So, back to regularly scheduled programming.
I went to a wedding a few weeks ago. Initially, I had intended to wear my hair in a flat twist out. The thing was, I had washed my hair the night before and it had not fully dried by the time I needed to leave for the wedding and I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to sit under the dryer. Did I despair, although my hair was a hot mess? No. Because I simply put it in a different style. Instead of wearing it out, I simply rolled and tucked most of it, leaving some of it out in the front for a bang. Frankly, I think the backup style suited my outfit and occasion a lot more than wearing it out would have and it looked way better and more elegant. If your intended style doesn’t come out the way you intended it to, style it a different way. It just may turn out better than you think.
Here are the results:
Not bad, eh?
I haven’t written about this topic for awhile, mainly because there really wasn’t much to tell. I’ve decided to do it now as I’m coming upon a dubious anniversary with it.
5 years ago this month (or in November, my memory gets fuzzier every year), I was told I had high risk HPV. I would like to say that it’s made me a stronger person and that I’ve learned a lot from it and all that jazz, but I can’t fake the funk. At least, not today. I have learned things from having it, that is true. However, there are certain things about it that I wish I didn’t have to learn. Frankly, for me at least, it has caused frustration and in some instances shame. Why? Mainly because there is still so much that is unknown about it, which results in stigma and confusion among the population at large. Among most people, the virus usually clears the system within 2 years. Actually, some doctors don’t think it ever clears your system, that it just goes dormant. This uncertainty over just whether it even goes away completely is just one of things that frustrate me about it. I’ve had it for 5 years. And counting. As I am 43 years old, the vaccine is of no help to me. It is possible that I contracted it in my 20’s and it was dormant until 5 years ago when it was detected in a pap smear. I’ve monitored my diet and exercised to no avail over all this time in an attempt to clear it or get it dormant. I started taking vitamins again over the summer but so far nothing. I’m only taking a multivitamin for now. I’ve seen message boards and blogs with other people with the virus who say they take 25 pills a day, but I’m not personally convinced that all those pills really do anything and it’s possible that the companies making them are getting rich off of people’s suffering. I had my latest pap smear a month ago and you guessed it-the virus is still active. I have to go for like my 10th colposcopy next week because the latest pap smear showed changes in my cells. Whether this will show dysplasia or not I don’t know. According to research, once you’ve had CIN I dysplasia there is a small chance of it recurring, but lately, I’ve taken everything I read about the virus with a grain of salt because I’m not a typical case.
It’s caused me shame because I lost a man I was dating last year because I disclosed it and he ran faster than the Road Runner. Since they can’t test for it in men and it’s so ubiquitous, a couple of friends have suggested that I shouldn’t have said anything. At the time, I thought I did the right thing by letting him know all the facts, but now I’m not so sure. There is the thought among some people that the burden for this virus is unfairly placed on women since the test for it is only available for us. The HPV test hasn’t been developed for men and there’s little interest in having one for them. They have literally no knowledge of it and can pass it on to God knows how many people. Some people feel disclosing it to them serves little purpose as they can’t do anything about it and many people get it sometime over the course of their lives anyway. Supposedly, up to 80% of the population will get it sometime during their lives. That’s how widespread it is. Another thing that’s so frustrating about the virus is that there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent it outside of abstinence as coital sex isn’t the only way a person can get it. Condoms aren’t 100% effective as the virus can live in skin cells in your groin or down at the base of the penis where the condom doesn’t cover.. You can get it through skin to skin contact, oral sex, etc. I’ve come to believe that the reason the HPV test isn’t being developed for men is mainly for political and social reasons, rather than biological since sexual activity among men is viewed in a favorable light, particularly among those who have a lot of partners. Sexual activity among women is still viewed in a number of circles in a negative light, regardless of how many partners she has. Developing a test that is only available for women, then scaring the hell out of them when they are told they’ve tested positive and then have them shouldering the burden of informing potential partners and making them out to be pariahs is one of our society’s ways of shaming and punishing women for having sex. I’m not dismissing cervical cancer, by any means. In fact, before the pap test was developed, it was the most common cancer among women. The pap smear is mainly responsible for cervical cancer being only the 9th or 10th most common cancer among women now. I just wish that the test for HPV was expanded to include both men and women, that the stigma surrounding it would ease and that shouldering such a heavy burden for disclosure for a virus that is so ubiquitous isn’t placed on only one sex. I’ve only dated twice over the last three years mainly because of this virus. It’s way easier not to go through the drama of whether or not to disclose and I don’t have to worry about passing it on to others. To take it further, I’m not sure I ever want to date or have sex ever again. Should the high risk strain virus I have ever go dormant with me, I don’t know if I can go through years of anxiety and shame again. As there are at least 100 strains of HPV, there’s no guarantee that I won’t ever get another strain if I become intimate with another person. So by not dating and having sex again, that possibility is removed. And honestly, right now, that sounds pretty good to me. Because for something that is so widespread, I can’t remember feeling more alone. Unless you have walked in the exact same shoes I’m walking right now, you have no clue how I feel. How angry and frustrated I am. How I’ve pretty much given up on intimate relationships because I feel as though I’m damaged goods. How much I feel judged by people because I know there are those who think I deserved this because I wasn’t a “good girl” who should have known better and kept her legs closed. I also know of the racist people out there who think I must have deserved it because “all black women are hos anyway.” Unless you have walked or are walking in my shoes, you can’t understand the emotional scars. You are advised to think positive as it might affect how quickly you clear the virus, but at this point, I call BS on that. I’ve lived with this for 5 fucking years. All the positive thinking I’ve ever done hasn’t affected me ONE iota. So right now, I’m coming to a realization that I will have this for the rest of my natural life. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s not the best either. I’m at a standstill and I hate it here.
