It seems no matter whether we are born with straight tresses, curly tresses, blonde, red or coal black hair, hair is a loaded issue for most women regardless of race. The dance of frustration seems to start early in life as I am learning with my own almost 8 year old daughter. We want what we don’t have and what we have frustrates us to no end.

I have had more than my fair share of hair struggles. I spent more than a third of my life trying to tame my tightly curled hair into something that would hang down and bounce. Oh it would hang and bounce, but as a Black woman with kinky hair, I paid a high price to achieve what was not natural for me and one day in my late 20’s, I said enough. I was tired of the weekly visits to the salon, tired of sleeping with a scarf on head, tired of fearing the rain and really tired of the $200+ a month I was spending to achieve straight hair.

So after months of thinking about it, one day I went to the salon and told my then stylist to cut it all off. I went from shoulder length hair to approximately two inches of tight coils that looked like a more feminine version of my Dad and brother’s hair.

Yet even the decision to wear my hair in its natural texture has not been without stresses, that’s how I know that hair is a journey for all women. In the 12 years since I started wearing my own natural textured hair there is another journey that I have encountered and that is people wanting to touch my hair. Back when I had chemically straightened hair, I don’t recall anyone (complete strangers) asking to touch my hair, yet in the past decade plus, I have encountered more than a few eager people wanting to know about my hair and yes touch it.

My hair a few years ago...people were always reaching out and touching me.

My hair a few years ago…people were always reaching out and touching me.

As a Black woman this is just another part of the Black experience, now that Black women wearing their own natural textured hair has become more normal. So has the increase in non-Black people expressing interest in our hair. This week in New York City a group of Black women decided to hold an interactive public art exhibit where Black women were willing to let people/strangers touch their hair and ask questions. The event was dubbed ‘You Can Touch My Hair’ and when I first heard about it; I honestly thought it was a joke.

Historically in the United States while all women have suffered indignities and a lack of ownership for the bodies, for Black women it was worse. There is a historical precedence in this country of whites having a fascination with Black female bodies and them using that fascination to further dehumanize and denigrate Black women. Lest you think I am reaching into the annals of far flung history, have you ever read any commentary about Serena William’s body?  The legacy of the Hottentot Venus still lives on today for Black women, so the idea of willingly allowing anyone to touch any part of my body including my hair as a teachable moment, just doesn’t sit well with me at all.

Perhaps it is because I have had too many people just walk up to me and assume a familiarity that never existed and just start touching my hair. The funny thing is never in my life have I ever been curious enough about white hair to either touch it or ask to touch it. It wouldn’t feel right to me and I would never want anyone that I consider a friend to feel uncomfortable.

So while the younger generation may be willing to wade in the murky waters of racial difference and play a vital role in providing a teachable moment to people. This crotchety old Black woman is just going to have to sit this one out and say no. No, you cannot touch my hair.

Sistas…let’s get positive!

Note, this post is not for the squeamish. I am talking about sex today so feel free to redirect if you are related to me or under 18 or….

I am not a fan of the Oppression Olympics as a general rule, but as an open minded and thinking gal, well sometimes there are exceptions to the rules. I am not the first blogger of color nor will I be the last to note that since Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House, suddenly the world is curious about us Black women. I mean shit; the First Lady of the Divided States is a Black woman! Yikes!

Since late 2008 I have read more reports about our wooly heads that some of us are learning to love or else beat into submission. (Guess the state of Black women and our hair didn’t matter before 2008) Then there is the sorry state of romantic life for Black women, it seems at least once a month yet another piece is churned out lamenting the pathetic state of love for Black women. Shit and those are the more complimentary pieces written about us. Let’s take a detour to the less flattering sides and you will learn about how poorly we live, we are broker than broke and then some of us are just “bad” mothers. Of course we can thank ole Ronnie Reagan for creating the mythical welfare mother image, a Black woman with a passel of kids looking for Uncle Sam to finance her brood since of course she has no man and she is too lazy to work! Never mind that the data says otherwise, the average welfare recipient is white, yet for most when they think welfare recipient they see a woman of color.

