Archive for September, 2011

Sorting

Posted in coping with HPV with tags , , , , , , , on September 29, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Just wanted to discuss something that I’m just beginning to realize. So three days ago, I got the results from the colposcopy I had early last week in reference to the HPV. It was sort of good news. I don’t have any dysplasia, or precancerous, abnormal cells. That’s been the case for over a year. For about two years before that, I had mild dysplasia. According to the research I’ve been doing, the recommended course of treatment is to really do nothing, since mild dysplasia tends to clear about 70% of the time within 2 years. I’ve cleared the dysplasia but I haven’t cleared the virus completely. According to what I’ve been able to ascertain, the virus itself could go into a dormant state at any time. With the strain of the virus that I have, I’m being told on various STD sites online that I should consider myself lucky. Other people have had moderate dysplasia progress into cervical cancer within a year. It’s still very frustrating because I’m still testing positive for HPV even though I don’t have dysplasia. I’m not completely out of the woods in reference to the dysplasia either. There’s no guarantee that it won’t return in the future and come back in a more severe form. I’m working on accepting the fact that I’ll have to be monitored closely for possibly the rest of my life.

The saddest thing is that a lot of the stuff I just posted aren’t things that my doctor told me. I had to find a lot of this stuff out through the Internet. Many doctors are rushed and cram a lot patients into their offices every day, so they can’t take the time to thoroughly explain things to you. The end result is that you’re clueless because you really don’t know what kinds of questions to ask, so the quality of care you get is fairly haphazard. Having been in the managed care industry for 11 years, I can tell you that the main reason why this happens is because the government and commercial health plans are cutting reimbursement to doctors, so they have to make up that revenue by cramming more and more patients into their day, meaning they spend less and less time with you. You may wonder why you’re paying more for your health plan if the doctors aren’t getting more money. Well that’s primarily because the increase isn’t necessarily going to the doctors or to improve your care, but to line the pockets of senior executives. All this to benefit the avarice of a few.

Also, let’s face it, the medical establishment is racist and sexist. Generally, diseases that affect mainly women and people of color don’t get nearly the same amount of funding for research as diseases that primarily affect white men, since women and people of color are marginalized in our society. And for diseases that are common across all racial and ethnic groups and both sexes, sometimes symptoms that are common in one race and/or gender will be different among another race/gender. For example, most of the studies in the past concerning heart attacks were done on white men and the most common symptom is the feeling of your chest being grabbed. However, women who have heart attacks don’t have the same symptoms as men do. Women often report nausea and tingling during a heart attack, when men usually report that feeling that their chest is being hammered. As a result, heart attacks in women are more likely to be missed and women are more likely to die from them. Shocking, isn’t it? I have second hand experience with this because this happened to the mother of a supervisor at my last job. It was thought that her nausea was food poisoning but she died minutes after reaching the ER. The autopsy showed she had a heart attack. This needless death might have been prevented if doctors and the public in general were more educated about these differences. Furthermore, partly due to marginalization of a number of groups and partly due to the fact that we’re a litigious society, doctors either won’t prescribe all the tests and treatment that someone needs believing that the person will be noncompliant anyway or they’ll go overboard and send people for tests and treatments that are unnecessary in order to cover their behinds. The marginalization issue and the overuse of litigation are issues that obviously go beyond the medical establishment. This isn’t to say that the way that I’ve been treated for the HPV is lacking. From what I’ve been able to ascertain from the Internet, my doctor has been doing all of the standard things. I’ve seen stories where some people’s doctors suggest hysterectomies for severe dysplasia, when it isn’t even considered an invasive cancer, but pre-cancer. My main complaint is that I’m not able to communicate with the doctor about the condition in the way I’d like to, bu I know why I’m not able to. My past denial about the matter prevented me from reaching out and advocating for my health and I’m starting to realize that I can’t afford to keep sticking my head in the sand. I need to take greater responsibility for advocating for my health as nobody else is about to do that. I’m lucky in that my condition has never gotten to the point where it was severe but if it did, it’s possible that I might have agreed to treatments that weren’t in my best interests because I felt helpless and hopeless. The information that’s out there is actually a little overwhelming but it’s one of my best defenses against the virus. It’s best to advocate for yourself and find out as much information as you can about any illness, not just major ones like cancer, so you can make decisions that you’re most comfortable with. I wish it hadn’t taken me four years to reach that conclusion.

