22 October 2009

Good Hair: The Individual and the Lifestyle

This is the third and last installment of the "Good Hair" series. If you've missed it, the first two parts are found here and here. Go back, read, comment, then come back here. I'll wait.

Okay now that we've got that out the way....

Good Hair: The Individual and the Lifestyle

In today's age, our hair is a representation of both our individuality as well as our lifestyle in the present. The style changes, the treatments, the methods of care chosen, be those methods self-care all the way to weekly visits and personal stylists are all a matter of choice....but also partially (and in some cases, wholly) influenced by our rather complex psyche over the years, as stated in the last installment.

While the history and the psyche play such large roles on our personal choices for hairdress, the surface of such is depicted upon by the individual and their comfort and suitability with a certain style, method of hairdress or frequency and type of hair care (ie: style = braids, method of hairdress = relaxed, frequency and type of hair care = sole care, biweekly treatments)

As stated in the last installment, in our culture, there's a subliminal message engraved for Black women (and men alike) when it comes to our hair and the consenses over the years has always been "straight is great" and "nappy is unhappy". Depending on the person, those beliefs tend to vary in the true context.

But the Reality of the Situation is.......

Nappy doesn't always equal 'Unhappy'. To some, the "nappy" context is a representation of the black struggles and should be glorified proudly as a reminder of how far we as a collective has come, no matter the texture. However, to others, the "nappy" context is but a thorn in their side to show just how different we are, how many MORE struggles we have to get through, going all the way down to our hair, and thus, the attempt to assimilate to be better contestants in the game of Life against our White counterparts is a part of our system that is so engrained we (collectively) don't realize it.

Either way...as I said in the first installment, our hair is bigger than......our hair.

And either way, it all boils down to choice (when dealing with the surface of it all).
And speaking of our "competitors"...

I've talked with several White/European coworkers and friends with respect to this topic and just like Chris Rock briefly said on Oprah (no, I still have not seen the movie), in the eyes of Whites, for them, "straight isnt ALWAYS great". Like us, Whites also have a "secret life" when it comes to hair care and just like us, their methodology and reasoning behind their choices of hairdress rests within the aspects of: vanity, individuality, and lifestyle.

I've talked with White women who have complained about the state of their hair and how and why they use the artificial methods of bleaching, coloring and even relaxers (to make their hair curly in opposed to when we use relaxers to make our hair straight--an averse effect, indeed) and while their reasons rests LARGELY in vanity and lifestyle preferences where ours is LARGELY based on history and subliminal psychological complexes and contexts, as one White person said to me, "we all want to change something in ourselves that we don't have; we are always happy, but never satisfied". I agreed.

Lifestyle shapes an individual, not the other way around...

In this day and age, women are busy, with many holding full time jobs, homes to upkeep and children to keep in line at all times. The least of many women's worries is our hair as the stress and strains of every day Life tend to take the reins leaving our hair to be of extreme importance but also something that is moreso waning to the side of "what's more convenient for me" rather than, "what do I REALLY want to do with my hair".

On the flip side of it all though, hair, especially Black hair is also very diverse. With so many advancements and means of "looking right at the right [usually expensive] price", many women would opt to go for what's more suitable (and convenient) to their lifestyle rather than the dynamics of "what's more 'Black'" and whathaveyou. And while everyone does what is at a better convenience to them as to allieviate whatever unnecessary stress and strain that they can, the true dynamics of what is "convenient" just so happens to be in direct opposition to what is "socially accepted/liked" in the first place.

So what's MY story?
I am currently going Natural. As I've mentioned several times throughout this series, my Natural state is wavy and not coarse and even when I was getting relaxers, I did not get them but 3 times a year. My reason for the "change" though? Merely preference. For me, it's mainly about versatality than anything else. As a general rule, it takes a lot to keep me stimulated with a lot of the "same" things (and I just can not wait to wrap up this series so I can talk about something else lol), so in regards to my hair, I tend to switch up a lot. In the same vein, I also have complexes with weaves and artificial anything...so I don't engage and have opted to change my actual hair in opposed to wearing wigs or weaves for changes. Because of that, I've worn my hair long (my hair has been characteristically "long" my entire life up until 2008) to a bob to really short (as you see in the right hand corner pic here) to how it is now--growing back and just touching my shoulders (I was going to post pics of myself but got lazy, smh)

Though I have changed my hair over the years and have complexes with wigs and weaves and certainly don't bash anyone that uses them, I am also VERY finicky about what I use and do to my hair. I use NO "new" products--all age-old remedies and even create my own conditioners and treatments. I also do my own hair 98% of the time with trips to the salon only for when I need a trim.

(Most recent photo)

So how am I going Natural?

I went short in 2008 and loved it. After 6 months, though, I got bored and have allowed it to grow back ever since. Long hair is truly what I am accustomed to and I don't see myself cutting my hair really short again, so how am I going Natural?

As stated in the last installment, there are many methods to use other than simply cutting all of your hair off if you decide to go Natural. For me, while I am not relaxing my hair (its been about 6 months already), I am letting whatever relaxer I have left in my hair to grow out and after a stretch of time, I'll cut it off, but by then the relaxer will only be on the ends, so my hair would not be "bald short" when I cut it. Wish me luck.

