Natural Hair, Don’t Care

Gazing into the pond near the Bellagio in Las Vegas. With the kinks.

While I walked to an 8 a.m. psychology class, an ROTC guy, a bit too chipper for that hour, got my attention. Sleepy but smiling, I faced him.

“Hey, how are you?” he began. “Let me ask you a question: Did it take a lot of nerve for you to cut your hair?”

Yes, I responded, surprised at his candor but comfortable with his genuine tone.

“So what’s it like for you now? You just wake up in the morning and go, huh?” Again, yes. We smiled and laughed with each other, then went our separate ways. It was the simplest of conversations. No exchanged numbers, no awkward small talk. Just an honest question and an honest answer.

What was so special about this interaction? Maybe it was the fact that a young white man took sincere interest in a black woman’s hair. Maybe it his friendliness or confidence—after all, he was delving into culturally risky territory. But he didn’t bother me. He appeared to appreciate the ease my hair affords me. All I could do was smile.

Since I buzzed my hair down to about an inch in November 2011, I get a lot of comments about my lack of a historic beauty marker. Most often I hear, “I wish I could do that but I don’t have the head for it.” Only a few times I’ve heard “That’s interesting” or “Oh,” remarks that tickle me. The main question I get, however, is Why?

It’s simple. I’m rocking the hairstyle that is most convenient for me, that generates the least amount of chaos in my life.

Embracing the kinks that grow from my scalp frees me. The rain, the humidity, the wind, and the shower are no longer my enemies. If my hair gets wet, it will just curl even more, depending on which products I’ve used. My prep time in the mornings has fallen significantly. It’s just so easy.

Being natural is like being in a special counter-cultural club, one complete with numerous counseling blogs, forums, and videos. A recently photoshopped pic of Michelle Obama with cute, funky kinks had the blogosphere in a frenzy. But I don’t have any political or social agenda, nor am I trying to make a fashion statement. I just don’t care anymore. I don’t care about what men prefer. I don’t care about what the media thinks looks better. My hair is mine, and I feel good about it. Is it sexy in the traditional sense? Maybe, maybe not. Can you run your fingers through it as if it’s threads of silk? Nope. But I’m choosing to work with it right now, and that’s all that matters.

Many women feel they’ll lose an important sense of femininity–and thereby be less attractive to men–if they chop their tresses. That fear, at least in my experience, is unsubstantiated. Very short hair may not attract the types of guys who think Drake’s music videos depict real life, but it will probably attract men who appreciate you for you. Now that I can vet the secure men from the poseurs, my dating prospects have improved. It’s refreshing to find people who accept and admire your unique humanity in a world full of rubber butts stuffed in thousand-dollar strips of spandex.

After 25 long years of beating myself up over these natural coils, I’ve learned to accept what comes out of my head, because it’s just one small part of the complex me. I’ll gladly answer any questions about it, but anyone who can’t get past the kinks isn’t worth my time, anyway. I’m not my hair nor any one thing. Thankfully, I no longer care.

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Taking Care of Home

Housework: Better than a day of shopping. At least in my world.

Besides Idris Elba’s beautiful face, housework makes me warm and tingly.

My Suzy Homemaker side has been in full effect for the past two weeks: I’ve vacuumed or swept the floors, washed all the towels, and scrubbed down the microwave, just to name a few things. I’m so into it. I even got excited unloading the dishes out of the washer–they were so sparkly and clean and pretty that I couldn’t help but swoon. Don’t laugh: Only a homemaker appreciates the value of a good rinse agent.

For me, cleaning up is about more than just presenting a clean space to guests or preventing dust from gathering on the shelves. It’s about taking care of my space, taking pride in my domain and creating a relaxing, peaceful environment with which to surround myself. Sometimes I get annoyed that others in my household don’t clean up, but at the same time, I know I’m the best person for the job. Not only that, but I really do enjoy it. I can vacuum that floor like nobody’s business.

This week, I plan to extend my homemaking kick into the kitchen. I’m going to bake a cake from scratch, complete with homemade whipped icing. Maybe Idris will come for dessert? A girl can dream.