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Type F=FAIL

Posted in art, books, cat cancer, Natural hair care with tags , , , , on September 25, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Before I get to discussing the title of this post, I just wanted to catch up a bit.

I went to an opening of a new book release on Friday night. A friend of a friend has a few pictures published in it. The title of the book is called “Infinite Instances: Studies and Images of Time” and it’s purpose was to meld science and art in a study about time. It’s a rather academic book, so most people won’t be that interested, but I’m excited that my friend of a friend’s contributions were published. Some info about the book is here:

http://www.dexigner.com/directory/detail/18735.html

And the pictures that appear in the book are here:

http://catrutgers.com/archetime.html

Awesome, eh?

Yesterday morning, I took Hazel to the vet for her followup after her surgery. That cone that she had to wear for two weeks is history, as the surgical incision has healed. She hated that thing. She’d scratch and grab it, trying to tear it off. She still can’t blink her right eye though, so I still have to continue giving her the eye lubricant. The jury’s still out on whether Hazel will ever regain that function, but it’s a minor concern relative to the tumor. She has been deemed cured of the tumor so it’s sweet news.

I also went to the DUMBO Arts Festival in the afternoon. In this case, DUMBO is not the Disney character, it’s a neighborhood. It’s an acronym that stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge.” When I was growing up, there wasn’t much there but abandoned factories and storefronts, but it’s been built up in the last decade. The festival itself was pretty nice. One cool exhibit had magnets of different things on a glass table-a trumpet, a car, a train, etc. If you moved the magnet around, you could hear sounds corresponding to the object coming from a speaker. So if you moved the magnet of a trumpet around, you could hear an actual trumpet blowing. I can imagine that kids would have a ball with it. I had organized the outing as a Meetup event, but out of nine people who rsvp’d, only one showed up and she had to leave within 90 minutes. There were a couple of other exhibits that I had wanted to see after she left, so I just saw them alone and left around 45 minutes later.  Most of the no shows didn’t bother informing me of their change in plans, even though I usually give out my cell phone number within 2 hours of the scheduled event time. This wasn’t the first time I’d scheduled events for this particular group only to have no one show up or just one person. There’s no way that there can be a vibrant group without willing participants and if people aren’t willing, why should I waste my time?  I was fed up enough to send an e-mail after I got home informing the group that I would be charging a nominal fee for all events going forward in an attempt to cut down on flakiness and to announce that if people no-show for three events, they’d be removed from the group. A few people have already left the group, which I knew would happen. I really don’t care, because they aren’t the type of people I want in the group anyway.

So, on to the discussion of what the title means. Over the last couple of days, the online natural hair community has been buzzing over a series of videos on the website Type F, which is endorsed by Tyra Banks. The videos that I’ve posted below have to be the worst I’ve ever seen in reference to natural hair care. And these aren’t the only ones, either.  These are just a sample of the wretchedness that’s out there. There’s a lot more of them where they came from.

What totally astounds me about these videos is that, first of all, Joann’s hair is totally jacked up. It’s extremely dry, damaged and tangled up. It needs deep conditioning and detangling with the quickness. If someone is going to make videos giving tips on hair care, their hair should at least be presentable. My jaw was practically on the floor when I was watching these. There is absolutely no information whatsoever about even the basics of natural hair care, which is namely, moisturizing, sealing the moisture in your hair with an oil and butter and protecting the integrity of natural hair. In the video where she’s blow drying her hair, there’s no mention of using the blow dryer at a low setting at all. There’s also no mention of using a heat protectant.  Blow drying is basically using direct heat on your strands and without a heat protectant and using the blow dryer on low or cool, you will damage your hair. In the video about ” laying your afro down,” she runs a paddle brush through her DRY highly textured hair. You can hear the strands crackle and pop while she’s brushing them. One of the first things you learn as a new natural is that you NEVER comb or brush your hair while it is bone dry as it causes breakage. The fact that Joann did not moisturize and seal her hair with something before using that brush is criminal. The funniest thing of all is that she mentions that she’s a licensed hair stylist in all the videos. I don’t know where she got that license from, but it needs to be revoked. How hard could it have been for Tyra and her people to vet this woman before they shot and uploaded these videos? I’m concerned that new naturals will stumble upon these videos and take Joann’s advice since she’s supposedly a professional. I will guarantee that if anyone took her advice, they’d be bald. Those natural hair videos aren’t the only ones on Type F. There are makeup videos, videos on caring for relaxed hair, wavy hair and more loosely textured curly hair. I haven’t seen them, but those who have state that they aren’t much better. There are dozens of bloggers and vloggers on You Tube who give better tips than anyone on Type F. Tyra should have consulted them. I am not a licensed hair stylist and I am no expert by any means, even after two years of being fully natural, but I can assure you that my hair is in better shape than Joann’s.

