Black Beauty

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.

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.