Tag: Hair

For The First Time…

Yesterday I decided to do something different. I wore my natural hair to work. Not all the way natural – it was blow-dried (so there was some heat involved, but still) and it felt very liberating. As an African American, my hair texture is not as fine as my Caucasian colleagues at work so I’m very careful about how I “represent” at work. Usually, I like to switch it up – I might rock a wig one day, extensions another or just put my hair in a bun or wear it plaited. Whatever the case, I like to change up my look & keep my co-workers guessing as to what I’ll look like from one day to another.

I washed my hair the night before but it got so late (washing my hair can take forevvvver) so I went to bed without styling my hair at all. When I woke up late the next morning, I only had enough time to ‘fluff it out’ & throw a headband on. My hair, full & fluffy in its natural state, was out for the world to see & I liked it!

It was very freeing. I felt like my own hair was beautiful with or without chemicals, a ton of product or even a curling iron. Actually, without any heat, my hair is very full and doesn’t need much by way of gels, creams or oils. A comb & a brush is enough to tame my hair so after I combed it, I decided to let it be free without the stress of heat or being pulled back into a ponytail. Don’t get me wrong, I still like to change up my look & will probably have a totally different style next week. But for now, I am glad that I did this little experiment.

What was I afraid of? Honestly, I don’t know. Maybe that I wouldn’t be considered professional enough or that it would look strange to have all this hair going wild & free when I am normally more conservative? Whatever my concerns, they were unsubstantiated because I got a lot of compliments from my co-workers. Even my own manager liked it (and I don’t think she was just saying that either). Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks that Black hair is beautiful.

 

Why I Finally Stopped Coloring My Hair

Two years ago, I stopped coloring my hair and realized I had unintentionally done something radical. People assumed my long, gray hair was a statement against our culture’s celebration of youth and our rigid conventions of beauty. Or, conversely, they assumed my hair revealed an inherent laziness on my part.

“I don’t mind gray hair on a woman,” a man told me once over a glass of wine, as if I had forgotten to shower or wear deodorant.

“I could never let my hair go gray,” a friend said to me. “I mean, yours looks OK, but my mother would just die if I let my hair go like that.”

“Good for you!” a stranger screamed across the parking lot at the public library. “Good for you! Don’t you ever let anyone tell you you need to color you hair!”

And while I appreciated this man’s enthusiastic endorsement of my… umm… lifestyle choice, I was not quite sure it was deserved. I got my first gray hairs when I was in my early twenties. Back then, I considered my gray hairs to be purveyors of doom, and so I began what would become years of touching up, dyeing, and highlighting away every gray strand, every indication that I might, one day, be old.

At first, I did my own coloring, and sometimes the resulting colors were shades that actually appeared naturally in other humans. Most of the time, however, I emerged from these hours-long sessions with locks of varying shades of plum and purple, hints of Ronald-McDonald orange and Big-Bird yellow. Once, when my older son was 3, he took one look at my freshly-dyed hair and burst into tears.

“Your hair is purple!” he screamed.

“Honey, it’s not purple,” I said.

But there was too much evidence to the contrary.

“It is! It is!” he sobbed.

By the time I was in my early thirties, I had learned to let a professional do my coloring, and as my hair grew grayer and grayer, I went to the colorist’s at increasingly narrow intervals — every other month, every six weeks, every four weeks. By the time I was 40, I was going every three weeks. The entire procedure — color, shampoo, scalp massage, blow-dry — took about three hours and cost half of what I earned in a week, yet two weeks after this epic coloring session, my hair once again looked like someone had run a white paintbrush over my part.

And so one day a couple of years ago, I just decided that was it. I called my long-time stylist and made an appointment for — gasp — just a cut.

“Wait,” my stylist said when I arrived. “They only put you down for a cut. We’ll need rework the schedule a bit to fit in your color.”

“No,” I explained. “I’m going to stop coloring.”

My hairdresser was my age, heroin-addict skinny with butt-length, carrot-colored hair and a myriad of fading tattoos — a ring around her thin wrist, a rose above her right breast, a branch on her left ankle. She stood behind me and in the reflection in the mirror, her scowl was lopsided and crinkly around the edges.

“You can’t be serious,” she finally said.

I was serious, I told her.

“You’re going to look 10 years older,” she said. “Are you prepared for that?”

I was prepared for that. I was 45 years old, and no amount of hair dye was going to make me look 20. Plus, there were plenty of other women who wore their gray hair beautifully. My mother was one of them.

Back in the seventies, my mother had a jet-black bob like Jackie Kennedy, but she stopped dying her hair some time in the eighties. Now, people constantly told her she looked years younger than she was. Her secret? She always wore vivid colors, and she never went anywhere — the grocery store, hiking, water aerobics — without earrings and plenty of bright lipstick — blazing lava, plum explosion, true red.

Personally, I was a fan of drab colors — browns, blacks, grays — and I knew a splash of colorful lipstick was not suddenly going to transform me into my perky, upbeat mother. It just wasn’t me. Still, while I was growing out my hair, the thin, gray band around my scalp got increasingly wider, as if I were wearing a giant, white headband, and finally, I decided a splash of color here and there couldn’t hurt.

