I am so excited to be in NY. The thing is I caught myself in the “hair worry” tent this morning. Why? I beautifully twisted and then twisted out my hair for my trip. Well, it got wet and I feel myself getting that familiar feeling of agita in my stomach because my hair is looking frizzy and unmaintenanced. Ugh.
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|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!
I also have to admit that I am adjusting my aesthetics. What do I mean? I mean that I am in the process of redefining what beautiful means to me. Honestly, once I looked at the back of my head, I described it as “a pack of naps”. Yes, that is TOTALLY politically incorrect. I had what I call an ugly moment where I felt like a boy, a nappy-headed boy at that. I know that there are many people who detest the word “nappy” but I’m only sharing the true thoughts that flew like ticker tape across my mind. What did I do? I looked myself in the mirror, told myself “I’m beautiful”, put on a cute red top, some red lipstick and went on about my business.
No, the red top and red lipstick don’t make me beautiful. I believe that I’m beautiful on the inside and the outside. However, if makeup and nice clothing make me feel better about my new look I’m going to allow myself that pleasure.
On a positive note, when I went for a family bike ride today, I slipped on my helmet and didn’t even blink when we were caught in a torrential downpour. My hair is not a worry. Hallelujah. I can also now wear baseball caps and cute hats (something I haven’t done in years because my locs were so thick that I couldn’t don cute chapeaus). But, the biggest thing I look forward to? SWIMMING! I bought a new bathing suit and I plan to start swimming soon. Looking forward to that adventure! In a nutshell, I’m enjoying and adjusting to my hair all at the same time. J
I just finished reading an outstanding Huffington Post article by Janell Ross http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/04/black-hair-natural-relaxed-_n_918200.html). Ms. Ross’s article, “Natural or Relaxed, For Black Women, Hair is Not a Settled Matter”, is well-written and full of information.
I wanted to share the article with you all for several reasons. First, the article suggests that something is definitely afoot when it comes to more and more women opting out of chemical straighteners and diving into the world of natural hair. Each of us probably knows someone who has either Big Chopped or is transitioning to natural hair. But, I didn’t realize that chemical relaxer sales have declined by 12% in the last two years! Did you know that?
Second, I love the fact that the article delves into the social stigma associated with natural hair. In fact, the article opens with a church woman questioning why so many of the young women at her church were wearing their natural hair to church. That made me laugh out loud because one of the places where I heard that my dreadlocks were inappropriate was in church. I am grateful that as a Christian I happen to be personally familiar with the Bible and could quickly see that that was someone’s personal opinion NOT The Gospel. Amen to reading scripture and seeking holistic insight (i.e., don’t just read one scripture of out context). I also recall my older family members being astonished when I first Big Chopped over a decade ago. My Mom told me the other day that when she first saw my TWA she said, “That nut went off and cut off all of her hair”. HAHA!! My mother is precious and you have to hear her soft Southern accent to feel the full impact of her statement. The funny thing is that my Mother went natural a few years ago and is toying with it again now. Hey,she’ll tell you that relaxer-thinned hair is not her look of choice.
Third, the article made me reflect on the impending glances, comments and murmurs I may encounter once I go back to school with my own TWA. People identify me as the tall black woman with dreadlocks. Well, that is going to change. I am so excited about learning more about my hair. The first time I wore a TWA I grew it out and kept it in double-stranded twists, too afraid to unbound my hair. Now, I want to ROCK a natural in its many shapes and styles. I am ready to confront my own notion of beauty, femininity and style. I am ready to explore.
Finally, I had never heard of Uncle Funky’s Daughter (http://www.unclefunkysdaughter.com). The name alone makes me adore this natural hair care company already. I will have to try out the products on the next phase of my journey.
Image found at: http://www.essence.com/images/mt/little_girl.jpg
The plot thickens. I’ve been playing in my hair for the last 48 hours to see just how much length I’ll have once I cut off my locs. I’ve been reading natural hair blogs and books. Actually, just finished reading Thank God I’m Natural by Chris-Tia E. Donaldson (I give this book a huge thumbs up; it’s a great, quick read with comprehensive content: http://thankgodimnatural.wordpress.com/book/). The book and other sources have told me that, in some cases, it’s possible to take locs down though it can cost $250 to $500 to get it done in a salon. I have never spent that much on my hair and don’t know if I’m willing to now. It helps that I LOVE a TWA and that my husband says he looks forward to it again if that’s what I want. Plus, I get to swim on a daily basis if I want to (there’s a whole different discussion about putting on a swimsuit…okay, I really have issues) HAHA.