Yet negative imagery of Black women is nothing new, Black women historically have been portrayed as Mammies, everyone loves Mammy! That big asexual woman who tends to all except for herself, then we have the evil mouthed Sapphire and last but not least the hypersexual Black woman with an insatiable sexual attitude who well due to her wantonness good men and bad just couldn’t control themselves. Jezebels created a great diversion to overlook the millions of Black women since slavery who were sexually assaulted…after all she was asking for it!

Thanks to these pervasive and negative stereotypes of Black women it’s meant that we spend a lot of time striving to prove we are not those stereotypes sometimes to our own detriment. Especially for college educated and or middle class and above Black women, we live in a space often times mindful that we will be judged harsher than our white counterparts.

Fear of judgment and desire to break free of stereotypes has meant that too many times we are afraid to claim our sexuality. Lately I have been reading a great deal about the sex positive movement and wondered how many women of color specifically Black women would be willing to openly acknowledge and or embrace the label of sex positive? Considering it wasn’t that long ago that a blogger who incidentally I like but don’t always see eye to eye on started a movement to get sistas married off I suspect that for many of us, being sex positive would be considered a bad thing or at least not something we would claim. I admit this piece today was sparked by reading this piece about a sista in California opening up a sex positive shop and gallery. Over the years I have known way too many sistas who if a conversation ever turns to the idea of sex toys will give you the stank. Funny because sex toys have gone mainstream, hell you can even get a gadget or two at the local drug store but for many sistas it’s still not something we will openly acknowledge. Ironically almost all my white buddies will admit that hell yeah, they keep a Big Red (or whatever color) under the bed but sistas will quickly tell you they don’t need a toy, they got a man! Fabulous, a man or woman is fine but nothing says you can’t self-love yourself either or use that toy with someone else.

So sistas I say as we strive to advance don’t forget that it’s okay to acknowledge our sexuality and to find pleasure in whatever manner suits us. If it is safe and between consenting adults, the body is a temple and pleasure is allowed in the temple.

Don’t Touch Me

The following is a repost from July 2010 but in light of all the buzz regarding a certain CNN piece on Black woman and our hair, it still seems pretty relevant.

It’s another hot day up here (when will they end?) and I have a long day since I will be taking part in a community forum as part of my job this evening. So I suggested to the Spousal Unit and son, that we have lunch at Pizza Hut since I am in no mood to cook, thanks to a summer cold, oppressive heat and work. So the family came to pick me up from the office and we hit the local Pizza Hut.

It was a good time despite the lousy food, when I suddenly feel someone touching my hair. I look up and see an elderly white woman muttering something about nice, beautiful and I just wanted to touch your hair. Wait! What the fuck are you doing? I start trying to avoid her gnarled hands like I was Neo in the Matrix, moving closer to my daughter in the booth and even putting my hand up saying “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR

It’s not the first time in my 8 years in Maine I have had a white person reach out and attempt to touch my hair, after all I did have dreadlocks for 5 years but this was the first time I have ever encountered someone who did not respect my desire to stop trying to touch me. For a millisecond I felt reduced to less than human status and even my husband who is a laid back man told the woman “Please don’t touch my wife’s hair” There was a second when I thought he was about to lay hands on Granny. Eventually she and her party moseyed on with her no doubt wondering what the issue was, but damn it, don’t touch my hair.

Look, I realize seeing a Black woman with braids may be a novelty but reaching out to touch one is just a bad idea and frankly the only thing that stopped Granny from getting her fingers broke was the fact that she was elderly. I am still not sure if that was a great idea but hey, I was raised to treat folks with respect even when its questionable if they deserve it.

So to my fellow humans of the white hue, don’t ever reach out and try to touch a Black woman’s hair…it could be hazardous to your health.

Don’t touch me

It’s another hot day up here (when will they end?) and I have a long day since I will be taking part in a community forum as part of my job this evening. So I suggested to the Spousal Unit and son, that we have lunch at Pizza Hut since I am in no mood to cook, thanks to a summer cold, oppressive heat and work. So the family came to pick me up from the office and we hit the local Pizza Hut.

