Bandanas and Blackness at the Gym….A Very Bad Mix

When you write a blog called Black Girl in Maine, I guess it’s no surprise that at a certain point, people remember you when shady racial incidents go down in the state of Maine.  A local reader of both my columns and this space contacted me today to ask if I had heard about what had happened to a local Black woman. I had not but curiosity got the best of me and I did some sleuthing (shout out to the Man Unit aka the real J-school grad and journalist who has taught me a few tricks of his trade).

What I found left me speechless and pissed off and with a story that needs to be shared. This local woman lives in Maine’s largest city, Portland and she is a member of certain nationwide chain of gyms who claims as one of their many selling points to be a “Judgment Free Zone where members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.”

One would imagine that with a philosophy like that one could go to the gym and get their sweat on in peace but apparently when you are a Black woman at the gym wearing a bandana on your head, you are suspect. See, this local woman was approached by the gym staff and told that her choice of headgear violated the club’s policy on headgear specifically “no headgear other than ball caps”  this gal was wearing a bandana to keep the sweat out of her eyes. Now while I don’t belong to any gym, once upon a time in my former life, I did and I specifically remembering using a scarf on my head. I don’t do baseball caps…ever.  But I digress, the story gets better, this woman (who has asked that at the moment I not share her name publicly though if you are in Maine, chances are you already know who this is)  the staff informed her when she questioned that policy that in some areas bandanas insight gang affiliations.

Yep, this black woman who at the time was the only fly in the buttermilk at the gym was told that she could not wear a bandana (which was white) to keep sweat off of her face because she might be trying to throw up gang signs on the treadmill. First off, this is Maine, like the whitest damn state in America or is it the second whitest this year? We tussle every year with Vermont for the top spot. Getting back to the point though, this woman visually surveyed the space and saw others wearing headgear other than hats but no one was telling them, that they might be inciting the next war between the “lobsters” and the “shrimps”.

To approach a Black woman and tell her that her choice of headgear might incite gang activity is to play into some of the basest stereotypes that exist about Black people in general. I am pretty certain I have never heard of a gang war breaking out at any gym. Furthermore, without even seeing this woman in her gym attire, I am pretty certain that she didn’t look like a gang member but when we only see the color of one’s skin and not the character of one’s content, it is easy to give in to stereotypes.

In the end this woman will be leaving this judgment free zone gym but clearly the staff of the Portland, Maine location might want to consider some sensitivity and diversity training since apparently the manager wouldn’t even make eye contact with this woman when she complained.

Just another day in America of living while Black…but hey, Happy Black History Month.

Its gone

I swear I won’t have too many more posts about my hair…drum-roll please…. I cut it off last night! Yep, I had planned to wait until I got paid and had some extra cash so I could go to get it colored right away but last night I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I said screw it, got the Spousal Unit’s shears and just took my locs off.

So how do I feel? A lot better than I expected to be honest, yes I need to get my hair shaped up but at the moment I have no regrets. As a few friends commented, I still have a fair chuck of hair left on my head. (I really did have a fro underneath my locs) since as the Spousal Unit noted I don’t even have a TWA at this point. (TWA= tiny weeny afro)

As I cut each one off, I felt a certain sense of lightness and actually woke up without the customary headache, damn, my locs were heavy. So where do I go from here? For the next few days I will just rock it in its crazy state and then go see who can shape me up. We do actually have a Black barber locally who cuts elder boy’s hair when he is home so I do have a place to go, though there is a Black female stylist around who while I may not have entrusted my locs to her will do for cleaning me up.

I suppose at a later date, I will write about the spiritual side of letting go of my locks though at the moment, lighter really is the best word to describe how I am feeling.  I had no idea just how weighed down I had been feeling but right now its clear that I was weighed down.

Anyway have a happy weekend!

Leaning towards….

Recently I wrote about my hair woes, and actually got a lot of feedback. To recap, I have dreadlocks aka locs. I have been growing my much beloved locs for 5 years now, but we have reached the point where my babies are looking a tad unkempt. In good financial times, I would head to Brooklyn to visit a woman I am told could definitely get my hair back in order since living in Maine, I lack access to folks who know what to do with natural unprocessed hair.

As I admitted in my other posts about my hair, my locs are not just hair. They were started as direct result of my Mom’s untimely death 5 years ago, its something I had thought about for years but her death and the realization that life is short prompted me to just do it. (sorry Nike, I just had to use your slogan)

I admit over the years the journey that I have been on emotionally and spiritually has been reflected in my my locs and my relationship to them. I love em but recently after the posts I did, I have started to feel as if I could sense my Mom’s presence (I swear I am not going crazy) and each time its happened, I could almost hear her voice telling me its time to get rid of them. Now my Mom was always open to my natural hair but she was also a pretty snazzy dresser and quite into couture, she always looked amazing. No, the simple truth is if she were here she would say get rid of em and at least start all over again because right now, I simply look raggedy about the head.

The first time I had that realization about a week ago, I shook it off but its continued to haunt me. Yet I must admit like many women I have fell into the length trap, my hair is quite long and for all the bitching I do about my hair its been a nice ride as a long haired woman. In some ways I get amused because I often get the question even living in Maine “Is that really all my hair?” Sometimes I get amused and sometimes I get pissed since at times I wonder is it because there is the perception that Black women don’t have long hair. So on some level I know that fuels my desire to keep the length despite the fact my hair is not as healthy as it could be.

However as someone who has always embraced change when its put in my face, yesterday I had an ephiphany about how freeing it would be to just cut my hair off and for once fear was not in my heart as I thought about it. I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, a white man who is a stylist and colorist for Aveda who told me flat out that he thought I would look a lot better with a short do that he would be happy to color for me. Can I say thoughts of shades of red are dancing in my head. Along with thoughts of how nice 3-4 inches would feel on my head…can we say the ultimate in wash and go.

I tried this weekend to retwist the new growth that had caused me to have a afro in the midst of my locs and let me just say…um NO. It did not come out well and my arms were killing me when I was done.

Letting go sometimes is hard but I am starting to embrace the idea that change is in the air and that this may be the change I need to make. The past 5 years have been the hardest I have ever gone through and lately I feel weighed down by so much in my life, even my hair. I need to be lighter in my journey. Don’t get me wrong I love dreads but wonder if I should restart this journey at a different stage in my life, not one born out of pain and grief.

So guess you can say I am leaning towards making the big chop though I have decided to sit on this for 30 days just to be sure. After all if I cut it off too soon its not as if I can just stick it back on my head.