Archive for the life Category

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 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.

Natural nod

Posted in curly/kinky hair, life, Racial/ethnic stereotyping, Styling, White privilege on June 26, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know it’s been awhile, but work has been crazy of late and I’ve been too tired and frazzled to put together anything resembling a coherent post. It’s supposed to slow down by next week, so hopefully, I’ll be able to post more regularly soon. As far as my hair has gone, I’ve been doing a lot of wash and goes and curly fros of late because they don’t take a lot of time to do nor do they require a lot of maintenance. I’ve just been too tired to do certain styles. I don’t have a recent curly fro picture, but here is a wash and go I did about a week or two ago:

Not bad, eh? I think it was either first or second day hair. I used the Jane Carter Curl Defining Cream and the pink Ecostyler for some hold. I also used a leave in underneath everything, but  I can’t remember if it was the Giovanni Direct Leave In or the Curl Junkie Beauticurls or the Curl Junkie Smoothing Lotion. I did scrunch the excess product out of my hair so it wouldn’t dry crunchy. I know I got at least three days out of the style but I can’t remember anymore if I was able to get more days out of it than that. That’s what happens when I don’t update consistently.

Anyhoo, on to the point of this post. A topic came up last night on a board I frequent that was interesting. It wasn’t related to hair but it actually can be. I’ll get to how it can be in a moment. Anyway, the person stated how some white classmate at her college asked her why she always nods to the other black students there and why they do likewise and wondered if there was any historical reason for it. She also pointed out that less than 5% of the student body consists of black people. I was never aware that the nod had any major social or political significance before that question was asked on the board. I always thought it was simply a greeting. The fact that the white classmate noticed only the black students doing it probably says a lot about the social climate at that particular school and probably a lot about that person themselves. It’s human nature for people to gravitate toward those that look like themselves, share a common heritage or share something else in common. The poster who asked the question is black and may at times feel awkward and out of place being a minority in a predominantly white school. I definitely speak from experience. It can be comforting at times just to see another person that looks like you, so you (general you, just so no one thinks I’m singling any particular person out) acknowledge their existence by nodding. There’s nothing that deep about it. However, some whites feel threatened when they see nonwhites do this or when they see a group of blacks, Asians or members of some other racial or ethnic group hanging out together. This causes them to think that nonwhites purposefully isolate themselves and make themselves out to be victims. Never mind that systemic racism and discrimination perpetrated by whites is a major reason why nonwhites may associate only among themselves. Also, what are people of color supposed to think about White people who only interact with other White people? I personally could give a rat’s ass, but there are whites who believe nonwhites shouldn’t say anything about it because “White” is the default in our society and because they are the preference, why shouldn’t they do whatever they want? Everyone else is deemed inferior.

“The nod” isn’t just a racial thing. It can apply to any group of people who share a common interest. Sometimes bikers do the nod. Sometimes, people who drive Jeeps do the nod. And yes, people with curly or kinky hair do the nod too. There have been occasions where I’ll nod to a natural in the room and they do likewise-not because we were the only two black women in the room but because we were the only two naturals in the room. Remember, straight hair is still the default in our society. If you happen to live in a place that doesn’t have a lot of people that look like you and/or where many of the women are still brainwashed into thinking that straight hair is “good” hair, it can be mighty comforting to come across somebody else that dared to step outside the box. So you acknowledge their existence and nod. It’s an expression of a common bond. Nothing more, nothing less. Will there come a time when the “natural nod” won’t be necessary, because it will have been the norm? I can’t answer that. Speaking only for myself, even if natural hair ever did become the norm, I’m not sure I’d want the nod to go away entirely. Technology is making it easier for people not to connect and interact in person and we’re becoming a poorer society for it. Something as simple as a nod establishes a connection to another person, if only for an instant.

Why you shouldn’t always assume

Posted in HPV, illness, life, Racial/ethnic stereotyping on April 4, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Just recently, I finished reading  “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

That’s her picture on the top of this post. She was a black woman who worked as a sharecropper who died at the extremely young age of 32 in 1951 of cervical cancer. Granted, cervical cancer was more common in those days as they didn’t know what caused it and the Pap smear, the test that detects changes in the cervix and is used as a preventive measure for the disease, was just being developed at that time. Her life span was probably cut short due to the fact that she had limited access to health care, an indignity that still goes on today. Anyhoo, what was most remarkable about her was that a doctor excised some of her cancer cells prior to her treatment and they were extremely unusual in that they continuously multiplied, unlike most cells. They were so extraordinary, they were studied by scientists and doctors who used the information gathered from those cells to develop the polio vaccine, numerous cancer drugs and various other drugs and treatments. In fact, during the 1980’s, some scientists studied her cells in order to find out what caused her cervical cancer, which they determined was the Human Papilloma virus-or HPV. The cells were excised without her knowledge and her family knew nothing about her cells contribution to science and medical advances until over 20 years after her death. Her cells are still around over 60 years later and researchers are still  studying them in order to develop new drugs and treatments as we speak.

