparts. The images that little girls see are primarily that of pale girls with silky hair, girls whose natural body shapes often don’t look like theirs.

Unless caregivers are aware of the damage of what happens when you consume a steady diet of images that in no way resemble you, can do to a little girl’s psyche it’s the rare brown girl who will make it to adulthood not conflicted in some ways about her appearance. Generally for my sistern this manifests itself in how we approach our hair.

Hair is often seen as a woman’s crown and glory yet many Black women have a hard time truly grasping that concept when deep down we wonder why our hair won’t do this or that. I have been a natural haired Black woman for a decade now yet it’s only been in recent years that I had true acceptance of what my hair can and cannot do and I am at peace with it. Yet despite the growth in Black woman shunning chemical relaxers and choosing natural hair the fact remains it takes more than simply not putting the creamy crack in your hair to have real acceptance.

When most Black women first go natural they are excited and in many cases trade the addiction to relaxer for the addition to the perfect products that will cause their hair to have curl definition or waves or some other feature that will make their hair appear socially acceptable. I know when I first went natural and did the big chop I was addicted to using Care Free Curl activator gel because it made my hair look curly opposed to tight kinky curls that looked nappier. Then there was the point when my hair started growing out and then it looked like a frizzy mass and I remember being disappointed.

Perhaps it was because of my own frustrations and eventual realization that my hair is never going to lay down (unless it’s being manipulated in some fashion) which is what made this video interesting to me. Please check it out, now I admit the sista is hilarious in her presentation but what she says actually made me think. In the course of my decade long journey I have had folks make all kinds of suggestions about what to use in my hair and for the most part none of it works. I am at the point that pretty much what works best for my hair and my lifestyle as far as energy I am going to put out is, short fro, dreads or braids oh and the occasional afro puff. I am not a play in the hair person, after 30 mins my hands get tired and I have as my braider says at least 2-3 different textures of hair on my head of hair. For years I had a hard time accepting what looked good on me and really coveted the looser curls that I would see on some sisters but guess what it’s not for me.

Yet the sista in the video while it’s clear she is distressed, at the root of her rant is someone who still needs to do the mental work that is part of truly accepting her beauty. But too many of us are not surrounded by folks who give us that validation we need instead we suffer internally. Ultimately too many do not see the beauty of a Black woman’s natural crown and glory…plain and simple. It’s why we spend hundreds of dollars on products to smooth our hair because we still equate beauty with a standard that is not our standard of beauty.

This brings me to this piece. It was in my local news and what stood out was that the woman arrested was a Black woman, a rather cute one too. Now I am not passing judgment on what she does or the charges against her but in reading the comments online following the article it was clear that not too many others saw her as attractive, instead stealing her person-hood by referring to her in terms that strip her of person-hood. So I asked the Spousal Unit was she cute and he said yes. Interestingly enough I think the fact that she appears to have dreads is what really stood out to me, but overall I was reminded of how very little black beauty is valued.

Never mind the fact that she is working in a profession where her looks are required so that she can earn money. I doubt she would be dancing at a club if the tips/earnings weren’t there so clearly someone finds her attractive yet in a public venue like the paper, people feel they must judge her looks. This is life for the Black woman in America. A place where we will always struggle for acceptance yet to truly be accepted most of us must start the work internally. We also need to start with our kids especially our girls; we must present images that affirm what they see in the mirror. It helps if you are in a racially diverse area but even my house, we hang Black art, we buy books and dolls that mirror back what my girl sees in my, in pictures of family members and more importantly what she sees in the mirror.

Update on that Hur Situation

1 Feb

Since I have had a few folks who know me personally wondering if all is well after reading my last post on my hair. I figure I’d better post an update. Whatever had me thinking that hair straightening was a good idea has passed, I am just going to blame that line of thought on PMS and my perimenopausal state. See, I tell the Spousal Unit I get a smidge crazy during that time of the month and I am only half kidding.

No, I actually did some research and was horrified about the process. (good grief, creamy goo and high heat, shit that sounds like a recipe to have no hair left to worry about at all) That said, I am still undecided about my hair as someone pointed out it’s probably tied to the fact that hair is spiritual. Spiritually I am going through some stuff but I can’t reveal that at this time.

So for the moment I am doing nothing, I am pretty much thinking its time to get a haircut despite my wish for length since really when I only have a few inches on my head, life is easy. Or the other option, get some add a hair via kinky twists and go ahead and call it a day.

I do know whatever I do, it won’t involve large quantities of cash nor time. The last thing I need now is to add regular salon time to my already cramped schedule.

So while to some my hair woes may seem trivial, hey this is my spot and I ramble. Have a great week!

Lady with the short hair

9 Jun

After years of having long hair, you would think I would feel out of sorts having short hair but the truth is I love it. I am at a stage in my life when I want to simplify and as much as I loved my dreads, the truth is they were carrying a lot of energy that frankly was weighing me down. There was also the fact that the longer they got,the more that taking care of them felt like an ordeal.

