Archive for December, 2011

Hair and life reflections and 2012 goals

Posted in curly/kinky hair, hair growth, life, Natural hair care, Styling with tags on December 31, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

As 2011 is about to draw to a close, I just wanted to take a few moments to reflect. I’m not sure how coherent this post will be as it might get pretty random.

As far as my hair journey goes, this year could have been a little better. I didn’t retain as much length as I wanted to. Last winter, I had kinky twist extensions in for eight weeks as a protective style. When I took them out, while I did find that my hair grew about an inch or so, my ends were extremely ragged. I probably should have trimmed them before putting the extensions in as they were a little ragged then, but I didn’t. I wound up having to cut off about an inch of hair, which negated all the length I had retained. I’ve had to dust my hair twice over the last three months due to pesky single strand knots and raggedness of my ends. I don’t seal them consistently or give them the attention they deserve, so if I want to retain more length next year, I have to improve in this area. As far as products go, I don’t have a lot of complaints. Some people could fill up an entire store with all the products they have, but I’m not one of them as I neither have the money to buy a lot of stuff nor the space in my apartment to hold them all. As I’ve stated before, I’m a fairly lazy natural and I really don’t have the time nor the inclination to spend an entire day doing my hair. The simpler my regimen, the better.

However, even after being natural for two years, there are always new things to try on my hair. I get bored doing the same styles all the time, so there are times where I’m on the lookout to try something I’ve  never done before. I bought two packs of flexirods a couple of weeks ago as well as a hooded dryer. I’m planning on doing a flexirod set for New Year’s. I had bought a pack of flexirods shortly after I went natural and I mainly used them to do twist and curls (see Curly Nikki for a more detailed explanation on how to do the style). I abandoned the style fairly early on mostly for the fact that at the time, I didn’t have the hooded dryer and I would have to sleep with the flexirods in my damp hair all night, which were totally uncomfortable, to say the least. They sometimes wouldn’t fully dry by the next morning, so the style would end up being a hot mess. As I didn’t always have the drying time necessary to air dry with those things, I put them away in a drawer. Now after nearly two years, I will attempt to use them again in a different way and I do plan to make use of the hooded dryer. If the style turns out decent, there will be pictures in my next post. I actually don’t have any major plans for New Year’s Eve but I usually have people over for dinner on New Year’s Day. In my family, New Year’s Day was kind of a big thing. My mother and my aunt used to make hoppin’ john and collard greens every New Years Day and we’d have a party. Even though hoppin’ john is the official name of the dish, we never called it that. It consists of rice and blackeyed peas, so we just called it rice and peas. The hoppin’ john represent good luck in the new year and the collards represent money. The tradition is mainly a Southern thing, something I wasn’t aware of until I was an adult as I was born and raised in the Northeast, but I have heard of West Indians that eat similar foods on New Year’s Day as well. It’s one of my favorite holidays. Everything has a fresh start and anything is possible.

Which brings me to my main life reflection for the year. The last three months in particular have been a little challenging for me. Not all of the challenges have been documented here as I want to preserve other people’s privacy as much as possible. However, without the support that I’ve received from a number of people that are very dear to me, I don’t think I would have faced them with the grace that I’ve been able to muster. This isn’t to say that the year sucked for me, because it didn’t. I had a lot of good things happen as well. Life is peaks and valleys. It’s all in how you choose to respond to them. With that said, I’m looking forward to the new year and a fresh start. I hope the new year is bountiful for you as well.

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Something new

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Styling with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

A couple of weeks ago, I got a diffuser from a beauty supply shop. I wanted to experiment with wash and goes in cold weather and walking out the door with wet hair in 20 degree weather isn’t gonna fly with me. Although I’m not a huge fan of using heat on my hair, diffusers are less damaging since the heat isn’t as concentrated. I got a chance to test the diffuser last Friday as I washed my hair before going to the movies with some friends. For the record, we saw “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” I’d read the book and I was worried that Hollywood would desecrate it. The movie was better that I thought it would be, but I digress. I used KCKT and KCCC on my hair. I diffused on low for about 15 minutes but my hair was still damp and I was in a hurry at that point, so I put it on high for a little more than 5 minutes. My hair ended up about 70% dry afterward, which wasn’t quite what I wanted but it still beat having to air dry my hair all the way in cold weather. And KCCC is a gel that can take forever to air dry too-anywhere from 12-18 hours on my head, depending on the weather conditions. Here are the results. Ignore the sad Christmas tree in the background:

