A Black Woman and Her Hair.

***This post was inspired by a video I watched last night on YouTube from Whitney White, a natural hair influencer that I took note of years ago when I began my natural hair journey. See the video here. While watching the video, I felt the deeper implications of the joy Whitney felt when she cut her waist-length hair. Whitney’s subsequent Instagram post about said haircut really got me thinking: as Black women, our relationship with our hair is so, so deep. And I wanted to talk about that. So here we go.***

My relationship with my hair began when I was about 12 years old, when I received my first relaxer. Prior to that seminal moment, I was an energetic kid; not really focused on pic2pic1my messy pigtails and all of that. I really had no concept of those things. In the adult world, however, my mom was hearing from some relatives that my hair, along with my sister’s hair, looked “wild”. Peer pressure is powerful, and it certainly doesn’t wane when we grow taller. My mom responded to this “wild” talk by taking us to our very first salon visit, where I received my first relaxer. Yep, it burned. Yep, I said nothing as it burned because I wasn’t one of those kids that spoke up. (Whew.) Born from that was something I had never known before: straight pic3hair.

Unbeknownst to me, also being born was the direct tie between my self-image, my sense of beauty, and my hair. This is universal, by the way. All women go through this at one point or another. But when it comes to us as Black women, Black girls, the path is altogether different and far more complex. The kinky and curly hair we’re born with, when it’s straightened and “relaxed”, now becomes largely acceptable, malleable, presentable. Westernized ideals of beauty become us. I remember feeling a sense of anticipation before I walked into the school the weekend after the relaxer. My long hair hung down my back. I felt pretty. And needless to say, I was the center of attention that day. “Look at your hair!” I heard more than once from a variety of girls. It was amazing.

From then on, I would beg my mother for a relaxer when the straight hair reverted back to its curly texture. If you know anything about my mother, you know that this begging typically fell on deaf ears. Despite her now knowing how to apply the creamy stuff, relaxers would be saved for specials occasions (like our annual worship meetings) and nothing more. Once in a while, once, she’d give in to a random relaxer request, but overall, it was usually a no. Needless to say, when I finally started making money and working for myself, I took myself to various salons for my touch-ups and things of that nature. Again: the state of my hair was wrapped up in how I felt I was being exposed to the world. I’ve mentioned the long struggles I had with my self-esteem and self-image. I can honestly say that when my hair was straight, I felt valuable. There was power in those strands.

bob6But as I got older, something started happening. I wanted to experiment more with my hair. Straight, long hair wasn’t enough for me. When I turned 30, I cut it all off and opted for a chic (still straight) bob. My mother nearly passed out. I think she thought I’d shave my head. (That came later.) bob1From there came more experiments: an even shorter bob. An asymmetrical cut with one side shaved and the other side long. Weaves. My hair now became a canvas, a tool for expression. Black women: for many of us, our hair is our art. It certainly became that for me. Still holding its power, yes, but also very much mine. I still had a bob2relaxer, though. Because it was all I knew. Remember: my hair journey began with it being straight. Prior to that time, I didn’t even care or notice.

Whitney says this on her Instagram post: This was more than a hair cut to me. I NEEDED THIS. I NEEDED to see myself as I felt inside.

Reader. Those words hit me. Because after years and years of experimentation and yet maintaining the straight look that still felt acceptable to me and to the world, I woke up one day and didn’t want straight hair anymore. Can’t explain it. I remember being in that revert/touch-up time and feeling the roots on my scalp and loving how those curls and coils felt against my fingers. And like Whitney said, something was happening inside of me. That prison of low self-esteem and feeling like a zero was losing its hold on me, and somehow, my hair was following along. I wanted to be myself. And I wanted the hair on my head to reflect that. When I told my mother I was returning to mybigchop2 roots, to my natural hair, her excitement was indescribable. “Your natural hair was so beautiful,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re going to see it again.” It reminded me that hearing that her children’s hair was “wild” hit her hard. She had no intention of straightening our hair. But such is life. She was happy the choice became mine.

Says Whitney on IG: It was suffocating and I was no longer someone who needed the extra length, the extra baggage to define her. I DEFINE ME by BEING ME. And just like I no longer wanted to carry MY extra baggage with me into the future, the hair could kick it too. Those words describe my Big Chop in 2012. Shaving my head in 2018. And all the styles and haircuts in between. Women: some of us, a lot of us, hold emotion in our hair. I certainly did. And I continue to do so. It’s no surprise that, while in reflection, I realized that a lot of heartache and disappointments in my life preceded my hairstyles and/or the reduction of length.

Whitney: Also, while yes – it IS just hair, it will always simultaneously be MORE. It’s more than “just hair”. It’s a lot. Art. Emotions. Power. Wherever you are, whoever you are and whatever hairstyle or texture you maintain (because I’m not a guerrilla girl; I returned to natural on my own accord, so do you do you do you):

shine.

That’s the bottom line.

Self-Preservation or Nah?

One of my characters in one of my stories makes reference to not dousing her hope with her usual brand of doubt and cynicism. I am her and she is me. (Incidentally, one popular writer-related question I get is, “who are the people you’re writing about in your fiction?” I am them, they are me. What writer isn’t writing about themselves in some way? Anyway, digress. Back to the outside of the parentheses.) The truth is: I am terrified of hope.

