Archive for October, 2011

Controversy

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Racial/ethnic stereotyping with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

What I’m about to say reminds me of this song:

Someone posted an entry on Curly Nikki two days ago titled, “We will not lose our love, our marriage, over HAIR!” It’s now gone viral. Nobody asked for my opinion (or probably even cares), so the only things I’m going to say about the issue here is that it’s obviously way deeper than hair and that it’s being used as merely a crutch. If this husband is shallow enough to consider leaving his wife over her hair, there needs to be some serious re-evaluation of the relationship. Because if he can’t deal with something as mundane as a change in hairstyle, how is he going to deal with a more serious issue, such as cancer? Is he going to say, “Um, baby, we need to split up ’cause I can’t deal with this cancer issue?” Marriage vows do say in “sickness and in health.” Unfortunately, there are a number of people out there who aren’t mature enough to take those vows seriously. Also, it illustrates the double standard that still exists between the sexes. Women are valued more for their appearance than their intelligence, while men are valued more for their actions than their appearance. How often do you hear about women threatening to leave their men because of a pot belly and a receding hairline?

The same woman backtracked her statements on the same blog yesterday. She probably didn’t anticipate the reaction she’d get. You can’t send a post on the Internet depicting your husband as an immature, shallow douche and not expect a strong reaction. Either the guy said what he said or he didn’t. Hormones are not an excuse to embellish or downright lie. If you don’t want people sending you unsolicited advice, don’t post situations like that on the net. Just saying.

The other controversy that I will go into is the STARS campaign by some students at Ohio University that has the slogan “We’re a culture, not a costume.” This blog post has some more information about it. It’s being marketed during Halloween but the message can apply for any time of year, really. Personally, I can take or leave Halloween, but I understand why a lot of people love it. It’s kind of obvious why kids love it as they get to play dress up for a few hours and get loads of candy. It also gives adults a chance to shed their responsibilities for a while and be children again, as our society does not give them the freedom to do this often. However, as my finances are a little tight at the moment, the mere thought of buying a pre-made costume only to wear it for a few hours didn’t sit well with me and I felt it would be a waste of money. And I don’t have a creative bone in my body aside from putting words to paper, so making a costume from scratch was not an option. I do have a tie-dyed T-shirt, flare jeans and platforms. So I figured I’d go as a 70’s lady-with a huge fro to match. However, I began having second thoughts about how my hair would look for Halloween because people have taken issue in the past when others who don’t look like me wear Afro wigs and blackface in a conscious or subconcious attempt to caricturize my culture.  Some people may think it’s no big deal when people who aren’t black wear Afro wigs or when people who aren’t Arab wear a headdress because they’re done in the spirit of having a good time, but some things just aren’t funny. Dressing as a generic black person with an Afro wig and/or blackface perpetuates negative stereotypes about an entire race of people. It’s one thing to dress as a specific person or entertainer-such as Beyonce or Lil Wayne, as they aren’t the entire black race. It’s another thing to go as a generic black person and slap on blackface and/or an Afro wig.  If I were to dress as Lady Gaga for Halloween, it would never occur to me to put on whiteface. Yet a white person might think it’s perfectly okay to slap on blackface as they dress as Beyonce or Lil Wayne. What that tells me is that they think they are superior to me and that the phenotypes generally associated with black people are nothing but a joke to them, again, perpetuating negative stereotypes. The way my hair grows out of my head isn’t a joke. I can’t help how tight my curls are.

After giving it some thought, I have decided to blow out my hair and wear the big fro. Since it’s a phenotype specific to me as a black person, I have a right to wear it proud. I wonder how many other people will put as much thought into their costumes.

Curly Nikki Meetup

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

I am so furious with this site right now. I had a completed entry uploaded but it never showed up on the homepage. So now I have to do it all over again. And it only took me an hour to write it last time. I could scream right now.

