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TWA: Double-strand twists

First time with double-strand twists

Last night, I double-strand twisted my TWA for the first time. I already had product in my hair (Kinky Curly and castor oil). I misted my hair with water, applied a bit more castor oil and twisted my hair using Eco-Styler gel. Initially I only planned to twist my bangs but since I was catching up on DVRed episodes of America’s Next Top Model, I decided to twist all of my hair. When I finished I slicked a bit of gel around my edges and tied on a satin scarf.

When I removed the scarf this morning, I loved the neat, textured look as all of my twists lay on my head (well, all but one stubborn twist that stuck up in the back of my head). I plan to wear the twists for the next few days and then wear a twist-out. I’ll be sure to post pics of the twist-out! By the way, I took the picture with my IPad and I’m still getting used to it. Hopefully, my photography skills will quickly improve! 🙂

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You should really reflect how the client’s top executives look

“You should really reflect how the client’s top executives look.”Say what?!I was taken aback by the comment because I was dressed beautifully in a tailored suit and donned a cute natural hair style.At the time, I was working as a management consultant on a work project in one of the largest private firms in the United States.The comment came from one of my project leaders.How do you react to such a comment?Perhaps she was referring to the fact that I was wearing a red suit?Or, was she talking about my hair? That is one of the challenges of being in a society where your beauty is often devalued:you don’t know if such comments were intended to be personal and related to immutable characteristics (e.g., YOU need to have straight, long hair) or general and related to things that you can change (e.g., NO ONE should ever wear a red suit).As our conversation continued, I picked my mouth up off of the floor and realized that her comments did in fact seem to be about my hair.Wow.I took a deep breath and weighed the thoughts whirling in my mind.Should I blast her?Should I say nothing?For those who know me in a professional setting, you know that I picked a diplomatic way, but direct way, to let her know that I thought her comments were ridiculous.I said, “Wow, that’s a…different perspective.What if we were working at Black Entertainment Television?Would you be willing to shave your head and wear a short hairstyle a la Robert Johnson?”A blank stare greeted my gaze.That was the end of that. Well, at least she didn’t say anything else. But, I’m not so naive to think that her authentic beliefs were changed as a result of our exchange.

Was this a one-off situation?I think not.The article in this link suggests that other Black women have been and will be subjected to insensitive comments about their hair in the workplace: picture of the beautiful, professional Black woman was copied from the same article.

What do you think?How would you have responded to my situation?To what occurred in the article?Have you experienced such behavior in the workplace?How did you react?To those who are non-Black, how would you have responded if you witnessed this situation?

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My Royal Wedding: Say No to the Fro

Today Prince William and Kate Middleton were married.Why in the world am I bringing this up in a blog about hair?A wedding is a perfect opportunity to examine notions of beauty and femininity.I was married on July 22, 2000.I remember all of the planning.Yes, the venue was important and we had to have a wonderful union and fantastic reception.However, if I’m honest, a top priority for me was to look phenomenal.I wanted to look slammin’!I wanted Fred to take one look at me and melt.Leading up to the wedding, I was wearing an afro.I am ashamed to say that I decided that there was no way in the world I was going to walk down the aisle with an afro.What was I going to do Velcro the veil into my fro?One of my girlfriends, the same girlfriend who took me to the Baltimore barbershop for the Big Chop (see my earlier blog), told me about a wonderful stylist, Janellia, who could give me a natural looking weave.Exactly what do I mean? Well, she used hair that looked naturally curly so I would end up with a curly afro.The night before my wedding, Janellia met me at my apartment and, after I washed and conditioned my hair, she began the process of weaving the curly extensions into my hair.When she was done, I was ecstatic.In my mind, I looked like an African goddess.

Looking back, I have to ask myself why I thought an afro was the antithesis of femininity. I admit that while I loved the freedom of my afro, I still felt like I HAD to wear nice makeup, and cute jewelry whenever I went out in public.In other words, my hair was not cute on its own merit; I now had to be accessorized in order to look feminine and pulled together.Ouch.This is painful to admit and see in writing.Point blank, I wanted long, curly hair when I walked down the aisle.I didn’t “feel” like a bride unless I had it.

Do you have any similar stories about special events and hair?Maybe not your wedding, but a concert or a business meeting?A first date?I’d love to hear your stories!