My hair for the past week:

Incidentally, as per Cass’s blog, Type F did put out a statement early this morning advising that they were thanking all those who took the time to voice their concerns on the website and that they would be removing the videos. They did disable the playlist for the natural hair videos, but if you do a search for them, they are still there as of this writing. We’ll see how that plays out.

Limbo

Posted in coping with HPV, HPV with tags , , , , , , , on September 20, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Yesterday, I had to do something I’d been putting off for awhile. I had to go to the ob-gyn in relation to the HPV. I’d had a pap smear in July which of course came back abnormal with HPV and was told to have a colposcopy but I didn’t want the rest of my summer ruined.  Supposedly, 90% of those who have active infections clear it within 2 years. It’s been 4 years for me and I’m in that lucky 10% where it hasn’t cleared. But then, even though most people supposedly clear it, a number of experts think that the virus simply goes into a dormant state and doesn’t really leave the body, so it’s best to think that once you’re diagnosed, you’ll have it for life. The virus has caused me to have dysplasia, which are abnormal cells in the cervix. There’s no symptoms with it. There’s a mild form, a moderate form and a severe form and also low grade and high grade forms. Mine happens to be mild and low grade and supposedly, in most cases, it would have regressed and cleared itself by now, so there’s no real treatment for it except to monitor it. Every few months, it has be monitored by way of a colposcopy. It sounds scary, but it’s basically a microscope that looks into your cervix. They take cells for a biopsy and if they still indicate a low grade dysplasia, nothing further is really done. I’m simply told to get another pap smear within six months, because my condition is supposedly mild enough to have cleared itself by now. The colposcopy isn’t exactly a picnic as there is mild cramping with the procedure. Yesterday, I did ask if I could get a LEEP procedure, which is a little more invasive in which the abnormal cells are scraped off by radio waves, but my doctor said my condition isn’t severe enough for it. The advantage to a LEEP is that the abnormal cells would at least be gone for a while and is actually a treatment, which I’m not getting now. Another way to actually treat this is a hysterectomy, but that usually isn’t done unless you actually have cervical cancer. IMO, there’s no need to do something as extremely invasive as that unless it’s really necessary. I get the results within 10 days. Usually, I’m told that there haven’t been any changes and that my condition hasn’t gotten any worse but it’s frustrating because it’s not getting any better either. There’s no medicine that can cure this and the vaccine they have now was developed around 20 years too late for me as I’m 42 years old and it’s only given to girls from ages 9-26. The vaccine doesn’t protect against all 100 odd strains of this virus anyway. It only protects against the 3 or 4 high risk strains, like I have. Personally, if I were young enough to get the vaccine, I’d think twice because what good is it if it doesn’t protect against everything? And no, vitamins don’t work and I already exercise 3-5 days a week and I eat healthy most of the time, which are usually most of the things that people suggest you do to clear the virus. There’s nothing else I can do outside of what I’m already doing. So, I’m in limbo.

I don’t have the words to describe how frustrated I am. Even though I am frustrated, I have to keep being vigilant about getting checkups because I don’t want to have my life to potentially end up being cut short because I slacked off. I have found some YouTube videos where some people discuss living with HPV and I’ve been finding that more helpful than online forums, because the people doing them aren’t faceless. They’re normal everyday people like myself who weren’t promicuous or prostitutes but got something as common as the cold. Yet because it involves sex organs, there’s a stigma behind it. I’m not a religious person, so I don’t find much comfort in trite religious sayings such as, “God won’t give you more than you can bear,” or “God is testing you,” or some variation. Right now, I feel like the universe is playing some cruel joke because just when I thought I was at a point when I felt at peace with myself, I have to experience more emotional pain. And I’m tired.

Naturalversary!

Posted in curly/kinky hair, hair growth, Natural hair care with tags , , , , , , , on September 18, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Hey, all! I had a good weekend. Hope yours was just as good. Last night, I went to the World Bar with a friend for a singles event. It’s in the Trump World Tower and it’s located a few blocks from the UN. The decor is mainly beige and the chairs and sofas were all square shaped. I did like the ambiance of the place but the space is small. Also, the cost of the drinks were exorbitant. But I had a good time. It was good to be social after everything I’ve been through lately. I even got a free T shirt out of it.