That's just my story. And it fits my lifestyle which influences me as an individual.

14 October 2009

Good Hair: The Psyche

(Note: This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. If you haven't caught the first installment, click here.)

Good Hair: The Psyche

The psyche is maybe the strongest factor in human decision making and perception. It's so strong that it has the tendency/ability to control a person's actions, thoughts and personal theories without notice. Unfortunately, society has the strong ability to do this as well.

As stated in the first part of this series, the psyche behind black hair in conjunction with "Good Hair" is something that has been a big factor and "issue" for MANY years. Before Chris Rock's movie, before the hippie/black power days of the 60s-70s, before the days of the "cunk", later termed the relaxer, before the start of the 1900s even. The history is what has given birth to the definition, which has definitely influened the theory and the theory is, for all intents and purpose, the product of the psyche.

Enter, the Psyche behind Good Hair.

The Psyche that stands amongs many African-Americans in regards to "good hair" and "natural hair" is that "straight is great" and "nappy is unhappy". Before writing this post today, I spoke on this issue with two fellow bloggers, one that has been natural for as long as I've known her (I've known her for three years) and another who is a faithful member of the Relaxed Club. Both shared with me their views on both natural hair as well as relaxed hair, while at the same time not discriminating against the opposing "side" for their choice of hair dress.

"Natural will never be an option for me. Not everyone is meant to be natural" - the relaxed sister stated.

I profusely disagreed. We are all born natural and whether that natural state is wavy like mine or coarse as a brillo pad, everyone is essentially "meant" to be natural. Natural is...well...natural.

However.................just like with relaxed hair and any hair style a person chosen, there is upkeep to be enforced. The very idea that "not everyone is meant to be natural" , in my opinion, is the product of that psyche that has been produced by society throughout the ages that say "you must have straight or relaxed hair, otherwise, you just don't look professional/pulled together/like you belong"

As my relaxed friend continued, however, she expressed her concerns with going natural to be moreso along the lines of the process in itself, rather than the finished look therein. When a person who has had a relaxer for a while opts to go Natural, it is customary that they cut their hair off to very short (cut all the relaxer out as a perm is.....well....permanent) and allow it to grow in that way. I can agree that not everyone has the head for a "near bald" look. At the same time though, there are a TON of options in regards to going Natural. One does not HAVE to cut all the hair off outright. They can allow their hair to grow in and not get a relaxer for a substantial period of time and then after a while and the hair has grown to the point where the relaxed portion of hair is but on the tips or ends, then they can cut it off and TRULY be a Natural. Another option is cutting all the hair off and opting for wigs, weaves, braids, etc while the hair grows underneath. That way the person isn't "outright bald" while trying to rock the Natural.

It's all understood that there is a vanity that comes with hair, especially Black hair in general. However, what is further missed or overlooked is the understanding that that vanity is nine times out of ten based on the views of society and what is generally accepted as "good hair" has done to the individual's psyche in the first place. It all plays a role.

"I try not to judge either way. I just know that relaxed isn't for me anymore" - the natural sister stated.

This opinion is of the "least-accepted" in our country and is also a prime example of how society can affect a person's thoughts and perceptions when it comes to self-worth and self-acceptance. In the directly above quote, she tries not to judge. She isn't condemning anyone that decides to continue with relaxed hair. On the flip, she knows it "isnt for HER". It is by her sole decision that she finds being Natural a better fit for HER. Who cares what society thinks, right? Not everyone carries this belief though and I wish they did.

If society were better accepting to the natural state of African or African-American hair, there wouldn't be any issues of what 'good hair' is, a description to "bad hair" or even weaves, chemical treatments. I'm quite sure that with our technological advancements, these things will still reign our society, BUT they wouldnt be such a means of discussion and there wouldn't be such a "hidden depth" behind such either. They also wouldn't be so important that women would find spending a thousand dollars on "the right kinda hair" something they just "had to do to keep their hair looking right" (aka: keeping up with the standards of society under the unknown guise of "just needing her hair done"). And why? Because if society were more accepting and if society didn't paint such a foul picture of African and African American hair and if "nappy wasnt unhappy" and "straight wasnt the only thing great", then she wouldnt HAVE to go through such lengths to "look good", she'd find that her natural hair is good enough and she'd embrace it and rock on with her bad self and smile while doing it.

But alas, this isn't a perfect society and our society is instead primarily driven on the "visual" versus any other aspects of humanity and our society has provided the invisible "okay" on the Theory of Good Hair for SO long that SO many people can't tell the differene anymore.

And thus, our Psyche is collectively transformed.

The last installment: "Good Hair: The Individual and the Lifestyle" next. Stay tuned.

12 October 2009

Good Hair: An Examination and first part--Good Hair: The History, the Definition, and the Theory

(Note: I originally wrote this blog before the movie came out last Friday)

For anyone who's in tune with what's going on in theaters soon, Chris Rock has a "comedic documentary" coming out which he titled, "Good Hair". This documentary is supposed to be an "inside look" on what goes on behind the scenes with Black women when it comes to our hair.....with a comedic flair. (rhyming non-intended).