I think it also sends a message to my children (we have an 8 year old and a 5 year old). The hilarious thing is that neither one of our children wants me to cut my hair. My son said, “MOMMY! No! No one around here has hair that short” Say what? Wow. Without putting words into his mouth, it sounds like my man is concerned that his Momma is going to look like a plucked chicken and that he will bear the brunt of being teased because of it. My daughter is even more adamant, “MOMMMMMMMMYYYY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! DON’T CUT YOUR HAIR! I LIKE IT LONG!” Double wow. Such emotion about MY hair. Is it possible that my hair has implications for their identity? Well, given the central role that parents play in identity formation it seems the answer is yes. This tells me that what we do with our hair may impact our children’s attitudes about their hair and themselves in general. Talk about responsibility.
Truth be told, we live in a lily-white neighborhood, in a lily-white town in the suburbs of a predominately white city. There are not many people of color more or less women with natural hair. I was stretching it with long dreadlocks, now I’m taking it further with a TWA. Hey kiddos, there’s no time like the present to understand the fact that I AND YOU have kinky, coily hair that differs from the hair of those around you. Yes children, we’re different in some ways and similar in other ways to those around us. Guess what, it’s all beautiful. Here’s to learning how to embrace our unique beauty and the beauty of others.
So, I’m having pretty consistent thoughts about chopping off my dreadlocks (sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but this is what’s on my mind). I’ve even chosen to wear headbands instead of maintenancing my roots because if I decide to chop off my locs I want a bit of new growth. That way, my TWA (teeny weeny afro) will be at least an inch all around.
These thoughts are whirling around in my head last night as I’m flicking channels. I come across NBC’s The Voice and three members of Team Christina are waiting to find out which one of them Christina will advance to the semi-finals (warning, if you’re a fan of the show there are spoilers ahead). Honestly, I don’t really watch the show. I only occasionally tune in to watch Frenchie. Yes, Frenchie who has been on Broadway and can SANG!!!!! I am pulling for her. When Christina calls Frenchie’s name I am ecstatic and I shout out YEESSSS! I am also struck my how stunningly beautiful Frenchie is with her TWA-wearing self (some have even referred to her as bald). She rocks it.
The funny thing is, one of the main reasons that I think I’ve kept my locks is because they’ve gotten long and I like them long. I didn’t really care for the shorter lock phase. I’ve shared that I felt like a prickly porcupine. I like to feel my locks whipping behind me when I’m on a bike ride (thanks to my husband for getting me into that! Great exercise and it’s water free so it’s easy on the hair!). I like to braid them when they’re wet and then unbraid them to reveal wavy splendor. I like to put them in a ponytail, an updo, a side swept coif. However, I’ve recently admitted that I’m AFRAID to cut my hair. I think I’ve somehow gotten trapped in the long hair myth. What is that? The long hair myth is the myth that women with long hair are somehow more feminine, more alluring, more attractive, sexier, slimmer. Hmm, that last word, slimmer. Part of my Big Chop aversion is the fact that I weigh more than I want to and I’m afraid to take away my long hair AND be twenty pounds overweight. There, I’ve confessed.
Back to The Voice. When I saw Frenchie in all of her magnificence it reminded me of something I already know: short haired, big women are beautiful too. I still haven’t made up my mind about my hair but I’m working through the internal issues that I have about making the decision.
“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:http://ybpguide.com/2007/09/02/natural-black-hair-not-glamorous/.The 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?
Given all of the hair self-reflection I’ve done over the past few weeks since I started this blog, it’s no surprise that I had a dream about my hair last night.I dreamt that I cut off my dreadlocks and went back to wearing a TWA.This time around, I used products that allowed me to enjoy the natural curl of my hair as my afro grew.I was loving life.Then, I went to some misty outdoor event and, POOF, my style shrunk.I woke up thinking, “Is this a sign?”I’ve gone back and forth about whether I should cut off my hair and start over.Honestly, part of the reason I locked my hair was that the maintenance of my two strand twists just got to be too much.In fact, my hair made someone cry.No joke.
My husband and I used to live in Atlanta and I got my locs maintenanced by a fabulous stylist at Nseya Salon and Spa (when I looked for it, just found out that it closed!Oh no!).Nseya was an upscale salon that used fabulous products and provided great customer service.One time, my stylist was on vacation and I made an appointment with another person.BIG MISTAKE!The new stylist took one look at my hair and excused herself.I could see her talking to the owner through the glass exterior window.She was visibly shaken and…wait a minute, is she crying?“What in the world is going on?” I wondered.In a few minutes, the owner came over to me and said something to the effect of the stylist didn’t specialize in my type of hair and that they’d be contacting my regular stylist to come in.WHAT!?I couldn’t believe it.My naps had broken the stylist down.That was too funny to me.And a little embarrassing.You mean my hair could make a professional cry?Wow!Anyway, my regular stylist came in (bless you wherever you are) and hooked my hair up.
I’d always loved locs and thought that they were gorgeous.I felt that locs would be a way to keep my hair natural and minimize the salon stay.That is what happened, but sometimes I still wonder what my hair would look like in all of its puffed out, afro glory.
I’d love to hear your stories.Why do you pick the hair styles that you wear?Creative exploration?Convenience?Habit?
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.