Today, I went to a street fair in another friend’s neighborhood. I actually lived there as well over 10 years ago, but I moved 10-15 minutes away 9 years ago. There were the usual things there-vendors selling food, jewelry, clothes and promoting local businesses. There were also a few rides for the kids. I just bought a plate of West Indian food-curry chicken, rice, potatoes and chick peas and hung out with the friend for a couple of hours, so it was a nice day overall.

Today is also significant in that this is the second anniversary of my BC (big chop)! This was after around 18 months without getting a relaxer. Even though I didn’t put much thought into doing one initially, I don’t regret it. The freedom I have with natural hair is immeasurable. No more spending 5 hours in a salon. No more burns. No more scabs. No more limp and lifeless hair. I no longer have to avoid rain, humidity and exercise. I now control my hair. My hair doesn’t control me. Total bliss.

I don’t have any pictures from right after I did the BC. It didn’t occur to me that I’d need to take any to track my progress. This picture from January 2010 is one of the earliest I have:

These are from Summer 2010:

January 2011. I look tired in this picture. It was after a party I’d had in my house:

Last week:

I started with hair that was around chin length. Now the back layer is nearly APL. How did I do it? I mostly just did and still do the basics, which are:

  1. I rarely sleep without a satin bonnet, satin scarf or satin pillowcase. Cotton pillowcases rob the moisture from your hair and leave it dry and strawlike. They can also lead to breakage. I found this out a few weeks ago firsthand.
  2. I moisturize and seal every day. I’ll either use a moisturizer with water as the first ingredient or a leave in with water as a top ingredient, depending on how dry my hair is. Then I seal with either jojoba oil or shea butter. Not moisturizing and sealing every day will lead to dryness and breakage.
  3. As my hair got longer, I discovered that I had to wash it in sections as I was losing too much hair while detangling. Some naturals wash their hair in twists or braids but I don’t like to do so. The one time I tried it that way, the twists kept unraveling and I didn’t feel that my hair got clean. What I do is I separate my hair into four loose sections, secure with duck bill clips, detangle with my fingers under running water with conditioner, wash and/or condition each section, then move on to the next section.
  4. A lot of naturals swear by protective styling to retain length, but as I’ve mentioned before, certain protective styles look horrid on me and there are others that I can’t do as they’ll stress my fragile edges too much. I gave up on them as of this spring. I’ll see what happens over the winter when the cold and dry air try to destroy my strands, but I plan to wear the same wash and goes, twistouts and braidouts I’ve been wearing. I do have to invest in a diffuser, though.

You may have also noticed that color I had in my hair before. I got the color on the day of my BC at the salon I went to. I got tired of it after around 6 months, but I had learned by then that commercial hair dyes aren’t the best for your hair as they can dry it out and damage it so I decided to just grow it out. At this point, it’s almost all gone from my hair. My future plans for my hair involve using henna as it’s a natural rinse that won’t damage it unlike commercial dyes. I also hear it can strengthen hair. I have very fine hair, so it can use all the strengthening it can get. Whenever I get around to doing a treatment, I’ll let you know.

I had planned on washing and deep treating my hair today actually, but I was kind of tired after the street fair. It doesn’t really need  to be washed that badly. I tend to wash my hair on Sunday out of habit. I’ll just do it tomorrow. I plan on just putting it into about 8 twists before bed, then wear it in a twistout or curly fro tomorrow.

Later.

Hair ends

Posted in cats, curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care, Uncategorized on September 16, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

First, an Hazel update: Her antibiotic medication was switched from liquid to pill form yesterday. Even though I’d put the liquid antibiotic in her food, she simply wasn’t getting the full dosage of it as she wouldn’t eat it all. With the pills, I put them in those pill pocket treats from Greenies and Hazel gobbles them up. She’s probably less able to taste the medicine that way. So far, so good. She’s doing okay otherwise, so that’s another plus.