And so I invested in a few brightly-colored scarves, a couple of flashy tops. My daughter also convinced me to buy a long, purple wrap. The wrap became my new go-to item — the thing I wore to every single event I attend for an entire spring and summer and part of the fall. However, every time I put it on, rather than feeling fresh-faced and lively, I was reminded of perhaps the greatest transgression I ever committed against my mother, something far worse than all my teenage shenanigans combined.

I was in my early twenties, and my mother was younger than I am now — in her early forties — when I gave her a book I thought she would like. My daughter was 2 at the time, and I was pregnant with my son, and I saw this as a moment of bonding — a moment when I could say to my mother, “I, too, am a woman, and I understand the difficulty of growing older in a society that honors youth.” The book was When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple, which Thrift Books describes as an “enchanting collection of writings and photographs evokes the beauty, humor and courage of women living in their later years.”

Later years. My mother was the same age I was when I took up mountain biking, the age when I embraced the craft beer movement and began road racing, the age when I was just beginning to be calm in my mind and comfortable in my body, the age that Esquire just praised as the time when women are most alluring. My mother opened the book — a birthday gift — and paused with it in her hands. Her eyes were wide and dark, her lovely, fuchsia lips twitching up and down, searching for words. A sliver of wrapping paper clung to the book’s back cover.

“Oh,” she said. “Oh.”

There was the briefest pause, and then the silence gave way to thank you and how thoughtful, and the moment was gone.

That was over 20 years ago. Now, my mother actually is growing older, and, at 47, I suppose I am too. Today, I no longer balk at the insinuation inherent in my head full of gray hairs — the implication that I am surely and swiftly heading where we are all heading, if we are lucky — to old age. And whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or in a photo one of my kids snaps on a cell phone, I see a bit of my mother — the red undertones in my skin, the certain way I hold my jaw — and I think of that stranger in the library parking lot, and I simply think, well, yeah. Good for me. Good for me.

Grey hair

*Article originally published on Huffington Post.

African Americans Reconnect With Nature With Outdoor Afro!

A couple of weeks ago I was watching News One Now on TV One and happened to catch a guest by the name of Rue Mapp. Ms. Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro an organization dedicated to introducing more African Americans to the adventures of the outdoors. As an African American young woman, I recognize that most of us don’t spend a lot of time communing with nature. Regardless of how one feels about braving the elements or finding the right outdoor equipment & supplies, becoming one with nature has its benefits.

outdoorafro

Outdoor Afro is a social community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more!

Outdoor Afro disrupts the false perception that black people do not have a relationship with nature, and works to shift the visual representation of who can connect with the outdoors.

We remember our history in nature, leverage social media, and support relevant local leadership to create interest communities, events, and partnerships that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

During her childhood, founder Rue Mapp split her time between urban Oakland, California and her families’ working ranch in the Northern woodlands, where she cultivated a passion for natural spaces, farming, and learned how to hunt and fish. As a youth, her participation in the Girl Scouts and Outward Bound broadened her outdoor experiences, such as camping, mountaineering, rock climbing, and road bicycling. But Rue was troubled by the consistently low numbers of African Americans participating in these activities. So for two decades, Rue has used digital media as an important and practical tool to connect with people of color who share her outdoor interests. Outdoor Afro emerged naturally from these experiences.

Rue has a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was inspired by her study of the artistic representation of the American forests. She is also a successful entrepreneur whose game and hobby store start-up (It’s Your Move) remains an important part of the Oakland community. In 2010, Rue was honored to be invited to the White House to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference where President Obama signed an historic memorandum to help reconnect all Americans to the Great Outdoors, and was invited back to take part in a think-tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative. She was also appointed program officer at the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment where she served for two years to manage its grantmaking program.

Recently, Rue was named a Hero in Backpacker Magazine, honored as part of the Root 100 of the top black achievers and influencers for 2012, and received the Josephine and Frank Dunaneck award for her humanitarian efforts. Rue is a proud mother of three active children – Seth, Arwen, and Billy, lives in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, and especially enjoys hiking, camping, biking, birding, and kayaking.

Some of their key sponsors include:

REIKAPORSIERRA CLUBCLIF BAR

Here is a round-up of resources (in no order of importance) to help connect Outdoor Afros with the outdoors and related topics:

National

Regional

Biking

Camping

Hunting and Fishing

Media

Clubs and Associations

Academic

Conferences

Products/Lifestyle

Farming and Foodways

For more information visit their website: http://www.outdoorafro.com/

The More I Stay In, The Less I Spend

One of the best reasons to stay at home is that I get to save money. Lots of money actually (well, if you multiply it by the amount of nights that I stay in). As much as I complain about not having a date sometimes, I never stop to think about how many great things I get to do at home for little to no money.

