Square Peg Stories. (#2)

Welcome to Friyay, and welcome to our second Square Peg Story. (Look for this feature twice a month on Fridays.)

yay

Today, you’re going to meet Lauren. I’ve known this lovely beacon of light for several years now and have always been impressed by her positivity, her smile, her talent, and her fashion sense, among other things. Everyone needs a Lauren in their life. Meet her below.

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Tell me how you feel you stand out from the norm.
LL3What is the norm?! LOL I ask myself that all the time. I will say I never felt I stood out from the norm because I don’t even feel normal.  As a black girl growing up in the Bronx, you automatically get labeled as this rough, tough heartless person before you even open your mouth or people get to know you. I have the same feelings/insecurities as any woman no matter where she’s from.  I keep things bottled up and the slightest thing (like my coat pocket getting stuck on the doorknob) can send me into a crying fit like a baby. I was always told I was sensitive and it always stuck to me as a negative trait, something not normal. However, being sensitive is actually a normal thing. It means I feel things deeply and have a strong desire to bring happiness to the ones who I love and not have them feel pain. So I stand out by being true to who I am as a sensitive, full of emotion type of woman with her own sense of style that fits her outspoken shy personality.  It took an artist like Kelis to really help me see that standing out from the norm as a black woman was super cool and dope. To this day I still embrace that feeling!

What’s a time you took your own path and chose the road not traveled?
Okay so this is going to sound funny but what I can think of is a situation when I was much younger.  My sense of style was always different than my sisters or anyone for that matter (so I thought). I showed them an outfit and my eldest sister said, “I mean, I LL2wouldn’t wear it but if you like it, then so be it.”  My mom said I looked dejected because I really wanted it and was on my way to put it back but she said, “Lauren, you love it! It doesn’t matter what other people think.  This is you, mixing patterns and colors that don’t go together.  Never let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about what you like and want”.  LET ME TELL YOU HOW PROLIFIC THAT WAS TO ME!!!  That spoke to me in so many ways that it stuck with me to this day.  Many of my friends now will say “Somehow what you have on Lauren doesn’t make sense to me , but it makes perfectly good sense on you!” or they see something and say, “That is so you, Lauren. I see you rocking this!”  I have changed the narrative of feeling dejected into feeling inspired. I don’t necessarily take a road not traveled but I do travel that road in a way that I like and makes me happy.
What would you tell your 15 year old self?
OH 15yr old Lauren……first let me give you hug.  Your life is going to get much worse before it can get better and that will be a lesson that will help you during your tough times as an adult.  You are beautiful, you are unique and not everyone will love it or like you but YOU will be proud of who you are.  Don’t let rejection bring you down.  People reject what they are not ready for in their life and my dear WHOA! what you have to offer in love, friendship, talent and heart will shake even the tallest mountain!  Your presence will be felt in a room and your smile, your smile will be the one thing that makes lions purrrr. Make sure to always smile bright wherever you go, whomever you’re around and whatever you are doing. It will make others feel special and loved.  Don’t let anyone tell you you are too strong; you have been through soooo much that others would’ve broke under the pressure and your endurance under this pressure has produced a beautiful rare pearl.  Wear it proudly but allow your heart to be loved. You are worthy of that although no one has ever shown you it.  Men will come and go but you stay true to yourself and one day SOMEONE will appreciate your beautiful rough pearl self.  Love you always even when you don’t!!
LL1
Who are you?
I am Outspoken Shyness!! I am outspoken when I need to be but oh so shy at the same time.  I speak my mind but hide it behind a blushing smile LOL.  I am a lover of all things dance. I love to dance in supermarkets, in the streets, it just doesn’t matter where! I love to travel. I love, no, I am in love with all things Italian. I tell people I am Italian at times. I have a song for every situation in life, even if it’s not my situation and I will sing it for you lol. I am a woman who would love to be in love but until that happens, I will photograph the love I feel in my heart. I am an ambivert at heart.  I overthink everything and already know what you will say after reading this because I thought of it while I was typing all of this.  I am a city girl with a country heart and a love for the outdoors.  That’s who I am.  Lauren Layne…Just 2 LLs.
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Full of life and sincerity, no? Thank you, Lauren! Your kind words to your own self are reminders that, as women, we are our first fans, advocates, and true loves. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I take the following from your responses:  People reject what they are not ready for in their life and my dear WHOA! what you have to offer in love, friendship, talent and heart will shake even the tallest mountain! Please follow Lauren on the ‘Gram: @Just2LLs
Keep telling your own stories, dear reader, and share them if you can.