We need hope. We thrive on it. It keeps us going. I hope in a lot of things. In a brighter future. In seeing my father again. In finally living what the Scriptures describe as “the real life.” But there’s one giant aspect of life that I hesitate to hope in, for fear of repeatedly breaking my own heart and spirit: love. I’ve discussed my track record when selfpreservequoteit comes to relationships. I’ve yet to meet my Person. The pathway to said Person hasn’t been easy; it’s been sad, disappointing, weird, head-scratching, and just ultimately completely unfulfilling. Naturally, when this happens more often than not, the wall builds itself. Brick after brick of solid, hard doubt. And when hope tries to poke her head in (could this be…?) I nudge her away and steel my chest for what realities may hit me in the face.

Admittedly, it stinks to look at things this way. But can you really blame me? Without the benefits of preserving myself, my sanity, my heart, I’d be in a corner somewhere, rocking back and forth and worse off than I already am. Of course, we must then discuss self-fulfilling prophecies. A good friend, more often than not, has reminded me that I tend to manifest negativity when it comes to finding my Person and finding love. She’s called me out on statements such as: no one wants me anyway, and whatever, I probably won’t find him, whomever he is. Regardless of whether my comments were made in jest (they were, on the surface), in her estimation, those comments end up becoming self-fulfilling prophecies: if I am expecting these things for myself, then I’m basically writing my own future. I’ve agreed with her and have promised to work on not pronouncing such negativity for myself. Deep down, though, I’ve struggled to communicate that those comments and related, unspoken thoughts come from a fear that believing the opposite and resting in hope will just leave me completely wounded, waiting, and disappointed. And so I frame things in dry, deprecating humor, hiding truths. (I try to avoid the whole self-deprecation thing as a rule, especially since I’ve done so much work to not relegate my own self to zero status as I did in the past. But old habits rear their heads when we’re talking about fear.)

Where is the balance, dear reader? How can I be both hopeful and realistic? How can I stop submitting to fear by way of self-deprecation and be mindful of what I say/nurture my own self, without appearing as if I’m on a one-track groove whenever it comes to talking about my personal life with my friends?

When I find the answers, I’ll let you know.

{Guest Blogger} – “I Fell in Love…With Myself”

Support your Square Peg! Support your Square Peg! Support your…typewriter2

I wrote and submitted a guest blog post that was shared on the The Sum of Many Things, “A Lifestyle, Wellness and Personal Development Blog for Busy Women of Color.” (Amazing tagline, right?) Direct link to my post is here. I’d love to hear/read your thoughts about the piece, of course.

Thanks for your support. You’ll make this writer/blogger/author/unceasing lover of Ricky Schroder very happy.

Bon weekend…

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Bae since 1980.

 

Discoveries. (Or, Eureka, We Keep Finding Her.)

We never stop growing and learning about ourselves, do we? Below are some of the things I’ve realized about myself lately, because I’m all about epiphanies, epiphanies, dive-into-self-discoveryepiphanies…anyway, read on, s’il vous plait.

  1. Discovery: I receive a special kind of joy from unsubscribing to the abundance of emails that clog my various inboxes. There’s nothing like cutting the cord. And I accept that this provides a level of contentment that I can’t fully describe.
  2. Discovery: shyness never really goes away. But it becomes manageable. I have tons of friends who don’t believe that I was or am a shy person, and I attribute all of that to good shyness management; i.e., ignoring that 9 year-old who’d prefer that I retreat and hide and keep quiet. She’s cute but bossy. (Side note: I really appreciate the few people in my life who keenly see shades of that 9 year-old in my actions and completely give me room to navigate it all. It’s nice to be known.)
  3. Discovery: I give people very few chances to edit themselves. If you’re rude or mean or dismissive from jump, I rarely have the desire to want to see you change your ways. Because, deep down, I don’t believe you want to. People have the ability to be better and I should want them to want to, riiiiiight? Working on this one.
  4. Discovery: if I smile at you and you don’t smile back, you’ve ruined that aspect of my day. In other words, I’ve put a lot of importance of non-verbal communication lately, more than I have in the past. But perhaps this goes hand in hand with #3. Maybe you’re having a bad day. Maybe you’re constipated. I don’t know. Working on it. (I think it’s because if I’ve made the effort to be polite despite the insanity of my day, you should too? But when was human nature ever so black and white?)
  5. Discovery: I compete with other drivers. When you’re in the next lane and you rev up and increase your speed, I do the same thing. And I like to win. Don’t tell Mom.
  6. Discovery: also related to 3&4. Despite my penchant for quietly psychoanalyzing people, psychoanalysis isn’t necessarily insight. And as much as I dig deep in my own psyche and examine my choices and actions and why I do them, I honestly don’t give that time to other people. Insight and the ability to really see into a situation and the people involved is a gift. One I don’t have. And real talk: I think this also limits my fiction and the ability to really see into my characters.
  7. Discovery: I’m not as cynical or pessimistic as I like to believe. I am the child of parents who believed in and functioned on high levels of optimism. I think I’ve been volleying between those two opposing forces my whole life: cushioning myself in pessimism but nursing, deep down, the hope that I’ll be proven wrong.
  8. Discovery: During difficult times, writing has always been a crutch and/or a distraction for me. Don’t get me wrong. I fully believe that I was born to be a writer. But my inability to be creative lately makes me wonder if looking at writing beyond what it is–an art form–is why I can’t seem to get into it lately. Am I placing on it requirements that it’s not equipped to handle? As in: making me feel better?

Thanks for visiting epiphany central. What things have you learned about yourself lately?