I definitely liked the results. I think if anything, the diffuser makes my wash and go appear a little fuller, because normally KCCC weighs my hair down and it appears a lot flatter than this. It’s definitely something I’ll continue to use, but I need to remember to allow sufficient time for my hair to dry fully. I kept the style throughout the entire holiday weekend through volunteering at a men’s shelter and visits with family and friends. All I did to maintain it was cover it up with a satin bonnet at night. The curls tend to get a little smushed overnight so to perk them back up, I let the steam from the shower do its magic, then seal with some oil and fluff. That’s it. Some people would pineapple it than cover it up, but that tends to smush up my hair even more.

That’s it as far as doing something new to my hair goes. Hope everyone’s enjoying the holidays so far.

Hair in the news

Posted in curly/kinky hair on December 23, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

There was some buzz yesterday surrounding this article about natural hair from USA today:

http://yourlife.usatoday.com/your-look/story/2011-12-21/Natural-hair-is-making-waves-among-black-women/52147456/1

This is hardly the only article on the subject from a mainstream source. There have been others like it one over the last couple of years. On the one hand, it’s kind of tiresome, because since I’ve been natural for the last two years, it’s no longer such big news to me. Also, sometimes I find the tone of articles like this kind of suspect. When marginalized people do get a spotlight in mainstream media, all too often, they aren’t treated as unique human beings but as freaks and curiosities.

On the other hand, articles like this can give those on the fence about going natural a little boost when they see that it’s acceptable and professional. I knew that natural hair was on the increase among black women because I’m seeing more and more of it on the street in the city I live in, but I was a little surprised when I saw the statistic that stated that the percentage of black women with natural hair had jumped from 26% to 36% in a year. It may not seem like a lot, but in a people who have been heavily conditioned to be ashamed of their hair, it’s huge. The article also mentions that sales of relaxer kits have fallen 17% in the last five years as well. From my standpoint, it’s great news, but it’s not exactly cause for me to do a jig yet. I’m sure part of the increase in natural hair may simply be due to the recession. For those that go to salons, the relaxer upkeep can be cost prohibitive. Depending on the locale, it can cost anywhere from $50-$125 just to get perm touchups every 6-8 weeks. Trims, color and deep conditioning usually cost extra. If you’re unemployed, have taken a pay cut or haven’t had a raise in a couple of years, spending that kind of money on your hair every few weeks seems frivolous when it could go toward food or some other necessity. There’s no doubt that some who are natural now due to economic necessity may go back to relaxers once their particular economic situation improves. I also touched on the subject on whether natural hair is a fad a couple of months ago here . Despite the increase in natural hair, women may still face opposition in certain circles because a lot of people still cling to the narrow, racist beauty standard of long, straight hair very strongly. While the news is certainly encouraging, as long as the European beauty standard is still adhered to, I’m not sure that natural hair will ever be a majority. I can still dream though, right?

 

Sloth

Posted in coping with HPV, Holidays, HPV on December 22, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

So it’s been a week since I last set foot inside the gym. And I’ve been eating unhealthy food on and off just about all month. According to everything I’ve seen about dealing with an STI, the best ways to clear one are eating well, exercising and possibly taking supplements. What happens during the holidays, when parties involving your friends, family and people from your office disrupt your diet and exercise schedule? Frankly, I don’t like the advice that you should fill up your plate with as many vegetables as you can find while only taking small bites of meat, starch or dessert. Often, the most fattening, decadent or most favorite comfort foods are only available during the holidays. Ignoring these foods just makes me feel more deprived and I’m more likely to binge on them and overeat. And taking just one bite of food from any one of those categories frankly does nothing for me. So what I usually do is get a reasonable portion of the food or dessert and chow down without guilt. Also, the advice to go for a walk before or after the party isn’t always practical. The weather is often not that great this time of year. Or you may be bogged down with the gifts you need to get and all the decorating, cooking and cleaning you need to get done, so fitting in a few minutes of exercise can be impossible.