So on Thursday night, I went to a natural hair meetup hosted by Curly Nikki and sponsored by Mizani. Why am I just writing about it now, you ask? Because I had a busy weekend and I wasn’t able to get to it until now. I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday night to see a band from Columbia, MAKU Sound System. Then yesterday, I went to the Central Park Conservatory and walked around Central Park with a friend, then I went to a slammin’ brunch today at what is quickly becoming one of my favorite restuarants, Bogota Latin Bistro.

Anyhoo, 1500 people RSVP’d to the Curly Nikki event. It was initially going to be held at a bar called Solas in the East Village but due to the overwhelming demand, the venue was changed to the Carlton Hotel. In the end, there was only room for 650 people. As Nikki herself stated, it would have been expensive to hold the event at a venue that could accommodate over  1,000 people and she wouldn’t have been able to meet everyone. So, it was what it was. Personally, I was overwhelmed and kind of lost at the thing. I’m introverted by nature and I get uncomfortable attending events by myself that have more than 100 people. I don’t have it in me to schmooze and “work the room” as I, like many introverts, find small talk shallow and pointless. So I don’t have a lot of juicy anecdotes for you which renders me a sucky blogger. But I have to be honest. I spent half the night being a wallflower, standing against the wall. I did get to meet Nikki and take a picture with her, which was the highlight of the night. She’s petite, warm and personable. Everything I am not. I’m not envious of her or anything, I’m just stating the facts. As I was walking up to her to greet her and get our picture taken, she gave me a hug. I would never hug a complete stranger as I guard my personal space, but I know not everyone feels they have to guard theirs. After the hug, I said that I loved her site and asked her if she liked New York. “I totally love it,” she said.

Then she said, “You know, you look like Tracee Ellis Ross.”

My mouth dropped open. I never get compared to celebrities as I don’t look like any of them. “Really?” I asked.

“I think so,” Nikki said.

I don’t see the resemblance but maybe someone else will.

Tracee Ellis Ross:

Yours truly:

To reiterate just how much I suck as a blogger, I had no idea until the next day that a couple of celebrities were at the event. Both Janet Hubert-Whitten and Karyn Parsons were there. They were the original Aunt Viv and Hillary on the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” I had to read a couple of other blogs of other people that were at the event to find out they were even there. I totally missed them. In my defense, they don’t look exactly like they did on the show. For one thing, they’re both 20 years older and they’re both sporting natural hair now. And plus, at one point, there were 650 people in a cramped space that had dim lighting. It was easy for me to miss them. Can’t speak for anyone else, though. Here they are with Nikki:

Also, Mizani gave away goodie bags containing a brochure on all the different hair types and two tiny samples of product, which was a little disappointing, given how big a company they are. They did have stylists giving hair styling demonstrations on models, which was interesting.

Here are some more pics:

They spelled her name wrong, y’all.

  Nikki and yours truly.

One of Mizani’s hair models.

Nikki’s husband

Someone joked on Nikki’s site the other day that the next time she came to New York, she’d have to rent Yankee Stadium. Given the response, she just may have to do that.

Alternatives

Posted in HPV on October 19, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Of late, I’ve been looking into naturopathy in reference to the HPV. The members of one particular message board I’ve recently joined swear by it. As per Wikipedia, naturopathy “is a form of alternative medicine based on a belief in vitalism, which posits that a special energy called vital energy or vital force guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation.[1] Naturopathic philosophy favors a holistic approach, and, like conventional medicine seeks to find the least invasive measures necessary for symptom improvement or resolution, thus encouraging minimal use of surgery and unnecessary drugs. According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, ‘Naturopathic medicine is defined by principles rather than by methods or modalities. Above all, it honors the body’s innate wisdom to heal.”‘