So all that to say I am enjoying being able to wash and go, I did not wash my locs on a daily basis (Black hair in many cases is not washed daily…want more info, feel free to Google it) but I enjoy being able to wash daily. I love the feel of freshly washed hair, I love the fact that I am not longer in need of a scarf, headwrap or ponytail holder before I can leave the house.

I am also at peace with my decision, I know now that it was the right time. I am not the person I was years ago and a change was needed. That said, its been a gas seeing folks reactions to my hair. Lets see the first day I went out before I got a trim, I got a lot of stunned looks. The younger the person was, the higher the “That’s cool” seemed to be, older more traditional folks looked at me like had I taken leave of my senses.

I have gotten some probing, why did you do that? Gee, why does anyone do such a thing…because I wanted to! At 36 I am a grown ass woman and if I want to cut my hair….I just do it. I even got a half cocked “so you took your braids out” yeah, I ignored that numbnut especially since this is a woman who always talks about how she went to high school in New York and was the only white girl at her school. I suspect she does this to bond with me, but really I don’t care. Anyway assuming a Black woman with long hair must have extensions or braids speaks of one who makes assumptions (H, I know you are reading this and no I am not talking about you) about Black beauty. Old stereotypes that assume Black women don’t have long hair unless it was bought someplace…but that’s another post for another time.

The thing is 10 years ago when I first had hair this short I was still in denial that I could look good with short hair thus I always felt awkward about short hair. Now I love it. In fact its liberating at least for me, so while there are many who may think and wonder why I cut my hair, the answer is simply because I wanted to.

Switching gears for a second, as the summer gets off, my schedule will be busy so I am seeking guest posts on how folks are coping with the economic downturn. Specifically if you used to be solidly middle class and now find yourself not so solidly in the middle class, please consider doing a post. It will a weekly post entitled Dispatches from the Formerly Middle Class. My email is on the sidebar, so drop me a line.

The spirituality of my hair

14 May

There is nothing like a post on Black women and hair to get some attention in the blogosphere. Of course Black women and our hair have a rather deep and unique relationship. Thanks to all those who posted on my last post, as I lamented over what to do about my beloved locks, I must admit I am still unsure but due to a reaction I had a few hours after writing that post, I know I need to think about it.

See, when I first cut my hair and went natural, I was a hair evangelist, much like a newly born again Christian who feels the need to share the goods news of Jesus Christ. I spent the first several years of being a proudly nappy haired Black woman telling other Black women who had not gotten on board with their naps that they must find and embrace naps. Looking back I shudder now to think about how obnoxious I may have been, but again I wanted to share the good news.

It wasn’t until I started my dreads that I stopped being such a zealot about natural hair on Black women. I will be honest and say that I generally think most Black women look much better with their hair worn naturally but I am also at a point where I can admit when a sista has a banging relaxed style. However most sistas I see in real life with relaxed hair generally look ho-hum at best. Of course the key to hair in general is maintaining it well no matter if you have chemically processed hair or not.

No, see my dreads were not a fashion statement. I had wanted dreads ever since I was 17, going so far at 18-19 as to stop combing my hair thinking that they would lock…it didn’t happen, instead I looked a hot mess. So back I went to the relaxer and later wearing my hair short and natural.

It was the death of my beloved mother that made me take the plunge, her death changed me at the deepest core. I am not the person I was prior to her death, in many ways and the Spousal Unit agrees, I am a nicer person. I strive to be deeper and more compassionate. My mother used to tease me that I was a bitch and the truth is I was very much a bitch and I knew that I needed to change. Her death was the catalyst for me growing up and getting in touch with my inner woman who is compassionate and caring, though lately I wonder if I have gone too far with this niceness bit but that’s for another day.

So how does hair fit into this? Well the process and journey of locking requires patience I have learned. In the early days I had a lot of ugly hair days, a lot of days that felt unsure and I will be damned if there was not a connection between the state of my hair and the state of my mind. As my locks started out as unsure babies much like the new me after my mother’s death, eventually they started toddling…sort of like a toddler does and so on.

Somewhere about 2 years ago, my locks reached a state where they started to look good and again looking at my internal state, that is around the time I started to feel steady and stable emotionally in being the new me. Even now the state of uncertainty that I have around my dreads is similar to what I am facing personally…regular readers know that in recent months I have blogged about my financial woes and even my marital issues. As I told the Spousal Unit the other night, the state of my hair seem to be bound to the state of my mind.

I wrote in the comment section of my last post that I feel like cutting off my locks would feel like I am cutting off my antenna, I know that sounds dramatic as hell but honestly that is how I feel. I neither want or need my locks to be perfectly groomed, but much like my financial life is feeling out of control is how I feel my hair looks and feels at the moment.

