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Archive for the tag “kinky hair”

Bonus Post: Soul Sista Number X

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I’ve come to an interesting conclusion about myself.

For years, and years, I have been drawn to eclectic things, different kinds of music, poetry and art.

And if I went to things that were particularly Afro-centric, especially in the D.C. and Baltimore area, I would be among a handful of black women there with relaxed hair.

Sometimes, I felt like people would look at me like, “why is she here? She’s too mainstream, she’s too assimilated.”

And while all of these “cultural, artsy” things should not be exclusively owned by folks with natural hair, or locs, let’s face it. When I go to this stuff, that’s who’s up in there. Period. I took an old boyfriend to an N’Dambi concert and once again, we got the stares. I was a bit over dressed, with straight hair. He said, “Even though all of us are black up in here, um, I don’t think we are black enough.”

I told him to shrug it off because the artist was going to be awesome and it would have been well worth looking a little out of place.

Sure enough, the concert was great. But it did seem as if we were outsiders.

If this was Spike Lee’s classic, “School Daze” it would be like one of the Gamma Rays (Wannabes) deciding to become natural. Then the Jiggaboos, throwing lots of  cynical side eyes about the change of heart.

I wonder if I can be a Gammaboo or a JiggaRay?

I’m glad that the world, especially among black folks, and the media, are opening up to the idea of natural hair.

Up until this year, I was dead against it.

I said, hell naw, will I let my hair revert back to its defiant, thick coils that caused weekend-long washing and straightening sessions with my mom. I wasn’t going to feel the pain of watching my freshly straightened hair shrivel within moments of stepping outside on a humid school picture day in adult hood.

But there’s something wonderful happening, I think our mothers and aunts did what they could and went with the program. There are more and more resources out there about how to better care for our hair than ever before, whether we wear it straight or relaxed.

But back to the original thought.

I went to National Geographic Live the other night at the National Geographic Headquarters in D.C. to see a hip hop afro-beat artist Blitz the Ambassador. (NPR did a great story on him. And there’s links to the music. If NPR was checking for him, he’s culturally relevant among our nation’s elite brains.)

This guy was amazing. His band was amazing and composed of musicians from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

He really made it an experience, and found a way to weave the music of his native Ghana, with the influences of his immigration to Brooklyn with hip hop classics.

The band was on point. The horn section was out of this world, the bassist, lead guitar and drummer were phenomenal. I thought of The Roots, Mos Def, Common, Fela, all in a gumbo of awesome.

Blitz spit lyrics in English and his native tongue going back and forth so naturally, the music baselines would drive from funk to hip hop and the horns and guitars would make you feel like you were partying in Africa.

I was highly impressed.

The folks gathered were just as diverse. A lot of the folks raised their hands, saying they’ve visited or lived in Africa. (Nat Geo visitors, I’m not surprised. It’s going to be an open-minded, worldy group.) A number of folks either knew him personally or were already familiar with his music.

I saw people of all ages and backgrounds grooving to the music. It was pretty fantastic. Even though, I went solo, I managed to let go a little bit and dance to the music with everyone else.

I looked around saw a number of black women rocking natural hair.

Just out of reflex, I was expecting the naturalistas to stare me down, and have a puzzled look on their face suggesting, I was in the wrong place.

Instead, I was simply met with a smile.

Huh? Really?

Then I remembered, Ah, my hair.

They see me as one of them now.

I mentioned in another blog post, how I don’t want to be team natural or team relaxed. I want to be me trying something different and allowed to wear it which ever way pleases me at the time.

And this phase in my life, I’m enjoying the experimentation that I’m having with my hair. I’m enjoying being bold enough not to think it’s some big deal, and just rocking it with confidence.

I also think turning 30 and just going through things have really taught me to love myself, trust myself and believe in myself.

I would have never even tried in the last five years. It was not even an option. And I wasn’t secure enough in myself to try it. I would have been miserable and I wouldn’t have been able to find the beauty in it even if it did look good. I would have convinced myself that it didn’t look good and anytime a guy went over to talk to a girl with straight hair instead of me, I’d probably assume it was my hair. So no, it was not the time for me to try it in my 20s. My ego would have been too fragile, and the men in my dating pool would still hold on to the video vixen standard of beauty too tightly.

Even when I was starting to get slightly curious about it, I was in a relationship with a man who thought natural hair was ugly. So, I made sure my hair was always bone straight. Because it seemed like even when I wore it curly around him, he was waiting for me to straighten  it again. I’m not going to bash my ex, but when a person desires you, you want to be what that person wants. You just do. I didn’t wear red lipstick because he hated that too.

I’m starting to understand the powerful feeling a lot of women have when they’ve gone natural. As for the men, and natural hair, I’m finding men are doing a bit better with accepting it and some even see it as a sign of confidence and the ability to be comfortable with standing out.

All that said,

I’m a little nervous about going home to see my parents. They have yet to see me and my new hair. They’ve seen it curly, but they haven’t seen it since I chopped a lot off.

They are old school, so I have a feeling they won’t be as accepting.

But even still, I’m grown and I like it. And that’s what matters.