So my third anniversary natural passed on September 19th without a peep from me. It honestly slipped my mind. A lot of things have been going on at my job of late so that explains why the anniversary went by unnoticed. Also, I’m just so used to being natural that it ceased being “weird” or “alternative to me a long time ago.
I’ve gone from this:
I don’t have a really strict regimen these days, as my life has gotten a little too hectic to have one. I still try to do a protein treatment and a deep conditioning treatment once a month (operative word is try). One thing about my hair that is an absolute must is that it cannot go more than 7 days without being washed. I can’t be one of those naturals that can wash her hair every two weeks or once a month. My hair won’t stand for it as my scalp will itch incessantly otherwise. It’s not a huge deal as I don’t spend an inordinate time on my hair on wash day as I neither have the time or the inclination. I didn’t want to stop spending 5 hours in a salon every few weeks only to start spending 5 or more hours doing my hair at home every week as I don’t want to be a slave to it. I have way more things in my life that I’d rather spend time on, so I don’t pre-poo, do all day or overnight deep conditioning or a couple of other things that other naturals do as they are way too time consuming. Many people think that caring for my hair must be this time sucking chore because it’s so coily and rough looking, but as I’ve stated in the past, it really isn’t. I’ve chosen not to spend an inordinate amount of time on it so that it doesn’t become a chore. It’s on par with showering and brushing my teeth for me. Basically, I use a lo-poo once or twice a month and co-wash all other times. I rotate products as I read years ago that if you use the same product for more than 90 days, it stops being effective. Right now, I’m loving the Shea Moisture Restorative shampoo. With co-washing, I rotate between Suave, Trader Joe’s Tree Tea Tingle and Curl Junkie Daily Fix. With leave ins, I rotate among KCKT, Curl Junkie Smoothing Lotion and this new product I discovered recently, Nubian Heritage Repair and Extend Detangling Leave-in Conditioner. With stylers and gels, I rotate among SM’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie, Curl Junkie’s Honey Butta or the Coco Creme, Curl Junkie Pattern Pusha and Ecostyler. After washing and plopping my hair for about 15 minutes, I will put it into about 12 braids or twists and let it set overnight. As far as twists go, I often do three strand ones or flat twists as those give my hair more definition. I only do regular two strand twists when I want to do a chunky fro, which is about once every two weeks. I also did do a number of wash and goes over the summer, but with the weather changing, I may be doing them less often as I don’t like to leave the house with wet hair in cold weather. I do have a diffuser, but I’ve realized that I don’t like to use heat on my hair too much as it makes it too dry and it can feel like straw. I can count on two hands the amount of times I used the diffuser last winter. From start to finish, it only takes me about two hours to do my hair on wash day, depending on whether I’m doing any treatments to it or not. On other days, when I’m just retwisting or rebraiding my hair to preserve a set, it only takes about ten minutes. And there you have it.
To kind of illustrate how ubiquitous natural hair is becoming, I was grocery shopping today and as I was about to push my cart into the checkout line, this woman behind me exclaimed, “Hey! Do you remember me?”
My mind was a total blank. I could swear that I had never laid eyes on the woman before. So I shook my head.
“Well, I remember you. I used to work at Millenium salon (a beauty salon in my neighborhood). I remember Nikki used to do your weaves.”
I still could not place the woman that was talking to me, but I did remember the stylist who used to do my weaves. She moved back to Trinidad over 4 years ago and I remember not liking the two other stylists who did my weaves after her. I find it hard to believe that I would spend 5 hours in a salon getting those done every six weeks, even though it wasn’t that long ago. It’s like it happened to a complete stranger.
“Yeah. It’s a shame Nikki moved away,” I said.
“Who does your hair now?” the woman asked.