The main reason that I’ve been considering it is that I’ve had the virus for four years now when the average amount of time for it to clear is 1-2 years. There is also disagreement among traditional Western medicine practitioners about the treatment of the condition and even about the progression of the virus. Some traditionalists think the virus completely leaves your body, while others think it never does. This uncertainty and disagreement among mainstream doctors just makes me confused and frustrated. A number of people think alternative medicine is akin to snake oil, but if mainstream medicine hasn’t effectively dealt with your issue, how can other methods hurt? However, finding a naturopath is extremely difficult as there is really no way to gauge how qualified they are. With mainstream doctors, you can check the provider directory that your insurance company sends you to see if they’re board certified and which hospitals they have privileges in (at least, the directory that my previous job sent to its members provided this information. Not sure if all insurance companies provide all that information, though). You can also Google to see if a particular doctor has had lawsuits filed against them. Or at the very least, you can go to the American Medical Association  website to find some information about them. There isn’t a centralized source to find any information on naturopaths. Also, I don’t know anyone that ever went to one, making my task more difficult.

So I called several naturopaths today. One of them wanted $250 for the first visit and $150 for every visit thereafter. Another one wanted $150 for the first visit and $75 for each visit thereafter. It’s not like these people are covered by my HMO. I have to pay the entire charge out of my own pocket. And unlike mainstream doctors, the goal of alternative practitioners isn’t to see your condition go away as quickly as possible. They don’t just treat the symptoms of illness, they treat the cause of it as well and the treatments they are likely to prescribe are likely to be ongoing which means the money you pay them quickly adds up. Which lead me to think about just who is most able to afford these alternative practitioners anyway. I highly doubt that most working people are able to, or even a lot of middle class people with the way the economy has been. And you can forget the poor. Which means that some people who may otherwise benefit from alternative treatment are shut out because they lack the financial resources. I feel more people should be given more opportunity to access the widest possible options for their medical care, but that’s my idealist side speaking. I can’t afford to go a naturopath in the immediate future as I have to pay for Hazel’s a big vet bill for her surgery. Even after the bill is paid off in 6 months or so, I’m still not sure I’d be too willing to cough up $250 or even $150 for somebody to give me vitamins, prescribe an exercise program and a low carb, low fat or vegan diet. I can go to GNC for some vitamins, I already go to the gym at least three times a week and I’m already working on cutting down on the junky carbs I eat. Which leads me back to square one. And spinning my wheels.

 

Hair length revisited

Posted in curly/kinky hair on October 16, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Friday night, I saw someone I hadn’t seen in at least a decade. “You look totally different,” she said. Every time I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while and they say something to that effect, I never know if they mean it in a good way or a bad way. Last time I’d seen her, I had straight, limp, lifeless relaxed hair and was around 60 pounds heavier. In my opinion, I look better, but a number of people think curly hair is ugly and think being thin and healthy is sickly. While I was losing the weight and for about a year after I reached my goal, I got endless comments about it to the point where some people didn’t have anything else to say to me unless it was to comment about my weight. I found it annoying and frustrated that all I was getting to be known for was for losing weight. There are people in my life now who didn’t know me when I was heavier and the comments have mostly stopped, but the annoyance got tapped the other night by someone who knew me from before. A lot of people these days are overweight and because it’s become so commonplace, it’s gotten to the point where we don’t know what a healthy person is supposed to look like. It’s not such a big issue in NYC, but when I go to Charleston, I definitely see a difference. Just about everyone there is overweight or obese. There were times I’d be out with my mother and I’d be the thinnest person in the store, restaurant or wherever. It’s sad.

My wash and go over the weekend:

Okay, back on track. I was checking out a couple of tutorials today on You Tube by someone by the name of HairCrush. Her hair is probably waist length stretched. It looks about BSL, or a little past BSL in the videos because, remember, curly and kinky hair shrink. And yes, that IS her real hair. I doubt I would want my to get that long because it would take a lot more of my time to maintain and I often can’t spare that kind of time. I do commend her, though. Many people think black people’s hair can’t ever get that long because our genes are faulty and that we need weaves or wigs to have hair that long. HairCrush is a prime example of what is possible when you don’t slap chemicals or do other damaging practices that can harm your hair. For the most part, black women’s hair grows at about the same rate as other races and ethnicities. The thing is, black women have trouble retaining hair length because

1. in its natural state, our hair is the most fragile of any race or ethnicity. Each coil on our head is a potential breakage point. If I handle my hair roughly, it breaks. Nothing more, nothing less.