Okay, back on the hair tip today. I’m sure you’re all thrilled. In the midst of all the crap I’ve been through, I neglected to say that I dusted my ends a couple of weeks ago. It’s simply a mini-trim. My ends were really jacked up and I was getting knots like crazy. The amount of knots that I’ve gotten since the dusting have been reduced considerably. Since I’ve gone fully natural, I’ve trimmed my hair myself. I’ve had numerous negative experiences in salons whereby I’d tell the stylist that I only wanted about a half an inch of hair trimmed and before I knew it, three inches were gone from my hair. If I do it myself, I know that only the amount that I want trimmed will be done and no more. The last picture here shows the result of my dusting in which my ends don’t look so frayed. If I didn’t mistrust hair stylists so much, I suppose I could go to a salon for a professional and neater trim, since my hair is kind of uneven as it is. You don’t have to cut your hair that evenly with curly or kinky hair because the coils in your hair hide unevenness. Also, my uneven hair isn’t that noticeable to other people but at part of me would like something more polished. The issue isn’t just stylists that ignore my wishes, it’s what a trim would cost. Natural salons charge half a fortune and many of them flat iron your hair and then trim it. I limit the use of direct heat on my hair because of the potential for damage. And at this point, nobody would know what my hair needs as much as I do.

On one hair board the other day, somebody posted that some white acquaintance of hers commented that her hair must take a very long time to do and she was feeling some kind of way about it. I went on a tour to Canada last year and roomed with this older Australian woman. A couple of days into the trip she remarked the same thing-that my hair must take a long time to do. I’ll tell you right now that in my case, that statement is false. I’m fairly lazy when it comes to my hair. If it takes me more than 90 minutes to do it, including the time it takes to wash it, I don’t bother. That may be a lot of time to some people, but I have to take into account that I have to be more gentle in handling my hair than other people. Because my hair is so tightly coiled, it is actually more fragile than straight hair, which a lot of people find hard to believe. Black natural hair may look coarse and tough, but in a lot of cases, Afro-American natural hair is like mine-fine and thin. I’ve heard white friends and acquaintances say they’ve damaged their hair with color, flat irons and blow drying but since they tend to have looser textures and their hair isn’t as fragile, most of the time, it takes longer for their damage to show. It’s not out of the question for my hair to get damaged with flat ironing just ONE time, whereas with looser textures, it could takes months of flat ironing for it to get damaged. I can’t just run a comb through my hair and comb it from the root down to the end. For one thing, I can’t use fine toothed combs that straighties use. They’ll rip out my hair. I can only use wide tooth ones. Also, combing my hair from the top down would damage my hair. I have to comb from the bottom up and gently work out any tangles I encounter. If I’m not able to comb the tangle out, I use my fingers. With that said, it only takes me about 15 minutes to detangle my hair, primarily because I stretch it with twistouts/braidouts and because my hair isn’t thick. This is the one time where having fine hair can be a blessing. I pity thick haired naturals who have one hour detangling sessions.   

So anyhoo, lately my main styles have been a wash and go, braidouts and twistouts, with puffs and curly fros here and there. None of those styles in and of themselves take more than an hour and puffs and curly fros take just 5 minutes to do. I feel there’s more to life than being a slave to my hair. There are some naturals who take around 6 hours to do their hair in certain protective styles, like braids and twists, because they want them really small and neat. More power to them. I ain’t one of them. While I initially arrived on that Canada trip, my hair was in a braidout. It took me about 10 or 15 minutes each night to rebraid my hair into about 8-12 braids. The next day, it took about 10 minutes to take the braids outs, moisturize, seal and fluff my hair. That was it. The one time I washed my hair on that trip and did a wash and go, it took a little over an hour. That roommate, who had naturally straight hair, washed her hair every other day, then took about 45 minutes to blow dry her hair. Her hair routine took as much if not more time than mine. And her hair wasn’t as versatile either, whereas I can change my curl pattern whenever I want to. In short, however amount of time you want to put into your hair is up to you.

Surviving

Posted in cats on September 12, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

I spent a rare weekend doing fairly little. Partly because Hazel was in the hospital but also partly because I don’t think I was fit to be around others. I also didn’t watch a millisecond of media coverage on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It would have saddened and infuriated me. Saddened because 3,000 innocent lives were lost for no reason and infuriated because it’s often as much about people making a political statement as it is a tragedy. I was in New York City that day, albeit not near the World Trade Center. I was working in Midtown at the time, across the street from the Empire State building actually. We were given orders to evacuate the building about a half hour after the second place struck the towers. I’ll never forget seeing the smoke from the towers 2 or 3 miles away as I made my way toward the Brooklyn Bridge to walk home, as the subways had been shut down. It took me all day to walk home. I don’t need a reminder from CNN about that day as it’ll live within me the rest of my life.