It was a good time despite the lousy food, when I suddenly feel someone touching my hair. I look up and see an elderly white woman muttering something about nice, beautiful and I just wanted to touch your hair. Wait! What the fuck are you doing? I start trying to avoid her gnarled hands like I was Neo in the Matrix, moving closer to my daughter in the booth and even putting my hand up saying “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR

It’s not the first time in my 8 years in Maine I have had a white person reach out and attempt to touch my hair, after all I did have dreadlocks for 5 years but this was the first time I have ever encountered someone who did not respect my desire to stop trying to touch me. For a millisecond I felt reduced to less than human status and even my husband who is a laid back man told the woman “Please don’t touch my wife’s hair” There was a second when I thought he was about to lay hands on Granny. Eventually she and her party mosey’d on with her no doubt wondering what the issue was, but damn it, don’t touch my hair.

Look, I realize seeing a Black woman with braids may be a novelty  but reaching out to touch one is just a bad idea and frankly the only thing that stopped Granny from getting her fingers broke was the fact that she was elderly.  I am still not sure if that was a great idea but hey, I was raised to treat folks with respect even when its questionable if they deserve it.

So to my fellow humans of the white hue, don’t ever reach out and try to touch a Black woman’s hair…it could be hazardous to your health.

Time to talk hair

Yes indeed, it’s that time again. Time to talk about my hair, now if you are not a Black woman there is a good chance this post might not be your cup of tea. On the other hand it could be enlightening, so consider sticking around. Regular readers know its been a while since I have written about my hair, after all last year after years of growing dreadlocks I decided to cut them. Well the small fro I had after cutting off inches of hair has now grown out and I am at that place hair wise I hate to be. Long story short, my hair is a mess and its a length that really I find it difficult to do much of anything with.

The truth is I really am not a hair person. Let’s see, I went natural (that means no chemical straighteners have touched this head in over 10 years, and the last chemical color was about 7 years ago) and the first couple of years of being natural I rocked a short fro. It was a total wash and go and I loved it; but then we moved to Maine and I decided to grow my hair out. That lasted for 2 years and was what I look back on as the ugly period since there really wasn’t a lot I could do to my hair until it had some significant length which it did by the time I decided to loc in 2004.

Well the locs were good for a while but living in Maine with no one to help me hands on with my locs led me to free form and eventually led me to say buh bye to them as well. It was really lack of good maintenance that killed my locs, in fact looking back on my decade in naps I can say that barring the times I have rocked the TWA my hair is generally not as healthy as it can be. That may sound silly but when it comes to doing my hair those skills passed me by, perhaps it was because I was well into high school before my Mom let me actually start managing my hair. Seriously, she refused to have me going out with a raggedy head as she would call it, so she often would oversee my coif. The result being I barely can braid and when I do you damn sure ain’t going outside in it and well my attempts at twisting, etc…um, it sux. I suspect if I had someone up here who could sit down and show me it might come together but honestly even looking at you tube videos doesn’t seem to help.

So you are probably asking um…where are you going with this? Well until yesterday I figured I’d keep living with my hair situation but I went to my local Aveda salon for my eyebrow waxing and we ended up talking about my hair. Long story short they explained they have a process of thermal straightening that could loosen my curls to make my hair more manageable.

I’m going to be honest, at first I was like hell to the naw, I am happy to be nappy, no chemicals here…all the things that good nappy hair disciples do. Some of ya’ll might be asking what am I talking about but I know some of ya’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Going natural as a Black woman is liberating, it really is, at least in the early days you feel like you have a new lease on life. You feel like you have instant camaraderie with other natural sistas, you feel amazing, freed…oh its a beautiful thing. 