2. Many black women use relaxers, BKT and/or heat styling (blow drying, curling irons and flat irons) to groom their hair. In order for chemicals to straighten your hair, they break down the cuticle in order to smooth it out. Over time, this leads to breakage and/or hair loss. Heat styling without taking the proper precautions such as using a heat protectant and using the tools on a low setting, will also break down the cuticle, leading to-you guessed it-breakage.

Not only is straight hair seen as the ideal beauty standard, but so is long hair. Women with short hair are sometimes viewed as unfeminine. Guess which women often don’t fit that standard? You guessed it. Black women. There is a reason why black women spend the most out of any racial group on hair care products, weaves and wigs. So that we can fit a standard that we never were really meant to attain. A number of us still don’t think the hair we were born with is good enough and that it needs to be fixed. I had my hair “fixed” for over 20 years and it lead to extensive damage and hair loss. Why keep using “cures” that are worse than the “disease?” Some women won’t go natural because they use the excuse that their hair won’t grow. Ridiculous. If it’s handled with care with the right tools and products, it will grow. One look at HairCrush’s should be enough to convince anyone thatall  black women aren’t doomed to have short hair and that we all don’t have to fit that stereotype.  Don’t be fooled by every natural woman with the 3 inch fro. It’s often longer than it appears because our coils wrap around themselves causing them to shrink. Yet according to some racist beauty standard, our hair is ugly because of shrinkage and in order for it to be considered o beautiful, it must be sleek and straight. To hell with that ish. If you really notice, people with straight hair tend to look unremarkable and blend in. Curls and kinks are unique as your hair won’t look exactly the same as anyone else. I find it funny that our culture extols individuality yet often demands that everyone look the same. Step outside the box and be the person you were meant to be.

Is natural hair a fad?

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care on October 11, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Hola, all!

I’ve been rocking the same wash and go since Saturday, when I went to a botanical garden with a friend (which was a fail, since there were hardly any flowers in bloom), out to dinner with a meetup and then volunteered at a residential facility for HIV/AIDS patients on Sunday. I revisited Curl Junkie Curl Queen since the bottle I have was still about 80% full and I hate wasting product, even if I don’t care for it, which is the case for this stuff. Before using the Curl Queen gel, though, I co-washed with Herbal Essence Hello Hydration, then used Curl Junkie Beauticurls leave in. I feared that the leave-in mixed with the gel would turn my hair white, like it did another time, but thankfully, it didn’t. I was careful not to be too heavy handed with the leave in though. Some people can get away without using a leave in but I’m not one of them. My hair needs the moisture they provide too much to do without one. As far as the gel went, I did something different and mixed grapeseed oil with the Curl Queen in the hopes that it wouldn’t leave my hair as stiff and “producty.” The experiment was a success and my hair felt somewhat softer. Here’s the result:

A topic that pops up frequently in the natural hair community is whether or not our hair is a fad, due to the growing number of women who are choosing to embrace their kinks and curls. It rankles me that the way your hair grows out of your head can be considered a trend or something that goes in or out of fashion depending on some pundits whims because it compels people to do things to their hair that it wasn’t meant to do in order to fit in. Like how straight hair for at least the last two decades (if not longer) has been considered the hot trend because it’s considered so beautiful and sleek. This has caused countless women and girls with curly/highly textured to despise their hair because they get the message that it’s ugly and as a result they go to considerable lengths to straighten it in order to fit in, often resulting in damaged hair. A number of women actually care little about the damage they do to their hair just as long as it’s straight. Sad, huh?