 

Square Peg Stories. (#1)

Welcome to a brand new feature on TSP.

yaass

By now, I’m sure you’ve captured the following about this little corner of the Internets:

  1. Women’s empowerment means the world to me.
  2. Every woman has a journey and a story, and I’m significantly interested in both.
  3. It’s not just about me.

All that said, we have a new feature here on TSP: sharing the inspiring/empowering/personal journeys of other women. I’m blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of women/sister friends whose individual paths in life can be mirrors of inspiration for others, and it’s my privilege to share these with you. Today, we’re sharing the first Square Peg Story. Meet Tiara.

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Tell me how you feel you stand out from the norm.
Is it weird that I don’t think I stand out from the norm? There was a time that I felt that I did, but in a negative way. I always felt that I was the only one with body and self esteem issues, the only one with mommy and daddy issues. I thought that I was the only one who felt I was undeserving of happiness and love because I just wasn’t good enough. It was a very lonely feeling. However, once I started sharing my story and opening up to people I realized that I was not alone. There are so many other people, or women out there that deal with the same things I do.  That’s why I say I’m not that different.

What’s a time you took your own path and chose the road not traveled?Tiara2
Hmmm. I think for me that was probably when I decided to pack up and move to Charlotte, NC. It was a year after I graduated from college. I just woke up one day and decided I wanted to go. The odd thing about it was that moving there would be the first time I was going somewhere with no family and no contacts. I just–I was looking for a reason to believe in myself, and to believe that I could thrive and survive on my own. I knew what I wanted for myself and I was starting to refocus on my life spiritually. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get that spiritual growth if I stayed where I was. So despite the concerns of those closest to me, I made the leap. It was probably one of the best decisions of my life. I met amazing people, accomplished some spiritual goals, including getting baptized. It was great!

What would you tell your 15 year old self?
A LOT! Lol. I’d tell my 15 year old self to be vulnerable. There were times that I was told i was a cry baby and punished for crying so I learned to hide my feelings. Which has made expressing my feelings a challenge now that I am an adult. I’d also tell myself that it is okay to make mistakes, just don’t let them define you. Don’t be afraid to fail. The way people, family, parents and friends treat you is not a reflection of you, it’s them that need to do or be better. Ignore the negative voices around you. Never change your heart. Give the best of yourself and your love to YOU FIRST, then pour into others!

Who are you?
Wow! Good question. I’m still learning how to answer that. I shock myself every day.Tiara1 But I guess I’d say that I’m a person that loves love even though it hasn’t always been kind to me. I’m a hopeless romantic. Sometimes too hopeless. Lol. I’m a dancer, and a music junkie. I’m an over thinker, and a perfectionist. I’m a person that loves to laugh until I cry. I’m an introvert, a writer. A blogger, and now I am a self love junkie!

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Thank you, Tiara! Your willingness to share your journey is a breath of fresh air. TSP wishes you well on your continuing journey, and I take the following from your transparent responses: Give the best of yourself and your love to YOU FIRST, then pour into others! Please follow Tiara at her lovely blog here.

Keep telling your own stories, dear reader, and share them if you can.

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.

Single Gal Survival: The Quarantine Edition.

