Archive for May, 2013

20
May

A Hair Affair

dancing in the rain

Recently on my favorite radio morning show, a guest speaker joined the crew to discuss the dangerous effects of hair relaxers on black women. As the speaker was discussing all of the dangers associated with sodium hydroxide and chemical processing of the hair – balding, scalp lesions and burns, dangers to reproductive systems, links to cancer – you could hear one of the male radio personalities in the background bemoaning about how the industry needs to come up with “something” to straighten out hair because he didn’t know if he could work with that (“that” being a black woman’s natural kinks and curls).

Here was an industry expert talking about the dangerous effects of chemical relaxers, and this brotha was essentially grieving about his dislike of natural hair. Oooh, how I wish I could have slapped a handful of lye-based relaxer on his scalp at that very second. Didn’t Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair spell it out enough? Relaxers are dangerous, plain and simple. Yet women around the world subject themselves to the dangers of chemical hair treatments all to attract the attention of men like this.

As I sat there shaking my head at his thoughtless response, I was reminded of how easily influenced we can be by others’ perceptions of us and realized that it is this influence that lies at the root of the issue.

My own journey with natural hair has been a long overdue lesson in true self-love.

Twelve years ago, I decided to do a little experiment. I wanted to discover the real me once all of the fluff and frills were stripped away. So, I cut off all of my hair. Then I cried. For the first time in my life, I had nothing to hide behind. Staring back from the mirror was me. Unmasked and liberated. Gone were the worries about “sweating out my hair.” I could now scratch my scalp, jump in the pool, walk in the rain, and have that pull-my-hair kind of fun. Free at last!

Yet, this feeling was short-lived. Instead of celebrating with me, I endured unwelcome comments from friends, family, and random strangers about how they “preferred my hair long” or didn’t understand why I did what I did. People openly talked about the texture of my hair as if I were an science project. Some even dared to touch my hair. Male reactions were even more noticeable. The same eyes that once admired my presence now darted past me, labeling me as insignificant. No more cat calls or “hey, beautiful” comments caressed my ears as I walked down the street.

I’ve always been generally comfortable in my own skin, but the blatant disdain from those around me dinged my self-esteem. I missed the security of my hair and often considered hiding out under wigs, weaves, and wraps. However, over time, I grew to appreciate my hair’s versatility and fell in love with every kinky, curly, frizzy, tame-me-not strand on my head. I love who I see staring back at me and refuse to alter who I am to be loved, accepted, wanted or appreciated.

Now, I dance in the rain. 

13
May

Happy Every Day! (an ode to Ethel)

Mother's dayOne day could never be enough to thank my mother for everything she’s taught me in life. I still hear her saying:

“When they talk about you, it’s because they admire you.” She taught me self-esteem.

“If they jump off a cliff, are you jumping too?” She taught me to lead, not follow.

“You’re an African princess.” She taught me to love the skin I was in.

“Waste not, want not.” She taught me not to be wasteful.

“When bullies challenge you, don’t back down. If you do, they’ll come back for more. And, if they are bigger than you, ain’t nothing wrong with picking up something to bring them down to your size.” She taught me to stand up for myself.

“If one of you fights, you all fight.” She taught me teamwork. (Oh, do I have stories.)

“Make sure you have on a clean pair of panties…in case you get into an accident.” Ok…this is just hilarious, but in this she taught me cleanliness.

When I speak to my own children, I often open my mouth only to hear my mother’s words masqueraded by my voice. I forget sometimes how much labor she put into making me into the woman that I am today. She taught me how to be me.

Thank you, Mom. I know that sometimes I think that “I’m grown” and I’ve got it all figured out, but I need you just as much now as I did on the day that I was born. I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for your enduring love and sacrifice. I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day (every day)!