I’m sure there are some people who are going natural just because their cousin or their BFF are or they think it’s the next hot thing, but that’s not the case for me. I didn’t do it to please other people, I did it for myself. I can’t afford for my hair to be some fad. It’s suffered enough damage to last two lifetimes, some of which I’m still living with to this day in the form of thin edges. Even after being natural for two years, they’re still thinner than they should be. Honestly, I’m not sure they will ever grow back in fully regardless of what I do because the scarring of the hair follicle in some places is probably too severe. I won’t know for sure until I see a doctor about the matter. This issue alone is enough for me to never put chemicals in my hair ever again. It won’t make any nevermind to me if most of the people that are now natural start slapping relaxers again in a few years because I’m not that invested in what other people do nor do I care about what people think of my hair. I only have the time and the energy to be concerned about what I do. I have no interest in getting burns and scabs every eight weeks for years on end ever again. I have no interest in seeing clumps of hair on the floor ever again, either. I like not having to be concerned about rain or humidity. In short, I plan on doing wash and goes and twistouts when I’m ninety, thankyouverymuch.

Is hair typing worthwhile?

Posted in curly/kinky hair on October 7, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Something came up in one of the hair boards I frequent yesterday that I want to address. On natural hair boards, the subject of hair typing comes up all the time. They serve to describe hair based on the size of the curl. There are several hair typing systems, but the one used most widely is the one developed by Andre Walker, Oprah’s hair stylist. In his system, hair is described on a spectrum of 1-4. Type 1 is straight hair, Type 2 is wavy hair and it broken down further into subcatogories 2a, 2b and 2c, which simply further describe the size of the wave. Type 3 is curly hair and that is broken down further into subcategories 3a and 3b. Then there is Type 4, which is kinky (highly textured) hair, which again is further broken down into subcategories 4a and 4b. Supposedly, 4a hair has a curl pattern in the shape of tight o’s and 4b hair has hardly any curl pattern and most likely the hair resembles the shape of the letter z. If you were to really pin me down and force me to describe my hair, according to Walker’s system, I would be a type 4. However, I stopped subscribing to typing systems awhile ago because they’re useless. A lot of people don’t subscribe to them either. They’re vague and many people’s hair can fall through the cracks as their hair doesn’t fall neatly into the categories developed by the person who invented it. Most people with curly/highly textured hair have more than one curl pattern and texture on their heads. It’s not unusual for someone to have 2b waves and 3a curls on her head, so hair typing systems are a fail just on that score. Also, a number of black naturals feel hair typing systems perpetuate the “good hair/bad hair” mentality that a number of our people still cling to and are akin to the paper bag test, where, decades ago, if your skin color was darker than a paper bag, you were denied access to certain establishments, jobs and so forth.

One category that Andre Walker did not develop is the 3c category, yet it’s described widely on hair boards. Some people felt that their curl pattern was too tightly curly to fit into 3a or 3b but not tightly curly enough for Type 4 so they decided to call their hair 3c. Personally, I think this action came about because even within the natural hair community, some folks still cling to the “good hair/bad hair” mindset in that straight hair or a loose curl =good hair and tight kinks=bad hair. Our people were taught for centuries to despise our natural hair, hence one reason why so many black women use relaxers and BKT to alter their texture. It’s unrealistic to expect such an ingrained thought to disappear immediately now that more of us have decided to embrace our God given natural hair. If the 3c category wasn’t enough, now there are a few people calling for a 3d category. It would be comical if I didn’t understand the social and political history behind our hair since colonialism and the slave trade. It’s human nature to want to  label things and put them in boxes. Our minds tend to process information easier if we group things into different categories. But our hair is too unique to adhere to one standard. Many naturals stepped outside a box to go natural. It’s a little disheartening that some people want to go through such lengths to put themselves back into one