How does this affect HPV and the likelihood that it goes dormant? I haven’t seen anything that answers this question definitively, though from what I’ve seen, there is some implication that if you let up on your diet and exercise regimen, the virus may be more likely to remain active. Honestly, by this time of year, I’m bored with counting calories and going to the gym. I want to enjoy myself and take a break. Reconnecting with loved ones I don’t often see and allowing myself to indulge in my favorite comfort foods take precedence over my health, even though I’m told that those things shouldn’t. After four years of living with HPV and counting, I’m starting to believe that a couple of weeks of junk food and lack of exercise won’t affect my likelihood of getting it dormant one way or the other. Even before I was diagnosed with it, I usually took a break the last couple of weeks in December and eased up on my diet and exercise. It usually results in weight gain of a few pounds, but once I started back on my regimen after the holidays, the pounds came off within a few weeks. No reason why that won’t happen this time. But there’s more at stake where my health is concerned besides weight gain. The thing is, there are many days where HPV doesn’t even cross my mind. It doesn’t define me. I’m still the same person I was before the diagnosis and I’ve conducted my life the same way. Worrying about it would make it hard for me to get on with my life when I still have a lot of things to experience. Somehow, things seem different this year because I’ve made it public and a part of me feels like I should be the poster child for treating it aggressively by doing all the “right things”and I’m letting people down when I don’t. At the moment, I don’t feel like being perfect. I don’t feel like being vigilant over it. Right now, I don’t want to deal with it at all. I want a break. I want to enjoy myself. I want this time to recharge before I’m ready to get back to the grind because the constant vigilance frankly makes me feel resentful of those who don’t have this infection. I don’t think I’m asking a lot.

To thine own hair be true

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Holidays, Natural hair care, Social life, Styling on December 13, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know I haven’t been around for a bit, but I’ve been a little busy.

Last week, I revisited a style that I hadn’t done in a while-the flat twist out. Like three strand twist outs, flat twist outs give a little more definition than regular two strand twists. It took a little while for me to master flat twist outs, but once I got the hang of them, they usually turned out pretty good. In the past, I would do about 10-12 flat twists around my head as I found any less than that would make my hair look an undefined mess. However, last week, I wanted to see if I could get defined, but fluffier curls by putting in less flat twists. I must say that I likey:

I’d washed my hair last Sunday and styled it with Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the pink Ecostyler gel so my hair would have more hold. This was the morning after. I remember that my hair was only about 80% dry upon taking the flat twists down so it was a little poofy, but it ended up working out for the best as my hair appeared to have a little more volume that way.

This was the flat twist out the day after that after it had fully dried:

So that was how I had my hair all last week.

Last weekend, I’d gone to a friend’s holiday party and she had the guests who’d brought gifts play a gift exchange game whereby people were given a number, then chose a gift, then the person after them had the option to steal a gift or choose a new gift. The game is called “Dirty Santa” and has a couple of other names. The higher your number, the more options you have. I’d recycled a Starbuck’s mug I’d gotten that had some chocolates or peppermint candy in the package for the exchange. I don’t even recall anymore how that thing came into my possession. It changed hands several times during the game as it was a popular item. I initially had gotten a blue wig. I saw this plastic bag from Ricky’s (a beauty supply store) and thought that it contained lotion, makeup or bath gel, so when it was my turn during the exchange, I went for it. The bag contained the blue wig.This is me holding up the wig:

 