Because we singletons need to take care of each other. We all need to take care of each other, yes (and please do), but I’m a single woman and that’s my significant point of view to share–especially for those of us who deal with loneliness on a regular basis anyway (whether COVID or not) and don’t share a home with another person. So, by now, you’ve been hunkering down like the rest of the world during this COVID-19 crisis, staying home, isolating, quarantining. It’s been…something. If you’re a Party of One like me and you’re struggling, here are a few things I’ve been keeping in mind: stayhome

1. Freedom. Even if you’re an introvert and this is a dream come true, the freedom that comes with choosing whether to stay in or not is gone right now. And that’s really hard. Focus on being on the other side of this. I’m imagining all kinds of trips and twilight dinners with friends, even just strolling in the park. (For the record, I consider myself an ambivert, but again, the freedom to choose whether to stay in or not is the pain point here.) 

2. Fitness. Walks to the fridge don’t count as a workout. I’m talking to myself here, too, believe me. Right now, the urge to veg/nap is strong. You may be an emotionally sleeper like me. But when you’re ready, exercise awaits. It’s hard to be motivated when you’re going through the motions. It just is. 

3. Feels. The feels will come. Oh, yes. Sometimes tears. Anxiety. A deep, deep sense of aloneness. Prayer has really helped me. Talking to a trusted friend has, as well. And remembering that there are many more making it through the day, as best as they can, has been really, really helpful. And about the days: literally try to take one 24-hour period at a time. Not weeks bundled together, running around in your mind, driving you mad. 

4. Folks (and Productivity). Plenty of folks are accomplishing a lot during this abundance of time at home. That’s great. Please don’t feel pressured if that isn’t you. If a shower and washing your face is all you can get done during the day, there’s no shame in that. And for my dear creatives: see above. Don’t force it. I’m writing here and there, but I’m not pushing it.  

5. Find Balance. Don’t drown in news items. I’m all for staying largely informed, but this entire thing is also emotionally debilitating, what’s happening to folks. Try to maintain a balance between awareness and peace of mind.

6. Finally: Stay home. (If you can. If you’re essential, like many of my friends and family, hang in there, please take care, and thank you for standing on the frontline for the rest of us.)

So call a friend, write down a few thoughts if you like, smile at cute dog videos, take that nap, and try to breathe. I’m right there with ya, lady. 

fun with mansplaining.

Mansplain (verb): The explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

(Read about the etymology of the word here.)

So has it ever happened to you, my dear lady reader? Where you say something quite well or eloquently or meaningful or clear to the listener(s) in the room and the man/men in the room take it upon themselves to mansplain you in theeeeee most condescending and/or patronizing way?

For me, having experienced this largely in a professional environment, I tend to want to do this:

lizlemon1

Without the reference to mac and cheese.

Anyway: it’s maddening. Being a Black woman in a professional environment already has its moments–must my hair always be a talking point?–but being a Black woman in a professional environment that speaks meaningfully and has someone feeling the need to “summarize” what she just said (active listening is one thing, but openly and condescendingly explaining what I just clearly said is quite another) is a whole different animal. To go even further: I completely understand if something I say isn’t clear. No one is a perfect communicator all the time. But instead of ‘splaining, why not ask me if you need clarification? Even even further: would I be equally incensed if another woman in the room did the same thing? I can’t answer that because no other woman has ever done this.

*sets microphone on the ground because they’re expensive*

Here’s another fun thing: when a woman expresses herself and is described as speaking lizlemon2emotionally. Y’all. Y’all. Here’s the thing: emotions will sometimes come through. Professional doesn’t always mean robot automaton who has no feelings. We spend 40+ hours with these folks. If you detect emotion in my voice when I’m communicating something: is it necessary to say something about it? Can we move on or nah? Must we highlight it? Or can you listen, take in, express whether you agree/your thoughts, and we move on? Oh, and passion and emotion aren’t always the same thing. Just saying.

By now, you’ve guessed that these are specific events. You’ve likely supposed that I don’t hate anyone, certainly men, but I’m a full grown woman person being and am open to discussion and dialogue without subjecting folks to condescension/speaking down to others/disrespect/dismissal/being reduced to “emotion”.

Please return to your regularly scheduled onwarding and upwarding.

hair things.