The woman smiled. “You’re doing a good job.” Then she walked away, bobbing her platinum blond fro to the music that was playing in the store. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she no longer even does relaxers or weaves or has started only doing natural hair. The revolution won’t be televised.
This might be somewhat incoherent but this is mainly just catching up on some stuff from the past couple of weeks.
Had to blur and smudge my friend’s face, sorry.
My hair didn’t suffer as badly as I’d feared. I left the swim cap at home and I didn’t walk out of the suite with a buttload of conditioner in my hair. I just jumped in the pool and went about my business. It also helped that I didn’t go in the pool every single day-just three out of the seven days I was there. I had gone to the beach on another day. The day I went to the beach, I just co-washed with CJ Smoothing Lotion afterward. The other times I did go in the pool, I washed with KC Come Clean, then followed with the CJ Smoothing Lotion. Then I styled with KCKT (Kinky Curly Knot Today) and sealed with grapeseed oil or used the KCKT and the KCCC, followed by air drying. That’s it. It was very warm and humid there, so my hair didn’t take as long to air dry as it would if I were in an air conditioned environment all day. My hair didn’t have any adverse reactions, which I was glad to see.
Also, I think I finally found a lo-poo that I like. For the nearly three years that I’ve been natural, I’ve tried several different lo-poos and never liked them-Trader Joe’s Nourish Spa, Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle (still love the conditioners though), Kinky Curly Come Clean, Deva No Poo and one or two others I can’t remember right now. I found all of the previously mentioned lo and no poos just as drying as any sulfate shampoo, which curlies are advised to avoid as they strip out all of the hair’s natural oils and make our naturally dry hair even drier. I wouldn’t use shampoo on my hair often for this reason-just once or twice a month. The rest of the time, I’d co-wash. I’d seen positive reviews in the past for the Shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo and just happened to pick it up at Target on Friday, as I’d run out of the Kinky Curly Come Clean. Well actually, I’d left Cancun with about a third of a bottle left of the Kinky Curly Come Clean, but it somehow spilled in the bag during the flight home. Luckily it was in a separate compartment and it didn’t get on my clothes, but it was still annoying. That lo-poo only costs about $12 in the store, so it’s not such a small matter that some of it got wasted. The thing I really am coming to hate about traveling these days is the fact that the products I have to take with me often get wasted in this manner. If anyone has any suggestions on how this can be prevented in the future, please comment!
Well, anyway, I got the Moisture Retention shampoo and used it today. I immediately fell in love with it. It is the first shampoo I’ve ever used that did not strip my hair and leave it dry. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was a conditioner because that’s how moisturized and soft it left my hair. It does lather, so it does have some strong surfecting agents that conditioners usually don’t have, but dang! I just may use this every week and not just once or twice a month. My holy grail regimen is now complete! I now have a trusted shampoo, some rinse-out conditioners I rotate, trusted leave -in and stylers. So happy.
So, my birthday was on the 19th of August. My hair looked stunning! I got a lot of compliments on it. I wore it in a in flat twist out. Since I’m posting from my job right now and don’t have my camera, the picture will have to wait until later. But I had great hair.
Also, I’m going on vacation to Cancun tomorrow for a week. Something I’ve been waiting all summer for. The thing that always vexes me about traveling is how many and what kind of hair products to bring. I didn’t have this issue when I was relaxed. I often didn’t even bring hair stuff with me when I traveled back then. I just wouldn’t wash it when I was away. Now that I know better, I can do better, but it can be difficult. I’ve written about this issue before but it does bear repeating. I can’t use those little containers of shampoo and conditioner that hotels provide for you as both would be too harsh for my hair. And you can’t take more than 3 ounces of liquid in a carry on or it’ll get confiscated. I’ve had that happen before. However, taking hair products in checked luggage has proven to be problematic for me in the past as well. Two years ago on a trip to Cananda, the top of the container of hair gel I had in a checked bag somehow came loose and the gel spilled all over inside the bag. It was real fun to clean that up. And I can’t leave the hair products behind as we’ll be by a pool all week. And the chlorine is supposedly really damaging on curly and kinky hair, so going all week without washing it out is not an option. And I still have no idea how I’ll be wearing my hair all week, though doing a wash and go seems like the best option. I won’t have the time or inclination to retwist or rebraid it all week. Some naturals would get braid extensions and I’ve done the same in the past, but in hindsight, they often did more damage to my hair than not by stylists braiding it too tightly which caused thinning to my hairline, so those are no longer an option for me.