I actually can’t believe that I like it as much as I do. I figured by now I’d be regretting it, and feeling really self-conscious and running to get a weave (something else I said I’d never do). Which, according to some hardcore naturalistas must be really sad. But it’s the truth.

To top off my total transformation into Soul Sista X, I put together the cutest outfit the other night.

It was my black nerds unite t-shirt with a tribal print skirt, a big black belt.

I had on my new glasses and my curly fro. I pranced around, and said wow, I will totally fit in at some of these neo-soul shows now.

The funny part about it was, it didn’t seem like I was looking at someone else. I didn’t see someone new or radically different or even radical.

It was just me.

Straight Vs.’Natural’: I’m Neutral

*When I say natural hair, I use that term in quotes, because all black women do not have naturally coarse hair. It ranges. Natural to me is what grows out of your head. But I generally mean coarse, non-chemically straightened hair. I have friends who get their hair blown out and pressed straight and they are still considered natural, because they didn’t use chemicals to straighten it.

One of my favorite singer/songwriters India. Arie has a popular and lovely song called, “I Am Not My Hair.”

It was an anthem for black women encouraging them to stop obsessing over our hair, although the connection to our hair and what it means in terms of beauty and self-esteem is very real and it’s serious.

*I don’t even feel like going into the history of black women their hair and their psyche. Chris Rock did a decent job in the movie “Good Hair.” Just know it’s deep. It’s not just hair. It is beauty, it’s how others see us and how we see ourselves. We are affected and we are working on it.

Since the age of 12, I have been putting a chemical relaxer in my hair. My mother fought against it for as long as possible. I could see why.

Because since then, there’s been battles with breakage, regrowth, dramatic cuts, and a little color, more breakage, ruined in the rain, comb-breaking, burnt… I could go on for days.

But fortunately times have changed. Somehow in recent times, “natural” hair (not chemically straightened) has finally been more widely accepted as beautiful. I think this is great for younger black girls because it is way more visible in the media than when I was a kid. Basically it was straight is great, and natural hair and fros and such needed to stay in the 70s.

So now, I want both passionate factions to declare peace. We all have choices, and grown women especially have figured out what works best for their lifestyle and what’s most flattering to them, so let’s let each other be.

If you are “natural”, don’t look down on your chemically straight-haired sister, assuming she wants to look European (a “wannabe” as Spike Lee nailed it in his classic “School Daze”) or is trying to fit into a certain culture or attract “shallow” men who prefer that look.

Straight-haired sister, please, stop calling your more kinky-coiffed sister nappy headed, mother Africa and all of that other stuff.

I feel like as women we need to lift one another up. Whether it’s straight or kinky, if you have gorgeous hair, I compliment it. I think women with natural hair are almost shocked if another black woman with straight hair gives them an honest compliment. It often seems like you can’t cross that line and give one another props. How you wear your hair seems like an unspoken declaration that you clearly approve one choice over the other. It’s terribly wrong.

Even if I go to a poetry event or something where it is stereotypical for people with “natural” hair to go to, I get looks sometimes like I don’t belong there. Get real. What does poetry or positive hip hop have to do with the texture of my hair?? I like what I like.

We are now in an era of choice. I do not think women with “natural” hair these days face the same amount of hostility they did 20 years ago. So I’m glad we’ve all evolved.

A number of artists and celebrities that I love go back and forth and they look amazing whether weaved out, with a fro or damn near bald (shout out to the lovely Chrisette Michele who did rock a near baldy).

Right now, I’m someplace in the middle. I don’t really like wearing my hair completely bone straight anymore. I like more body and fluff. I’ve been spacing out my chemical relaxers longer and longer because I hate how straight it is the first week or so now.

I do think with the success of hair care brands like Miss Jessie’s and others, women of color have become way more comfortable wearing their hair all kinds of ways.

I used to hate on women who wore weaves and called them fake. I don’t any more.

I have friends who love them, who may have difficulty maintaining their own hair and they feel good about how their weave makes them look. So it’s silly and stupid for me to look at another woman on the street and take her choice so personally. Now if it’s a bad weave, that’s another story!

Men were another problem. The men I liked and loved (including my father), liked seeing my straight, long hair blowing in the wind. It was the ultimate sign of beauty.

Occasionally to give my hair a break, I would wear it in tight curls a few times a year. My ex wasn’t a fan. Before we went out for a major occasion, I’d calm him down and say, “I’m getting my relaxer this week, don’t worry, it will be straight.” And then his face would relax.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I may want to only relax my hair twice a year and then get a really good blow out and press in between.

I’ve been on a big hair kick lately and I have a few inspirations. I love the new artist Elle Varner and I’ve already said I think my natural hair texture twin is probably Leela James.

I tried out my “Leela James” when I went on vacation alone, because no one knew me there and I loved it. After being on the beach and in the water, I didn’t feel like straightening my hair after I washed and blow dried it. So I didn’t. My hair was huge, and I thought I looked quite exotic. My father and my ex would have probably said I looked like I had my finger in a socket, but I was on vacation and I didn’t care. It was cute. I may have the courage to do it again in my own back yard.

I won’t abandon straight styles altogether, but I won’t wear it that way all the time anymore either.

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