There are folks who swear that hair typing systems help them in choosing the kinds of products to use in their hair. Frankly, your curl size means absolutely nothing when it comes to product selection. I may have the same curl pattern as another natural standing next to me but the types of products we need for the optimal health of our hair may be totally different. Your hair porosity and density are far more important in determining product selection than curl size. Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to retain moisture. A highly porous head of hair means that it absorbs moisture easily but it also loses moisture easily. A head of hair that has low porosity has trouble absorbing moisture. Normal porosity is hair that is in between these two extremes. Density refers to how many strands of hair you have on one square inch of your head. I happen to have low density hair. And texture refers to how thick your strand of hair is. If you take a strand of your hair and if it can barely be seen, it’s fine. That’s my hair in a nutshell. So products that someone with thick, coarse, low porous hair would use won’t work for me. Fine and highly porous hair tend to lack protein, which strengthens strands, so I have to make sure my products contain it in some form. I’ve also started doing home protein treatments for a boost. It’s also said that people with my hair properties can’t use products that are too thick as they can weigh it down, but that’s not true in my case all the time. There’s no way I can use a watery leave in or styler in the winter as it wouldn’t be moisturizing enough. My hair would feel like straw within hours. A thick, creamy leave in and/or styler in the winter is a necessity as I live in a cold climate.  This article explains this a little more in depth.

So, is hair typing worthwhile? In my opinion, if you want to understand all of the different curl patterns and curl sizes, it’s fine, since a lot of people think everyone’s curls are the same size and pattern and they aren’t. Otherwise, it’s bogus.

For those into hair porn (not that my hair is that sensational), here are the styles I’ve been wearing the last week or so. They’re basically flat twist outs, which mainly put my hair in a spiral curl pattern and elongate them. I have other pictures which show my curl pattern that’s not elongated, which is the beauty of my hair.

Seasons change

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Hey all. So today was the first day it actually felt like fall in my neck of the woods. I actually don’t mind fall that much. I love all the different colors of the leaves as they fall from their trees. I also love the warmth and comfort of wearing sweaters and sipping hot chocolate. The thing is though, I have to re-evaluate my hair regimen with the change of seasons. Winter in particular is a problematic season for my hair, as the air generally contains less moisture which results in dry hair if I’m not careful. Using some of the same products that I used in warm weather won’t work as the weather turns colder. A lot of people may think it doesn’t make a difference, but I can tell you from experience, that it really does. In particular, any product containing a humectant has to go. Examples of humectants are glycerin and propylene glycol. They work by attracting the moisture from the air into your hair. The air generally tends to be more humid in the summer in many places, so those ingredients work fine in keeping your hair moisturized. However, in the winter, the air tends to be drier, so since the air lacks moisture, those ingredients end up drawing the moisture away from your hair, which makes it dry. No bueno. Actually I tend to use products where if they contain humectants, they aren’t too high up on the ingredient list as they tend to make my hair poufy and I only like that look when I’m not at the office. So no humectants.  I need to use heavier, creamy products in cold weather as my hair will need all the moisture it can get. A lot of gels tend to have a lighter consistency and tend to contain alcohol, which can rob your hair of moisture and dry it out, so they’ll have to go as the seasons change too.

As far as styles for the winter, I’ve already declared that I’m laying off most protective styles as they’ll either stress my fragile edges too much or they just don’t look good on me. I don’t use direct heat on my hair very often because of the potential for damage, so blow drying will be kept to a minimum. However, doing a wash and go and stepping out the door with wet hair in 0 degree weather ain’t happening. I have a friend who does that and she once told me she’s gotten icicles in her hair. Um, no. I know scientists say that walking around with wet hair in cold weather doesn’t cause illness, that viruses do, but I’d rather not take any chances. I need to invest in a diffuser before this month is over. The heat is less concentrated so there’s less potential for damage. Whether I retain length by keeping my hair out the majority of the winter is another matter. Many naturals will say that I won’t, but I don’t have the dense, thick hair that’s needed to make many protective styles look decent, so rather than try to force my hair to look like something it’s not, I have to do what’s best for me and work with it. That’s all you can do when it comes to your hair, period. I have to do some experimenting in the next few weeks in order to see what will work for the next few months. I’m actually looking forward to it and seeing it as a challenge. Don’t ask me about snow, though.