Where’s the Party? In Your Head

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While trying on a pile of ill-fitting hipster clothes at the mall one afternoon, I heard some unrecognizable dance-pop chick sing about how the “party’s in [her] head.” At first I dismissed the ditty as just another disposable Ke$ha-style club banger, but when I listened closer, I found myself smiling at the lyrics:

I don’t care if the whole club is dead
The party’s in my head
If you won’t let me in
Dancing on the street instead
The party’s in my head

As I bobbed my head, I thought about the times I’ve gone out and had a great time, simply because I decided I would be upbeat. For example, when a few uncouth bouncers at a hot Vegas nightclub decided my sister wasn’t who her ID said she was (TSA apparently had no qualms), I made up my mind that I’d enjoy myself elsewhere, and I did. That’s because the good times weren’t in the club–they were in me, waiting for me to ignite them.

But the Swedish singer, September, wasn’t just talking about clubbing. She was talking about life.

Of course, you can’t control everything that happens to you. You can, however, control your thoughts about all of it. With your chin up and your confidence steady, you can accept the uncontrollable–the funky attitudes of others, the gray sky, the ever-rising gas prices–and draw from the well of peace burbling inside you. You choose your own purpose, happiness, excitement, fun, joy, contentment, fulfillment. Despite the naysayers, the wet blankets, and the party poopers, you host the show in your mind. When you live that truth, you don’t have to wait for anyone to let you “in.”

The party’s in your head. Turn up the music and dance.

Rejected? The World Still Turns

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We all want to be accepted. So when we get a “No, not at this time,” it never feels good.

But rejection allows for reflection. It allows us to ask ourselves what we can learn from this experience, what we can do differently next time. When we don’t get what we want, we can recalibrate our desires to match reality. Even when you don’t get the goods, the world still turns.

The key to staying strong, focused, and confident after rejection? Remember your value. No one can take that away from you, no matter how many times you get a “No.” So keep moving, dreaming, pushing. Don’t wonder what’s wrong with you: You’re fine. Just figure out what’s next.

Ask Right Now: The Power of Opening Your Mouth

She should ask her doctor why her co-pay is so high.

My 3-year-old nephew has not yet learned to bite his tongue. When he’s try to “drive” his big plastic police car across my bed and I’m in the way, he will shout “Move over!” a million times in the same tone. When we took him to a Mexican restaurant, the hungry fella matter-of-factly requested rice and eggs, period. And he got it.

Adults, in contrast, tend to be more lax about obtaining their specific desires. We want time off or better customer service at Ulta or more time to pay our Verizon Wireless bill (they’re great!), but we bite our tongues because we think it’s just not worth the trouble. We’re afraid of rejection, or we may even think we have no right to ask.

But no matter how disillusioned you are with the cliche about closed mouths, most of the time, we don’t get what we want because we don’t ask. It’s as simple as that.

Every human being–from the fun-loving toddler to the hardworking grownup–has a right to speak up. It’s highly unlikely that someone other than the associate at McDonald’s will ask you, specifically, what it is you want. During a recent doctor’s visit, for example, my physician insisted everything was hunky-dory, but I wasn’t convinced. When I asked her to check again, she realized I was correct. If I had just taken her word for it, I wouldn’t be on the road to answers right now.

The next time you want something–a few days off from work, a closer examination when the doctor insists you’re fine, more beans in your Chipotle burrito bowl–say so. Even if you don’t get the results you were looking for, your confidence in your own voice will increase. You don’t have a right to get everything you ask for, but you do have a right to open your mouth.

Regroup, Refresh, Rebalance

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Have you ever felt tired, drained, irritated for no reason? As if you had no clue what you were doing and why you were doing it?

That’s how I’ve been feeling.

I feel as if something is missing. What it is, I cannot point to. I just know that something seems off-balance. Maybe I’m having too much fun. Maybe I’m eating too much frozen yogurt and drinking too many ginger ales. A cutthroat professor? A phony death? Maybe I gambled too much in Vegas. Whatever it is, I’ve got to do something.

Now is a good time for me to inject something fresh into my life. Yoga? Meditation? I thought about visiting a Buddhist temple a few weeks ago, so perhaps I should look for one nearby. Or maybe I should attend an open mic or sing karaoke or go hiking.

I don’t have to stop there. I just have to get myself back in order.