I had never heard of the woman before I read the book and I’m sure most of you haven’t either. And frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fact that cells from a black woman were studied in the development of the polio vaccine and various other treatments and drugs disturbs some of you. In fact, it was at least 10 years before some scientists in the field were even aware that the cells that they were studying and using for medical advances were from a black woman. I’m sure that there are a number of scientists today that still aren’t aware that some of the cells they’re studying are from a black woman. This isn’t something that many schools would be willing to teach. Why? Because we are conditioned from the cradle to believe that anything that white people do and achieve are normative and are the acceptable standard. Blacks, in political and social terms, are usually considered the bottom rung of the racial and ethnic ladder and therefore, we are ignored or denigrated. We are “other.” We are “abnormal.”

As far as the book itself, even though the subject matter is scientific in nature, the author does a good job of balancing dry clinical material with the human side of the story-namely the systemic racism within the medical establishment and the exploitation of  blacks in general. There is also material that details the family’s struggle to come to terms with what happened to Henrietta.  Honestly, I was hesitant to read the book at first, because, since the author is white, I wasn’t sure that she would be able to convincingly convey the systemic racism that the family dealt with and I feared that the book would come off as exploitative in nature. A number of black readers may still have that impression after reading it, but for me, it’s tempered by the fact that the author didn’t just Google some information, interview some of the scientists involved, then interview the family and go on about her merry way, without any emotional connection to the material. She became close with Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah and was willing and able to aid Deborah’s quest in finding out detailed information about her mother. Also, sales from the book are planned to go into a scholorship fund for Henrietta’s descendants, so the family wasn’t just a means to further the author’s career.   

The book brings up some other issues that I won’t get into here, since they are outside the scope of what I most wanted to discuss. I probably owe my life to Henrietta, because without her, it’s possible that I may not have been alive today to write this post. Although there are still some things that are unknown about HPV, the research that led to the discovery that some strains of it are linked to cervical cancer is a major step toward stemming the disease. That, along with the Pap test and the medical establishment’s insistance that women are screened regularly are the reasons why cervical cancer has gone from being the leading cause of death in women to only the 12th most common cancer. I wouldn’t be surprised if the HPV vaccine was developed from some information gathered from her cells.  

There’s still a way to go toward stemming the virus itself, but for my sake, I’m grateful that we’ve come this far. When it comes to matters of life and death, race shouldn’t matter.

Random stuff

Posted in coping with HPV, life, Natural hair care with tags , , , on January 6, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Happy new year! This is basically going to be a fairly short post as I just wanted to assure people that I was still among the land of living.

As far as that flexirod set I did on New Year’s, it was a total fail, so no pictures. As I was putting the rods in, I couldn’t get most of the pieces to roll in a spiral pattern for some reason. Most of my hair got rolled around and around in the same spot on the rod. And even with a hooded dryer, the set took forever to dry. Over TWO hours! Um, yeah. So it’s not something I’ll try again very soon. The next night, I did a three strand twistout and then on Tuesday, I did a wash and go using Shea Moisture’s Curling Souffle and diffused my hair as it was just 20 degrees out that day. I’m not sure how I feel about the stuff yet. It’s probably marketed as a cheaper alternative to KCCC, but it’s thicker and stickier than KCCC and it doesn’t elongate my curls as KCCC does either. It does define them nicely though and I’m on day four hair, something that doesn’t happen often when I do wash and goes. I did use Giovanni’s Direct Leave In underneath and that was not the business, as the Curling Souffle interacted with it my hair turned white. I had to scrunch my hair to get the white out. Next time, I’ll have to use a lighter leave in with the stuff. No pictures yet, as I didn’t think to take any. When I try the Curling Souffle again, I’ll be sure to take them.

I also went back to the gym this week and I am sore. Anytime you don’t maintain an exercise regimen for any length of time, you lose whatever muscle tone and cardio strength you gained and it can take a couple of weeks to get back to the level you were at before. I weighed myself this morning expecting to be totally displeased with the scale, but I’m actually only one pound heavier than the highest recommended weight for my height. I only gained two pounds, given all the crap I ate over the holidays. It could have been worse.

Later lovies!

 

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.