So, I brought Hazel home from the hospital yesterday. Her fur around her right ear was completely shaved off and she has to wear a collar at all times so that she won’t lick or otherwise touch the surgical site. This is her from before:

And this is Hazel earlier today:

It’s hard to believe she’s the same cat. It’s more than a quarter of Hazel’s fur is gone and that she has to wear that collar for the next two weeks. The ear canal that the surgeon removed is near the eye muscle that controls blinking and she sustained some minor damage in that area in that she can’t blink her right eye. Hazel may or may not ever regain that function. We’ll know for sure within the next two weeks or so when I take her back to the surgeon for a checkup. I have to give her medication in her right eye three times a day so that it won’t dry out. Whether it’s a temporary or permanent thing, I don’t know. Also, she’s on a liquid anti-biotic for the next two weeks. I have to give that to her twice a day. I attempted to give it to her last night by forcing her mouth open and injecting the syringe into it but she promptly spit it all out. I figured that would not work for two weeks. Today I mixed the medication in with her food. Hazel for the most part has a fairly big appetite, but today she only ate about half to two thirds of her breakfast and dinner, so she still didn’t get her full dose of medication. I suspect she was able to taste the medicine in her food which is why she wouldn’t eat it all. If anyone has any suggestions on how else to administer this medication to Hazel, I’d greatly appreciate it.  Hazel’s been a little lethargic as well, but it’s probably to be expected with the surgery. She’s not supposed to be all that active for two weeks anyway. Whatever problems I have seem quite petty and insignificant compared to hers. Some jerk dumped me last week. Hazel had surgery in an attempt to treat her cancer. It’s hard to get more serious than that. Even though both Mommy and cat have been battered a bit, we’re still hanging in there. Hazel’s a feisty little thing, so she’ll fight the cancer with everything she has. And if she can keep on, I can too.

Community

Posted in coping with HPV, Dating on September 9, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Hazel’s not home tonight. It hit me when I came through the door and she wasn’t at my feet to say hello. To cap off the worst week I’ve had in quite a while, I had to take her to the vet this morning for her surgery before I went to work. It pained me to have to leave her there on top of everything else I’ve been dealing with this week. The surgeon called this afternoon to say that she came through it fine and that she was in the recovery room. She’ll be there until Sunday for observation. They are also sending the ear canal they removed for a biopsy to see if there are any lingering cancerous cells because if there are, she’ll need chemo or radiation. I’m so praying she doesn’t need any more treatment. This has been traumatic enough so far. I miss her. I had a crying jag over that guy on Wednesday night as I lay in bed. Hazel had been lounging by my feet but when she heard me crying, she came over and meowed, as if to say, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” “Mommy’s in a bad way, Boo Boo,” I said. She then nuzzled next to my shoulder, trying to comfort me. She’s a really sweet cat who really doesn’t deserve this to happen to her. The vet did say that I can visit her tomorrow after 10 in the morning after they do rounds. I intend to go as soon as I’m able to.

Due to all the crap that’s been happening this week, my hair hasn’t been a priority. I did wash it last night, but I didn’t really do much to it. I didn’t have the inclination. I just put slapped on some Shea Moisture Voluminizing Conditioner, their Curl Enhancing Smoothie and Ecostyler and put my hair into 8 big twists and took them down this morning for a curly fro. I didn’t take a picture today but here’s what a curly fro usually looks like on my hair

I’ve been thinking about communities today. Namely the natural hair and STD communities. Neither have anything to do with the other but I am part of both. I initially joined hair boards in order to gain support and confidence over wearing my hair as it naturally grew out of my head and found a warm, amazing community of women. I also got valuable information on how to properly care for my hair, as knowledge in caring for my hair type isn’t widely taught, due to “straight hair tyranny.” The thing is though, I’ve discovered that while I’d still need the information on how to care for my hair, I could get by without interacting with others in the natural hair community. I live in a place where not a day goes by that I don’t see at least several naturals on the street. I get validation for my choice every day, so I don’t feel isolated as far as my hair goes. There are other black women who need the hair boards more than I do because either they live in communities where the other inhabitants don’t look like them or they live in more conservative places where just about everyone else is permed or weaved up. So You Tube and the boards are an immeasurable resource for them where they can get the support and validation that they may not get in their everyday lives.