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Natural Hair and the Professional Environment

In addition to being concerned about my family’s reactions to my hair, I was also concerned about the professional implications of wearing a TWA. I cut my hair during winter break between my first and second year in the MBA program at the Darden School of Business. My classmates and I either wanted to become investment bankers on Wall Street or consultants at top management consulting firms. Umm, my TWA didn’t seem to fit either environment. How in the world was I going to get a job at a prestigious firm when folks might take one look at me and think I was a big, militant black woman? The other concern I had was that my new hair cut had practically made me a museum piece at school. Wait, people tend not to touch museum pieces, maybe I felt more like an animal at the petting zoo. I mean, I’ve seen people oh and ah over someone’s new hairstyle but the kind of attention I was receiving was unprecedented. One situation exemplifies my experience.

I was standing in what is now called the Pepsico Forum at Darden. It is a beautiful entryway with vaulted ceilings, marble pillars and beautiful interior design. We use the Forum to have First Coffee, a tradition where the Darden community (faculty, staff, students) convenes to socialize in the morning. One day, I was waiting in the Forum (I cannot remember for what), when one of my classmates approached me, shrieking with delight about my new hair. “I looooveeeeee it”, she gushed. Then, without invitation, she put her hands into my hair and begin to somewhat massage my head. If you read my 4/20/11 post, “Coming to the End of the Road: Bald Spots and Still Relaxing”, you’ll note the parallel between this situation with my classmate and that club situation with the cute guy I met at Club Zei. Why do people think that they have the right to touch my hair? I hear some of you, “Aw Tina, chill out, you are overreacting!” What would you say if you were on public transportation and someone just came up to you and put their hands in your head? You would probably go off and ask them what their problem was. I know it’s different because I knew my classmate, but I didn’t know her like THAT! Your hair is intimate, personal. It felt like the combination of my uniqueness and her white privilege made her think that it was okay to cross this personal boundary without my permission. I couldn’t hold it. I said, “Girl, get your hands OUT of my hair!” She looked hurt by my response. I then took the time to explain to her why it is offensive to do what she just did, how I felt objectified. I told her that I was not an inanimate object to be fawned over and ogled. By the end of our conversation, I think she got it and we continued our friendship. However, the experience left me wondering if I was going to spend precious time having to educate folks about my natural hair.

  • AJ

    Tina,I have had people touch my hair whether it was natural, braided, weaved, etc. And I can tell you right now that I am appalled by people's lack of manners. It's one thing if I was asked. That way it was my choice to say yes or no. If someone just did it, I swear it was like an out of body experience and I felt transported back in time to slave auctions. It was as if massa and his wife had come down to check me out. This one here is clean, good teeth, no bugs in her hair. Total freak out. I am so glad that you have done this blog. Thank you so much!Alicia

  • topie

    Hey AJ! Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, it can sometimes be a challenge, keep up the faith! 😉 An out-of-body experience indeed! 🙂

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True Love- of Self and from a Good Man

In an earlier post, I mentioned how nervous I was about my family seeing my new short afro for the first time. My stomach felt sick. The thing is, I loved my new look. I was still adjusting to it, but I felt liberated. I was also proud that I could look myself in the mirror and know that I was strong enough to buck conventional notions of beauty.

I don’t remember the exact sequence of events when I first pulled up to my parent’s home and unveiled my do. I do remember my Mother staring at me like I had just announced I was addicted to crack or something. She blankly stared at my head and, finally, FINALLY said something like, “Do you like it T? If you like it, that’s good”. Wow! My Dad just told me that I was still pretty. Well, there you have it. My folks didn’t like my new TWA (teeny weeny afro). Guess what? I didn’t crumble, I didn’t cry. I was just relieved to know what they thought and I moved on.

I do think that it was incredibly helpful for me to have a relationship with a phenomenal man, Fred, now my husband. Fred and I started dating when I was still getting my hair relaxed. He has always been clear that he thinks I’m beautiful. I remember that he would run his fingers through my hair and I would say, “Stop!” because it was time for a touch-up. Whew, the roots were THICK! He’d look at me and ask why I was so touchy and then tell me that he loved the way my hair felt. It had texture, was springy, curly, kinky…he loved the way it felt. Say what?! That was so liberating!! To have someone you love validate your beauty, confirm that you are okay just as you are. Once I cut my hair, he continued to reaffirm his love for me and his appreciation of my beauty. I’m not saying that I cut my hair FOR Fred or that he loved me because I cut my hair. Our love is much deeper than that. The truth is that for so long I was afraid to reveal my true self to men so it was wonderful to take off the mask in front of him and let him see my natural essence.

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