I decided to change up the ‘do again. No surprise there. As I mentioned to a friend who remarked about the merry-go-round of styles we as Black women are happy to explore, hair is one of the few things in this crazy life that I can control. (Although I’ve long believed that my hair, known as She, controls me.) As you know, I visited the lighter side of the hair color spectrum in January. And I’m very happy there. Which is why, two weeks ago, I decided to go bolder, brighter, and much, much blonder.

Popular questions/statements I’ve received since:

Are you having fun yet? 
Do you like it?
Whoa, you’re brave.
Something new for the summer, huh?
Wow, you’re always changing your hair!

My responses:

Um, yes?
I love it.
Sure.
Not just for the summer, no.
Indeed I am.

Here’s to the merry-go-round.

And before I go: leaving you with my favorite song this month. You know how I feel about Emeli Sande (or maybe you didn’t, but the link is yours to see). Here’s her recent single, which I have on repeat. I love it not only for the melody, and her soaring voice, but for the simple message: we’re all extraordinary. Something to keep in mind–for me, for you, for all of us.

where have you been all my life?

She’s gone blonde.

Yes, dear reader, after years and years on the darker side of the color wheel, I decided to make a big Year of 40 change and go blonde. My hair is now a honey blonde hue and I love it something awful. Initially after the coloring, as you can see in some of the pics above, it had more of a reddish-blonde shade as a result of my red color before and the repeated lifts to get all the red out. These days, it’s definitely more honey and closer to the shade I was looking for. And I plan on going lighter! Now that I’ve learned that going blonde won’t make me look like a dancer of some sort of cheesy Vegas revue, the blonde is my oyster.

And let’s chat about that for a moment. Upon seeing my hair, my sister said the following: “Why haven’t you done this your whole life?!” Other friends also asked why I had never experimented with a lighter color before. You know me: hair experimentation has never been an issue for me. But sporting dark hair as a woman of color was most definitely a safe choice. I couldn’t imagine my brown skin against an even lighter color. (Even bright red was far more safer in my mind than anything lighter.) Now I’ve been reminded that my brown skin is beautiful against any backdrop. We hold ourselves back, even in tiny, seemingly insignificant ways, don’t we? But none of that anymore. Embrace change, embrace newness, embrace the blonde. Because…

tracee

there, there, my little cabbage.

four brown straw hats display
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

I’ve never actually believed in retail therapy. If you’re not into shopping anyway (hello, me), the idea of massaging a bad day or a sad mood by walking around a store or even engaging in window shopping wouldn’t be the first thing on the list. But the comedy of life is that retail therapy is almost always what I do when I need to massage a bad day or sad mood. (Barring a hunkering down in my apartment with a week’s worth of carbs.) I drive right to the store, park, grab a cart, and traverse the aisles moodily until I either leave with nothing or buy something I don’t really need. And that was me yesterday.

Yesterday, I was sad and blue and glum and humdrum and needed to do something. Something. Whatever that something was, it translated into leaving work and driving to my favorite Ross, where I parked, grabbed a cart, and traversed the aisles moodily, looking for things I didn’t need. In the shoe aisle, I tried on a bunch of shoes, of which neither ended up in my cart. I ventured over to the accessories, where I touched a lot of scarves and pulled them off the rack to examine them for whatever one looks for when you’re scarf shopping. One scarf ended up in my cart. I then sauntered over to the hats. I tried a few on (see above), which was interesting in light of the faux locs (I have faux locs! More in another post) on my head, but there was one hat that incited a high level of like and also, more importantly, fit over the locs. Perhaps because the color matched my mood?

ross3

It ended up in my cart, as well. So did a pair of pants. The End.

I didn’t analyze my sadness and blue too deeply though. Mostly because 1) winter; 2) Monday; 3) single. You know what I mean by #3. The grays of this seasons and its accompanying doldrums seem to be heightened when one is going through it by their lonesome. And although, to repeat, this is a year-round desire, the fall/end of the year finds it all very pronounced. It comes and goes and it is what it is. I’ve long given myself permission to call a thing a thing (praise Queen Iyanla) and feel exactly what I feel. And I felt it all yesterday. It’s interesting how the mind finds a way, any way, to cope.