When it come to STD’s, I’m at a loss. I actually took part in a discussion today on a board where the subject was how many sexual partners was too many. My response was that the number of partners is irrelevant. There is still a double standard for men and women regarding the number of sex partners you have and there are different moral judgements regarding the amount of partners you have for each sex as well. The more partners a man has, he’s considered a stud and that’s considered a positive thing. Yet a woman is considered a ‘ho or a slut if she has sex partners, period. The amount of sexual partners that people think are “too many” for women is arbitrary and differ with each person. In our patriarchal world, denigrating women for their sexuality only serves to keep us in “our place.” So I rarely use the terms slut and ‘ho to describe a woman’s sexual behavior. That isn’t to say that there aren’t people out there who have sex for dubious reasons, such as to get bling or because they’re just seeking attention. However, it’s not the sex itself that should be at issue, it’s the underlying behavior that should be at issue and other terms should be used to describe the behavior, not the terms denigrating the people themselves.

In relation to this, since there is a stigma when it comes to STD’s, a lot of people think that only “certain kinds of people” can get them-translation: sluts or ‘hos. A lot of people also think that those who get them deserved it because if they had been virtuous, they would have kept their pants zipped and their legs closed and been spared.  I’ve lived with an STD for nearly 4 years. I wasn’t promiscious at all. I rarely even talked about it until now because of the stigma and blame attached to it. I have no idea who gave it me. The virus I have can lie dormant for months or years before it becomes active and shows up on tests. Also, there aren’t any tests to detect some STD’s in men, so a lot of men are carriers and aren’t aware of it whatsoever. You can’t look at someone and tell if they have an STD. If you saw me in person, you wouldn’t think I’d be the “type” of person to have one. There are people who get STD’s after only one sexual encounter.

It’s funny, but it wasn’t until this issue with that guy that I’ve fully experienced the HPV and realized how hard it would be to start dating again. For awhile, I was in total denial. Then when I got to the point where I at least acknowledged the condition, I still put it in the back of my mind and continued to live my life. Since I’ve been dumped, I’m just now  feeling all of the anger, guilt and shame that I’ve been suppressing for all this time. I hadn’t even told my friends about it until recently. They can try to comfort and console me, but unless you have an STD, you really can’t understand how I feel. I don’t know of anyone in my circle that has it. I know it’s possible that someone else does but they’re unaware of it or they haven’t disclosed it to me, but as of right now, I don’t know of another soul IRL that has any STD.  I can put faces on natural hair every day. Supposedly, anywhere from 50%-80% of the population are carriers of STD’s or actually have the condition, depending on the source. Yet, I can’t put faces to these staggering numbers because no one talks about it, which is extremely isolating to me. Right now, I feel like I have a scarlet letter “X” on my head. I’ve dealt with low self-esteem and depression for a good part of my life and I’ve often felt like a freak for one such thing or another. I was in denial over HPV for so long because it just felt like one more thing that set me apart from other people and made me inferior. Over the last couple of days, people have told me that the guy who dumped me did me a favor by showing his true colors so soon as he spared me bigger heartbreak down the line. I am getting over him and it does hurt less today than it did on Tuesday. I still feel my decision to disclose my condition was the right one, as it gave him the choice on whether or not to take the risk of contracting it. That same choice was not given to me. My fear is now about the future as I know there are plenty of other people out there who are ignorant about HPV and STD’s in general. I really don’t have high hopes about dating other people, especially those with non-STD’s. I mean, how many people out there would really CHOOSE this, even though for the most part it’s not life threatening? If I had been given the choice, I’m not sure I would’ve wanted to take the risk. As it is now, I have to go to the doctor every six months for pap smears and colposcopies, as I have a high risk strain of HPV and they have to check to see if cancerous cells develop. This is what I have to do for the forseeable future in order to stay healthy and it’s possible I’ll have to do this for the rest of my life. I’d rather do other things with my time than spend it at the doctor. Yet there are people out there who’d say that this is what I deserve for having pre-marital sex, or for having a number of partners that they deem were too high. My STD shouldn’t define me. It’s just something I have. I’m still the same person I’ve always been. I’ve even feared even putting all this online, as I know I’d be judged. I figure some people have been uncomfortable the last few days reading about all this. But writing has always been my outlet for working stuff out and I’m not about to change that about myself because I’ve now chosen to take it public. If anything, the stigma about STD’s persists because people don’t talk about it. If by disclosing my condition makes other people more comfortable in talking about it and it helps someone out, all the pain I’m feeling now will have been worthwhile.