Well 10 years into this journey, what I am about to say is blasphemy to nappy heads but really its just hair. Yes chemicals are bad, and by all means you should avoid them if at all possible. But sometimes being natural ain’t all it’s cracked up to be either. See, the reason I went natural initially was because I knew I was moving to Maine and figured there would be no one to do my hair. That is really what prompted me to give up the creamy crack, my relaxed hair was always healthy, no breakage, no issues.  I admit I did not like feeling in bondage to the hair salon for that weekly maintenance but lets keep it real, too many naturals are always looking for that elusive product to “manage” their curls. Ya know you know what I am talking about.  They trade one addiction for another, I have seen it too many times. In the past decade I have seen many sistas embrace being natural at least on the surface but deep down they are grappling with how beautiful they will be perceived as, if they rock a TWA, locs, etc. I know, I was there and man I fought those demons, days when I just knew I looked ugly. But guess what? I didn’t care, for me being natural at least in the early days allowed me to see true beauty in myself but at this stage in the game, I will be honest. I just want hair that is manageable. I am not a fan of super short hair…can I tell you on cold days I miss my locs.

I would consider going back to locks but I truly believe they have a spiritual component and I am not there yet. I found what I needed with that first set, peace and acceptance in so many areas of my life but I am not ready to return. I keep saying just let my fro grow but then I keep coming back to grow into what? Last time I let it grow eventually that path led to dreads.

So I will be honest, I have no idea what direction I am about to take on the hair path, could involve chemicals, could be braids, might just say fuck it and crop it again. Yet no matter what I  do, I am more than just my hair and while my journey to me may have started with my hair it does not end with my hair.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t even decided whether I am going to have my hair treated, last night I was pumped up about this. This morning the $300 price tag has me thinking a trip to the sista who trimmed my fro is in order so I can explore more reasonable options that might keep me natural but I will be honest no longer am I am militant natural.

I have enjoyed the journey but I am not defined by my hair…hell I define me.

We be Negros, now get away from me…

The past day or so has been personally challenging for me, I am going through my monthly leave me the fuck time of month, work has been crazy and we have family visiting from 2000 miles away. The sort of shit that makes a sista just want to scream.  So this morning, I called one of my good sista friends who lives not far away, and told her she needed to scoop a sista up for breakfast before I lost my mind this morning and snapped on everyone up in this beyotch which I would figured would be bad form when the in-laws are visiting. After a decade of officially being in the family, I suspect they still think I am bit out there but hey its all good.

So when my girl rolled up, I decided we should go eat at the local spot I eat at every Friday, they make a mean breakfast burrito sans meat plus I had my bottle of Thai hot sauce in my purse since I was ready for eggs and heat. (note: does anyone other than a Black woman carry hot sauce in her bag?) The particular place we were headed is a place I have been eating at for years, the folks that work there almost border on being friends, they are cool folks, of course being in Maine, they are white, but shit they cook right, so that is all that matters when my tummy is growling.

Anyway T & I pull up and walk into the spot, I ask the waitress if she can still hook me up with breakfast since I knew breakfast was ending, she was like “Black girl for you no problem” So me and T sit down and I am ready to order. Now in case you haven’t figured out T is Black like me, we rarely get together because our schedules never mesh but we have the type of relationship that if one of us needs something we are there for the other. All this to say, we rarely are in the same place at the same time.

Well apparently it was the day for fools to look us up and down, I admit I was oblivious since I was just sipping my coffee but T who actually lives in the same town as the Bush family was like “why all these folks looking like they crazy” so I look up and sure enough I see a big homey white woman walking towards a sista, talking about my hair…. I am too tired to get too detailed but next thing I knew she is asking me about my hair and how I do it, then her husband gets in on the action and next thing you know these strange ass white folks is touching a sista’s locs. Noooooooo. The waitress is looking mortified, she is a bit of a roughneck so she tries to intervene, mind you I am already having a bad day.

Now nobody got hurt and I did end up having my breakfast and blowing off steam but not before the adult child of the two nimrods apologized profusely on behalf of her parents. After the dust settled my girl says to me that knowing my temper, she was surprised at how calm I was, truth is so was I. I hate people touching me and I hate people touching my locs even more especially since they were partially covered. That said, I knew it was the time and place to just be chill because I was already so mad this morning that had I snapped at the bumbling white folks, well.. a sista might not be writing this at the moment since I would be at the county lock-up and that’s no joke.

Getting old is teaching me when to let some things go and this was one of those times, but damn, yes I am Black, I have dreadlocks and yes I live here in town and I do know the family that runs this joint, so get the hell away from me, you crazy ass mofo.