So while I am still unsure about what I will eventually do, I know that I need to be still and wait to be led as there may be lessons still to be learned on this journey.

Hair in crisis

12 May

I have often thought about writing about hair but until today never quite gotten around to it. Now when I first started blogging the majority of my readers were Black because I spent a lot of time in the Black section of the blogosphere but lately I have noticed that many of my readers judging from those who leave comments may not be Black. If that is the case, you may be wondering why the hell am I about to write an entire post about hair. Shit, for black women and our hair I could write an entire book.

Black woman and their hair is not only a serious business but we Black women take out hair pretty seriously. However I am not about to go into a historical piece about hair, nope its just dealing with my hair. See, for the past decade aside from one dye job 6 years ago, I have worn my hair in its natural state. In the late 1990’s, I knew that there was a really good chance that I would be moving to Maine so I started thinking about my hair and how I would manage it. Yep, tis the life of a Black woman…a cross country move to the whitest state immediately makes you wonder about seemingly small things like how the hell will you manage your hair?

See, at that point I went weekly to the salon to get my hair done. On a weekly basis that meant wash, dry and curl and every six weeks I had my relaxer (hair straightener applied) at that point in time I was spending about $200 plus a month to maintain my silky do. My hair looked great but there was also the fact that I really was not skilled at maintaining my own hair.

So I started looking into going natural, that is wearing my hair without any type of chemicals. So I made a slow transition by wearing braids, weaves and eventually just cutting off all my hair in a rather dramatic fashion. I’ll never forget the day I went in for the “Big Chop” at that point I was going to the Van Cleef Salon in Chicago, which as a side note is the same salon the current First Lady Michelle Obama went to for years. As you can imagine, most of the woman at such a salon were not trying to get rid of their silky tress’s and go nappy. In fact the owner of the salon actually came over and watched as my stylist took off all my hair…shit, everyone in the salon stopped what they were doing to watch. For a moment the mood in the salon was almost that of a funeral. To many Black woman cutting off all your hair is viewed with horror and a bit of fascination.

Yet after I watched my hair fall to the ground leaving me with a cool 2 inches at best, I felt a huge relief, it was almost a religious experinece, I felt reborn. That was until I got home and the Spousal Unit came home from work and looked at my head. To his credit he didn’t say much, but the truth is when he went to work that morning he had a wife with a frizzy bob and now my head matched my Dad’s as far as hair length.

The real fun started when I went to visit my parents, my Mom loved it and thought it was cute though she did suggest maybe I should color it which I eventually did, no it was my Dad who lost his mind. I won’t go into the details but for 2 weeks he stopped talking to me, He could not understand why I would cut off all my hair. Eventually he came around and while he is still not a fan of my hair in its natural state at least he keeps his comments to himself.

For almost 5 years I wore my hair fairly short but eventually felt the urge to have dreadlocks something I have always wanted, so after my Mom’s death 5 years ago I started my dreads aka locks. Or rather I had them started at a place in Boston. For the first 6 months I went to Boston every 4-6 weeks to get my locks groomed. However when I got pregnant with girl child I decided the hell with it and went real natural, meaning I started to free-form my locks. In practical terms, it means all I do is wash, condition and separate my locks though many have started to fuse together over the years.

After 5 years I have dreadlocks that are to the middle of my back but because I have not had the new growth re-twisted or groomed, I have a bit of a Afro growing in the midst of my locks. Generally I handle it by keeping my head covered or wearing my hair in a pony tail so the fro portion is less obvious.

Anyway I have reached the point where I am in a bit of a hair crisis, there are days when I want to cut it all off or worse yet relax again. I think part of the hair crisis is because living in Maine, there are very few places a Black woman can go to get her coif done and even less choices for a dread-lock wearing sista.

I could go back to the shop in Boston but I never really cared much for the joint. The folks that run the joint had funky attitudes and their location in Bean-town is less than convenient. It takes me 3.5 hours each way to get to their spot, plus several hours there for a job that is only okay, granted they can do better than me but considering I am paying them, I want an amazing job. This particular place is like the McDonald’s of the dread-lock world in Boston.

So now I sit here with dreams of silky precision cut bobs dancing in my head though I know if I actually went that direction, I would most likely wake up questioning my sanity. To go back to relaxing would mean bondage to the salon at a time when my money is already tight. 

A friend of mine who lives in Brooklyn, has suggested I head down to her area and see her loctitian but money has simply been too tight and now my time is about to get tight with my work schedule. So while I love that idea, its probably not going to happen unless those folks I met with last week about a side project hurry up and sign the contract.

Nope, I have a hair dilemma, I am in crisis and I just don’t know what to do. I imagine to some reading this you may be wondering is this really a big deal? Oh yes, a Black woman with a hair crisis is a huge deal. I mean I have a fucking dread-fro and its just not cute.  Oh well no answers today but thank goodness for scarves and the lovely black and gold one I am wearing today to cover up the dread-fro.