Archive for August, 2012

Vacation ramblings

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care, Traveling natural on August 24, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

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.

Hair and introversion

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Intoversion, life on August 15, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

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.

Hair on stage

Posted in Beauty standard, Racial/ethnic stereotyping with tags on August 8, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know I’m late to the party, but I was busy with other matters last week. However, the issue of Gabby Douglas’s hair didn’t escape my attention. This 16 year African American girl was the first one to win a gold medal in her sport, yet a number of people on Twitter and Facebook felt that her hair (and how they found it lacking) was more important than her accomplishment.

Disgusting. And yet given how black people and women are generally socialized and regarded in our society, those people’s ignorant and shallow comments really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Women are generally valued more for our appearance than for our accomplishments and intelligence. And a black person competing in what is considered a “white” sport and doing well in it threatens certain people, because Gabby’s success will undoubtedly inspire other girls of color to enter the sport and certain people fear that those “niggers and spics” will eventually take over and dominate it, shattering the belief that only whites can excel at it. It’s happened in other sports before(baseball and basketball are two of the biggest examples) so don’t think it can’t very well happen here.

As far as Gabby’s hair is concerned, it’s worn in a slicked back ponytail that is the standard in her sport. Does anyone honestly think that anyone’s hair can remain neat and in place when doing backflips and swinging on high beams? Seriously? That Gabby had to be subjected to the pressure of having to look perfect and sleek when she is an ATHLETE is totally ridiculous. Why it was even an issue is indicative of the virulent racism and sexism that is pervasive in our society. Are men, even black ones, subjected to as much scrutiny about how their hair looks or how thin they are, whether they are athletes or regular Joes?  Hell to the no. However since girls and women are generally valued more for what they look like on the outside and not for what they are on the inside, it can lead a fair number of them to do drastic things to change their appearance in order to fit our society’s BS narrow standards of beauty, things that their bodies were never meant to tolerate. Things like slapping caustic chemicals on their heads to straighten their hair because their God given curly or kinky hair are regarded as ugly and bad. Like getting Botox. Or even something as extreme as starving themselves so they can fit our society’s ideal feminine shape as something akin to a concentration camp victim. Unless we expand our standard of beauty, the pressure and desire for girls and women to fit into our narrow one will continue. And it’s a sad thought.

Hair and the family revisited

Posted in life, Traveling natural with tags , on August 7, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Sorry for disappearing again, but I had a death in the family almost two weeks ago and I had to go out of town for most of last week to attend the funeral. I had been apprehensive about going because I hadn’t seen many of my family-both immediate and extended-in about five years. I won’t go into most of the reasons here but one reason I had some trepidation about the trip was due to the fact that a lot of my family had never seen me with fully natural hair, since it’s just been nearly three years since I gave up chemically straightening it. I was prepared to deal with ignorance due to this goldie oldie post as well as from what I’ve seen and heard other naturals experience.

I didn’t take any pictures while I was away, but these pictures from about a month or so ago represent how I generally wore my hair the whole time, which was in a wash and go. I knew I didn’t want a style that required a lot of upkeep and I didn’t want to bring a lot of products with me as I had limited luggage space. I also didn’t want to fight with my texture too much as I was down South and it gets hot and humid as hell down there this time of year.

I actually received fewer remarks about my hair then I thought I’d get. My sister, who has had locs for five years, asked if I had a jheri curl in my hair ::big eyeroll:: Some of you reading this may be clueless about what it was, but I’m old enough to remember when it was all the rage ::shudder:: My sister actually had one when we were in high school, as well as my mother and several other members of my extended family. It was basically a perm that  gave you looser curls so you’d look as though you had “good hair”::another eyeroll:: People with it moisturized their hair with curl activator gels and moisturizers. Those products can actually work well with natural hair as many of them contain glycerin, a highly touted moisturizing agent. That is if you’re so inclined. They do tend to be greasy, so if you don’t like a greasy feel to your hair, they may not be for you. Some of us may have issues with them if you had the curly perm in the past though. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Coming to America,” the scene where Eddie Murphy’s rival and cohorts all get up from the couch leaving jheri curl juice stains on it is priceless, but if you were ever in that situation, it was hella embarrassing. So, where was I ? Got off on a tangent. Oh yeah. I had KCCC in my hair and that product can make  it appear as though I have a jheri curl, but seriously? Why slap some chemicals in my hair to give me curls when I already have them naturally? The jheri curl was probably one of the most asinine inventions in hair care ever as many people who got them already had curls. Just goes to show you that not all naturals have a clue about all facets of natural hair. Then a cousin stated that she couldn’t go natural because she didn’t have good hair. Which got a sideye. “Good” hair is hair that is healthy, no matter how tight your curls are, not hair that is straightened to the point where it’s fried to a crisp. We have a long way to go before the “good hair, bad hair” mentality is eradicated because this way of thinking is still so pervasive in communities of color. Those were the only comments I got about my hair-to my face anyway. Compared to what other naturals experience, I got off pretty lightly. Some people may wonder why I felt a little uneasy about my hair around my family because after all, it is just hair. But it’s extremely indicative that how black women wear our hair is a huge issue that can have major social and political implications. Sometimes, hair isn’t just hair.