One of the reasons why I and other women choose to go natural is so that we can go to the pool or the beach without fear of messing up our hair. But I’ve seen a number of articles over the last couple of years over what you should do to protect your kinks from salt water or pool water and the suggestions often seem time intensive and depending on your particular situation, they can also seem impractical, so it some ways, they can kind of defeat the purpose and you may as well have kept the chemicals in your hair. The common suggestions are dousing your hair with water and conditioner and slapping on a swim cap before getting in the pool or the lake or the ocean so that you won’t get as much salt water or chlorine in your hair. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find swim caps attractive. Not a good look for lounging around the pool or even being in the water. Also, some naturals with very thick hair complain that those caps don’t fit their heads, as they are designed for those with straight or thin hair, so they don’t have that option. Going out by the pool with conditioner in my hair, without that swim cap? Um, no. I really am not in the mood to explain to everyone at that resort all week as to why I have to go out there with white stuff in my hair. So yeah. #naturalhairproblems. Or you think this is particularly annoying #firstworldproblems. I’m prepared to just jump in the pool without any protection and suffer the consequences. I’ll see how my hair does.
I just want to put this out there, because I’ve never really seen this subject addressed before. Certain points pertaining to this subject have been addressed before, both here and elsewhere, but not everything.
I happen to be introverted, a personality trait that isn’t understood or liked very well in our society. Western culture in generally is geared toward extroversion and our institutions extol and praise extroverted traits. Our offices mainly have open floor plans where people sit on top of each other in small cubicles, working in teams is often highly emphasized both in the workplace and in school, etc. Introverts are stereotyped as shy and anti-social but that’s not the case for many of them. Shyness and introversion are not one and the same thing, though a lot of people think they are because of the fact that shy people and/or introverts tend to be less social than what extroverts consider to be “normal.” So what is a shy person? What is an extrovert? What is an introvert? Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Extroverts draw their energy from being around other people and hate being alone. Introverts draw their energy from within themselves and usually are fine with being alone, as being around other people for long stretches drains them. Extroverts tend to like being the center of attention and don’t mind huge crowds, things which tend to make introverts cringe. Introverts prefer to deal with others one on one or in a small group. There isn’t anything wrong with being one or the other, it’s just how our brains are wired. Yet because introverts aren’t as readable or easy to know, extroverts try to convince them all the time that something must be wrong with them and if they were only like their extroverted selves, they would be happier. This assumption makes me furious, because for a good part of my life, I was deemed arrogant, snotty or just plain weird and told that I was “too quiet” and I assumed that if I were more outgoing, I’d be more well liked and accepted. My attempts to change an intrinsic part of myself failed of course, because behaving in ways that weren’t natural to me was awkward and people sensed that. I even contemplated suicide over the issue when I was younger because why would I want to go through the rest of my life as a freak and an outcast? It wasn’t until a little over a decade ago that I began accepting my introversion and now I have no desire to change whatsoever. I may not have as many friends as extroverts do but the ones I do have are close and meaningful, something that can’t be said for a lot of extroverts, who tend to have a lot of shallow relationships and few deep connections with anyone.
As far as it relates to hair, I see profiles of newly natural and long time natural women all the time who remark that one of the reasons they went natural is because their voluminous hair seemed to suit their personality better because they are so outgoing. Where does that assessment leave me? Even though I have fine hair, it’s still fuller than it ever was when it was relaxed. But because I don’t have a gregarious personality to go along with my hair, I have to wonder if a number of people think that natural hair just doesn’t suit me as people sometimes equate big or curly hair with a big personality. Not that I care what other people think. My hair never really took to relaxers well and fake hair also damaged my strands. So for both practical and emotional reasons, being natural is the only way for me to go. However, it took a few months for me to adjust to it and there were times when I nearly went back to relaxers because I wasn’t sure if I was confident enough to wear my hair the way it grew out of my scalp. Ignorant comments from people who don’t understand natural hair can easily wear a person down if they aren’t prepared. It didn’t take long for me to learn that in order to be successful as a natural, you have to transition your mind and well as your hair. Confidence isn’t reserved for people with just one personality trait. It’s something that can be learned and built upon no matter where you are on the personality spectrum. Honestly, if it were not for sites like Naturally Curly and Black Girl with Long Hair, where I saw people flourishing with their natural hair, I doubt I would have developed the confidence and the skills to continue on this journey.
I also have to say that being introverted with the kind of hair that isn’t widely accepted can draw attention to yourself that you may not necessarily want. Speaking only for myself, it can be draining to answer questions about how I got my hair to look the way it does because I either get blank stares or exclamations that the person asking could never go natural because they don’t have good hair. It can be threatening and violating to have people just reach out with their grubby hands to touch it, often without asking permission. It’s not in my nature to want to be in the spotlight, but introverted naturals sometimes are because our hair is a novelty in a lot of circles. I still haven’t found effective ways in order to deal with this issue. Which makes me wonder if natural hair is best suited for extroverts. Do you really think that certain textures or hairstyles suit certain personalities more than others? I’d like to know.