Nevertheless: here’s to distractions by way of hats and scarves, and other such things. Onwards…

self care

Blogtober #23: On Letting Things Go.

letting things go

Sometimes I wonder if I love fall so much because it’s the visual embodiment of all the things that, psychologically, I should be doing a better job of maintaining. Every year, nature takes stock and detoxes, shedding its skin in the loveliest, most wondrous of ways. It’s a lesson to be learned, and certainly one to echo.

Because, dear reader, I know how to do the following things:

drive long distances

remember every vestige of wrongs done to me

 Let’s discuss that last one. Is it really letting go and shedding if I hold on to the memory, almost lovingly, to my chest? Is my intent to remember not to be hurt again really a thinly veiled attempt to just remember the hurt(s)?

And yet, one thing I actively try to do is be a good forgiver. In the past, I held grudges like a boss. As I grew up and looked inward, it was important that growth and maturing involved a decided effort to strip away some of the vendettas grudges I was holding on to. I’ve come a long way. But there’s still road to traverse.

Sometimes I think wanting to protect our hearts, as women, involves a large dose of remembering. The heart needs protection. It needs a shield. We have to remember the past so we don’t repeat letting people inside who shouldn’t be there. But balance. So much balance is necessary. To wrap the heart in a shield doesn’t also mean to let it grow cold with memory.

Look at all the trees around you, just stripping things away and readying themselves for the cyclical new beginning.

Copy and paste.

photo of dried leaves lying on the ground
Photo by Ray Bilcliff on Pexels.com

Because Solange.

Okay, dear Reader, you know I cut my hair.

Well, I cut it again. And again.

After the first cut, I went back to my stylist and asked for another cut, to even things out, and to color it, as well, since the gray hairs were like all these changes are making us nervous so we ’bout to legit multiply. Here’s how it looked after the second cut:

I went with a wine-y, berry color, which may not be evident in these pics but will be soon. Having been red and brown red and burgundy and jet black, I wanted something in the reddish family, but a bit different than the hues I’ve tried before. Fun story: when my stylist washed out the color, it only lifted on my sides and back of my hair. purpleThe middle remained completely unaltered by the color. So…she added a bright purple color all over, hoping that it would aid the lift…and it did. But that bright purple…whew.

So I was happy with the changes.

Or was I?

This past week, I headed home to VA to spend some much-needed time with the Mama and my family. (It was awesome.) While there, I contemplated cutting my hair again. Deep down, although I liked my look, I wasn’t 100% content. Why? What was I looking for?

Her.

Stylistically, wedding-y, everything-y, Solange has long been a marvel for my eyes. And I certainly remember my gaspy (new word, just created by me, you’re welcome) reaction to her gorgeous big chop in 2009. It was everything. Do you hear me? Every. Ting. I think she was hiding in my subconscious this whole time, patiently waiting for me to bring her back up and acknowledge that this was the hair destination I was headed to. Because even the other photos I had for inspo were cuts that looked exactly like Solange’s.

cutinspo
Solange inspo.

Interesting, right? Anyway, the previous cut was fine, but there was a fro-hawk-y nature about that middle part of my head, and as much as I love frohawks, I’ve had that look before. I wanted something different. I wanted Solange. I wanted simple, chic, lovely, even–all of what you see above. So, when I had some time while home, I drove to the local Hair Cuttery and asked for my third cut.

With the color and this new look, dear Reader, I believe we have reached Destination: Solange. Or, more importantly, I can 1005 percent say I love my new look. Check it out.

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A few more things:

  1. I need a barber. My stylist is awesome and started this style change rolling, but to maintain this look, I’ll definitely need a professional barber. The search begins.
  2. I love this look.
  3. That’s all.

Have you had this experience? Loved a look but deep down, wanted something more? Shall we meet in the comments below?