Here are some pretty cool ways to spend your weekend indoors –

  1. Work out to an exercise DVD or find a fitness show on television – Were you meaning to make it to the gym this morning but didn’t? Well, now’s your chance to get in shape in the comfort of your own living room. (And you don’t even have to shower afterwards if you don’t want to)
  2. Organize your room – Reorganizing something can make it look fresh by giving it a whole new look. Move some furniture around, pull out some old artwork to hang on the walls or even plug in a new room deodorizer. Trust me, a great smelling room can make a big difference
  3. Catch up on your TV shows – This is probably the laziest item on the list, but after a long week it’s sometimes nice to just veg on the couch
  4. Put a puzzle together – Have you ever tried to make your own puzzle before? Take a photo or a page from a magazine and glue it to a piece of cardboard (you can use the back of a notepad for a piece of cardboard). Cut it up into little pieces and there you have a homemade puzzle ready to be put back together!
  5. Write a letter – Remember these? There are still lots of people who appreciate a good old fashioned hand written letter. I should know; I’m one of those people =)
  6. Run a bubble bath – Ah, you might as well go and relax in a nice warm bubble bath. I never use mine, but if you don’t have a bathtub you can still create ambience in your bathroom with soft lighting or candles
  7. Experiment with a new hair or makeup style – I love changing up my hairstyle. Since I can’t always make it to the hair salon, a night at home is the perfect time to experiment with my own hair. Men, you may not be able to practice new hair styles with your hair but you can use this time to experiment with your wardrobe & create new outfits for yourself
  8. Write in your journal – Even if you’re not a letter writer, you still might like to write to yourself. It’s always nice to be able to reflect on your life by reading journal entries you’ve already written
  9. Try to replicate a restaurant recipe – Why spend all that money in a fancy restaurant when you can have a gourmet meal from your very own kitchen. Check out the websites of any notable cook including Rachel Ray, Wolfgang Puck or Chef Curtis to discover some new ways of making your usual dishes
  10. Explore some of those free apps on your phone – Now is the time to start playing with all those crazy icons on your phone. I have so many on my phone that I didn’t even install myself, and I have the least bit of knowledge on what they all do. I’m sure there are lots of apps that I would probably like to use but I just haven’t discovered them yet

Happy Saturday!

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Dating Is More Expensive For Women Than It Is For Men

A male friend of mine was telling me of a conversation he had with one of his guy friends about the cost of dating. He figured that in one year he spent close to $10,000 in dating alone, between dinners, the movies, taking trips, black-tie events, gifts, concerts, etc. Now he may have been exaggerating a bit, but the discussion continued on about how expensive dating can be and how women don’t have to spend hardly anything. I adamantly disagreed with this and explained to my male friend that women have to spend money too. Dating isn’t free for us either.

After this conversation, I started to really think about how much I spend on dating. On average, men spend around $50 on a date – depending on where he lives – give or take. As a woman, my money is mostly spent on preparing for the date not to mention the dates that I do occasionally pay for. Hair appointments and nail appointments can cost over $100 easily. Not to mention new outfits, shoes & accessories. My friend was quick to point out that buying new clothes for a date isn’t necessary; therefore I couldn’t count that as a “dating expense”. I told him that it does count because although we women can wear the same clothes after a date, the new outfit would not have been purchased had it not been for that date. For example, if a man takes a woman out to dinner & spends $25 on her meal & $25 on his meal he won’t say the date only costs $25. Instead, he’ll say that the date was $50 – the total cost of the dinner. The argument is that he would not have spent $25 on his meal unless he was out on that date. So, it’s the same thing with a woman buying new clothes for a date. And as for getting my hair & nails done, it may not be necessary but it’s something that men certainly enjoy seeing.

And there’s more to it than just money. Women take a lot of time getting ready than men (between hair, makeup and the like) so not only does it cost us more money, we lose more time preparing for the date. And we all know that time is money.

So gentlemen, yes dating is expensive for women too!

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Why Do Black Men Have Such a Big Problem with a Little Weave?

I have a hair appointment to get my weave taken out this week and it got me to thinking – why don’t Black men like women who wear weaves? I’ve asked some of my male friends (even some of my ex-boyfriends) and they’ve said that they prefer women who are more natural, meaning women who wear less makeup and real hair.

There’s got to be a middle ground. I understand not wanting to find out that a woman you initially thought was attractive looks like a wildebeest without makeup. But no weaves? The majority of Black women wear weaves. We also wear makeup, high heels, pantyhose and jewelry. All of these items are “fake” too, worn only to adorn ourselves and embellish our natural looks. This is what attracts men to us in the first place and hair just happens to be a major part of that.

I happen to wear a weave because it’s easier & less of a hassle. Sometimes I wear it long, sometimes I wear it short and sometimes I wear it really long. I have a perfectly healthy head of hair and I do wear my natural hair in-between the weaves but I don’t see anything wrong with switching it up. One guy told me that he doesn’t like women who wears weaves all the time (read: 365 days a year) or when he can see a woman’s tracks in her head. I do agree that it is tacky to wear a weave 24/7 – your scalp needs to breathe.

Look, if men were that much against weaves, I’m sure many more women would stop wearing them (to attract more men). What makes me laugh, though, is the fact that men say they don’t like weaves but it certainly doesn’t stop them from dating women who wear them. It also doesn’t stop them from enjoying how we look when we wear them. Besides, I’m sure if men had more options to accessorize with, they would do it too.

All I’m saying is, I like to change my hair the way men change their Jordan’s.

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