Last week, Chris Rock was featured on Oprah and spoke about his documentary. Throughout the show, he spoke about weaves, relaxers, hair length, theories and "rules" amongst Black women when it comes to our hair and our relationships with our men, and most importantly.......the texture of Black hair in conjunction with our European and Indian counterparts. Personally, I thought the Oprah special was pretty good, yet disheartening on a few levels (which I plan to get into as this series continues). However, I couldn't help but notice how he, Chris Rock, didn't really DELVE into the psyche behind why so many black women opt for weaves, relaxers and the like to begin with. He only discussed the surface (at least that's all he touched on the show; who knows what the actual documentary will discuss or how far it will go into the topic).

In case you missed it on Oprah though, here is a clip of Chris Rock's appearance on Oprah last week.

This discussion is a lot broader than people may come to realize. In picking apart the entire dynamic of Black Women and "Good Hair", I've decided to create a "Good Hair": An Examination series broken into the following:

1. The History, the Definition, and the Theory

2. The Psyche

3. The Individual and the Lifestyle

Let's start with the first point.........


Good Hair: The History, the Definition, and the Theory:

The History:

Black people have the coarsest and most difficult texture of hair of any other race of people. Historically speaking, our hair is also the least likely to grow to magnificent and glorious lengths. However, over the span of time, our hair has been a defining factor into our culture as a Black people. The braids, the afros, the locs, and other "natural" styles are signature and "representative" styles that separate us from other races and bound us as a culture. In short, our hair is bigger than.....our hair (I hope that made sense).

Most Blacks here in America are not completely African. Stemming from slavery, our black blood has been mixed with other races which would and could have a direct effect on our black hair, making it seemingly "less" black and otherwise "good hair".

Since the beginning of time, African-Americans have been defined by the characteristics of their (our) hair. Rewinding back into the days of even slavery where there were "house slaves" and "field slaves" determined by skin pigmentation, hair texture also played a role in this as well. Because many "house slaves" (lighter toned blacks), were of mixed race, their hair was less coarse, less "nappy" and better accepted overall. However, at the end of the day, they were black nonetheless, which didn't exempt them from being a slave in the least. However, it did restrict them from having to work the long and excruciating hours on plantations. Instead, they worked in house, tended to the needs inside and were better treated. Their hair, like their skin pigmentation, played a very real role in the deciding factor of "who does what".

Over many many years and countless renovations within society--from socioeconomic issues between the races to perceptions carried from African-American to African-American, the strength our hair has had has always been a huge determinant in anything we have done as a collective race from job placements to even who we will date and through the ages, one thing has remained a very real and exceedingly strong constant--the talk of what "good hair" is. And even through all of this, the definition has always been about texture and length versus health and strand strength as it should be. It's always been "Straight is Great/Nappy is Unhappy". Always. There's always been a real psychology behind our hair when it comes to social standards and acceptance. And what's worse? Many blacks are so inept to this realization that they either don't bother to realize it or hear of the realization and get up in arms. Well this is truth. There's a psychology behind our hair. Period. (and that will be discussed in part 2).

The Definition:

The term, "good hair" has been made very common "slang-speak" amongst Black males and females across the board location-wise. The description of "good hair" is usually long, usually not the stereotypical "coarse" or "nappy" hair and is by many standards "better" hair. In short, it's everything the "standard" "Black hair" is not. In my opinion, it's actually a backhanded compliment when someone clamors over my hair and say, "you've got that GOOD HAIR" based on the texture of my hair (my hair is not coarse but rather wavy and I have no real need for relaxers. Until the Big Snip of '08, my hair used to be "long"). In my opinion, "good hair" is that which is healthy, regardless of its texture and visible length, but rather in its density and strand strength. However, this definition is not what "good hair" is defined as, only the former has carried.

The Theory:

The theory of "good hair" is that "good hair" is better, preferred by most, easier to manage and better accepted throughout society. Since that is the "theory" (and in many cases, truth), many black women have opted to conform to this theory and have taken it as a means of "being accepted in White America" without really knowing it. Enter the weaves, the different types of sew-ins and wigs, the costly transformations from "Black girl" to "oh she must be mixed with..........." phenom.......

Next blog: Good Hair: The Psyche. Stay tuned!

07 October 2009

Green Eyes

I know our love will never be the same
But I can't stand the growing pains

"Emotions run rampant as I sit in reflection, mentally reenacting the times and places in which caused me to become so engulfed in love with you......It's gonna be a while before I'm once again complacent" -Me

Today I don't feel this way.
This October 7th, 2009, I don't hold this emotion.
In this present moment, I am happy.
Not hurt. I'm okay.

But once upon a time, I felt like this
I was this woman before
Eyes so green I become another, less likeable version of myself
A woman scorned

...By Love (capital necessary)

.......and this song sang a familiar tune to my soul.

*le sigh*

MySpace Music Playlist at MixPod.com

Before I heal, it's gonna be a while
I know it's gonna be a while, chile