I may have looked happy here, but I really didn’t care for the gift. With the exception of Halloween, I knew I’d never wear the wig. I don’t have the personality to wear such a wild color on my head anyway. I wore weaves for a number of years and honestly, I’m not feeling fake hair of any kind right now. Even after being fully natural for two years, I’m still learning new things about my hair all the time and I feel I’d slow my journey down if I went back to fake hair. To be fair, a number of naturals do wear wigs and weaves as protective styles to retain their hair growth. Some people take issue with that as they feel that wearing fake hair no longer makes you natural. Others feel that if you really loved your hair, you wouldn’t need to cover it up with someone else’s hair. First of all, getting invested with what other people do to their hair is ridiculous since it wastes time and energy. My definition of natural hair is hair that has not been permanently altered by chemicals. Period. Some argue that dying your natural hair no longer makes you natural. ::eyeroll:: In my book, dying your fro platinum blonde still makes you natural. You just changed the color of your hair, not the texture. As for the argument that those who wear fake hair hate themselves, that’s too simplistic and is simply not the case for a lot of people. For natural haired women, it could be just a matter of wanting to change up their look or protecting their hair from the elements. For permed women, it’s also often just a matter of wanting a different look, or they’ll do it without a lot of conscious thought. It’s often not that deep. When I wore weaves, it was usually done in an attempt to hide damage from relaxers. However, the weaves themselves sometimes damaged my hair if they weren’t installed properly, so I hesitate to get them again because I don’t trust anybody else but me to do my hair. And wigs always felt uncomfortable to me. So, I’m not looking to wear fake hair in the near future because I don’t feel they are right for me but if other people don’t have a problem with it and want to change up their look and/or protect their hair with it, they can do them.

As for that blue wig, I don’t have it now. I was able to get someone to take it off my hands and I got to choose another gift. It turned out to be a ring with the words “Live Love Laugh” engraved on it. I love it and I love the philosophy behind those words. I haven’t taken it off in three days. I would post a picture, but none of them have come out that great so far.

Try it out

Posted in Beauty standard, curly/kinky hair on December 3, 2011 by Confessions of LadyV69

Last weekend, I went rock climbing with a friend at an indoor gym dedicated to it. I didn’t know the first thing about rock climbing but one thing I’ve learned in life is to not knock anything until you try it as you may discover that you are able to do something that you never dreamed you could do. For instance, until a few years ago, I never thought I’d be brave enough to do karaoke in front of a room full of strangers as I felt I was too shy and meek to do something so bold. Now, I have no problems doing it at all. The thing with karaoke is, it’s mainly done in bars and many of the people who get up to sing and/or watch the performers are buzzed or outright intoxicated. Since your inhibitions are lowered, nobody really cares how bad you sound and some people don’t really pay too much attention to you.  Anyhoo, after around 90 minutes of rock climbing, I found that I didn’t particularly care for it. I don’t have the arm strength to climb all the way to the top of the rock wall, even though I do weight training at the gym around twice a week. Also, you’re not climbing on an even surface, as the rocks are all different lengths and sizes. Some are a small as pebbles. I never knew where to place my feet and coupled with my relative lack of arm strength, I wouldn’t get very far. So, it was a fail. At least I can say I tried.

To relate this to hair, a lot of people can be inflexible and fear stepping out of their comfort zone of the relaxer or whatever straightening method they use, often for fear that the devil they don’t know is worse than the devil they do know. For them, hair loss, chemical burns and breathing issues are a price they’re willing to pay in order to fit the accepted standard of beauty by having straight hair. I’ve had people tell me that while my hair looked nice, they couldn’t have natural hair themselves because “it’s too nappy.” This perpetuates the “good hair/bad hair” mentality that a number of us in the black community still cling to. The only “bad” hair that we should discourage is unhealthy hair, not hair that resembles cotton candy or has a tight curl pattern. It actually wasn’t too long ago that I thought the same thing. I had to reach the point where I felt the chemical burns and hair loss were no longer worth it for me to fit in before I was willing to give natural hair a try. And it’s paid dividends for me in healthier hair and increased confidence. Unfortunately, unless the beauty standard changes, people like me may continue to be in the minority. The stigma against natural hair has a long social and political history so it’s not going to go away any time soon. But it’s amazing how easily people can knock natural hair when they themselves know nothing about it since they may have been permed since the age of 5 and have no memory of what their real texture is like. They merely parrot what their friends and family say, without analyzing what it really means to have natural hair. So if you’re merely thinking about transitioning to natural hair, just dive right on in. You might discover new things yourself. After all, you can’t knock something you have little experience with until you’ve tried it.