Yesterday on Twitter I happened upon a discussion about black people’s hair. Specifically, the Essence Debates team was soliciting thoughts on wearing natural hair at work. My first reaction wasn’t the nicest.
“It’s 2013, and we’re STILL discussing this…?!?”
My mind even slipped into snarky territory.
This is what’s wrong with black women. We still think we need permission to be ourselves.
But then I looked at myself. You’re reading the blog of someone who–weeks ago–snapped at someone for making a weave joke. Moments later, I apologized. (Being bitchy isn’t a part of my normal demeanour. It makes me feel bad.)
Yet in the aftermath, I also remember wondering whether or not the person who made the joke had really gotten to me.
Understand this: Hair is HUGE in the black community—especially among black women. And for many of us it’s not a matter of mere vanity.
Take the selfie that’s a few lines down.
I think I look ok. Still, there’s a huge section of the population that will look at that shot and think my hair shouldn’t be seen. Not unless it’s straightened or weaved to within an inch of its life.
If you don’t quite get where I’m coming from, you’re in for a treat. The bulk of the text after my photo is from a draft of an essay I wrote earlier this year for an online magazine. I’m not sure if they still want to use my work. But if you’re new to my blog I figured now’s as good a time as any to tell the truth about how some black people feel about the way they look…
If certain people had their way, I would look like Naomi Campbell.
I figure I’m halfway there. I’m black and although my skin isn’t exactly perfect, I have basic features that some would consider beautiful.
Still in some folks’ eyes, there’s one thing keeping me from being accepted in established society. My hair.
For over a decade I’ve refused to get it chemically straightened. (I’ve tried a few times. But I never went more than a couple of months before cutting my hair off and starting to grow it out again.) I remember when I first decided to sport my own hair or “go natural”. When I was 24 I went to get my hair done at a pricy Toronto salon. However, according to their stylist, my hair was chemically over-processed. The only cure that was prescribed was a cut. I made an appointment, and by the end, just about all of my hair was gone.
In the aftermath, I decided that I actually liked the feel of what sprouted naturally from my scalp. I let my strands grow. I wanted to get to know them.
Fast forward to earlier this year. I barely had half a foot in the door of a career in education. I was as a substitute teacher. I’d spent a substantial amount of time trying to make the leap into full-time work, but without any success.
And according to everyone from family to older, supposedly wiser (black) friends, a steady job eluded me because of my appearance.
People’s attempts at giving me advice about this problem taught me an intriguing truth:
You could take the most cultured, well-spoken black person in the world. Their level of education could rival Stephen Hawking. Yet confront said individual about whether or not a black woman has the right to wear her hair in its natural state…?
You might just be opening a Pandora’s box.
After I earned my BA in the late 90s, less than a decade afterwards, I decided to pursue a degree in education. A few months after I graduated I was taken to visit an older relative’s friends. I told her of my non-adventures as a teacher—during the last few weeks of my program I had attended an interview, but was unsuccessful.
The woman I spoke with was a proud individual who owned her own business. After some small talk, she asked me the most benign of questions.
“Why do you wear your hair that way?”
At the time I didn’t think anything of how I looked. My hair was tidy. I wore a short afro puff with a dark headband. It was a subdued style.
Nonplussed, I told the truth.
“It’s my hair on my head.” I shrugged. I didn’t see anything wrong with the way I looked. I thought my answer said it all. It didn’t occur to me that there was anything detrimental about a black person wearing her own hair in public without altering it.
Yet the woman in question didn’t like my response. She lit into me. She commented on my lack of professional success. She told me that it was no wonder I hadn’t been hired—she herself would not hire me. Not with my hair looking like THAT.
Minutes later, I witnessed a disturbing conversation. According to my elders, it was critical for black people to assimilate into North American society. And that assimilation was often hindered by one vital item. Our hair. I sat stunned as in front of my face, I was talked about as though I’d announced a decision to start a drug habit.
Like it or not, a standard of conformity concerning hair exists among black people. For many, the ideal aesthetic involves the straighter tresses found on women of other races. And those who don’t toe the line risk being ridiculed.
In addition to having been told that my hair needs to be “done”, over the years I’ve heard that it looks like “filth”. (And by “filth”, I mean actual “shit”.) Online I’ve read stories of parents threatening to withhold privileges from their teenage children, men giving their wives a hard time…Two of the most significant things that black women are told about choosing to wear natural hair is that they will remain single and that they aren’t employable. The notion of Black Woman With Natural Hair = Unworthy is huge. And hurtful.
It’s kind of funny. The people who insist on being nasty to those of us with natural hair think they’re doing a good thing. I’ve heard some of them try to justify their obnoxious attitudes. They say they want to spare those who walk around with nappy hair from ridicule. Yet just who is it that is being insulting?
The truth is that most people who aren’t black don’t even know that our natural hair texture is a problem. More than once, I’ve received complements on my hair from peers of all colours. (Even in its current crazy, developing dread stage.) Back when I first went natural I tried to relay this information to relatives. Yet what did I hear in return? That the person in question was lying. Plain and simple.
Now, I could see their logic if only one person had told me that my hair looked nice. But various, separate individuals? I even read an article online where the author insisted that positive feedback concerning our hair can’t be authentic.
Meanwhile, I believe that a change is long overdue. Some black people need to grow beyond the idea that every time a non-black person is kind to one of “us”, their gesture is insincere.
I mean, honestly. This is 2013. These days, the only non-blacks who hate black hair’s natural texture are racists.
In all seriousness, the amount of nonsense surrounding the way black people view natural hair has got to stop.
People in North America have been blinded by the most insidious of all beauty myths. Curly hair is not unattractive. Nappy hair is not hideous. Having it should not make someone unemployable or unacceptable. However, many black people have grown too accustomed to seeing textured hair manipulated into straighter styles. Anything that does not fit this ideal is depicted as a problem.
Yet this difference is not a problem. It is not a barrier. Rather, authenticity is an opportunity.
If only the people I love would recognize it.
Every day offers another chance to close the door on what you don’t want, and open another one. The media reminds us that the new year supposedly gives us the ultimate opportunity to start over. And quite honestly, I can’t deny it. Twenty-fourteen seems like the perfect time for me to keep giving my life a reboot. There’s a lot that I’d like to embrace…And leave behind.
Twenty-thirteen has been good to me. I started to pursue my dreams in a city that I love. I’m making new friends and meeting new people. Basically, my life is taking a turn for the better, and I’m thankful.
I also can’t help but be pensive. Over the past while I haven’t updated this blog. That’s partly because I haven’t had time. But I’ve also hesitated because I’ve been thinking about my content. Over the past while I’ve had questions about whether or not my site offers an accurate depiction of who I am or who I want to be. Last week I made a decision–I would either scrap my blog and start over, or write a “that was then/this is now” post. This type of change is actually new territory for me, so I asked an unbiased source for input. She suggested that I could go either way. In the end, I decided on a bit of a compromise.
Friday night I went through this site, removing and otherwise suspending a ton of old posts. If you’ve been here a while, you know that I’ve written quite a bit about religion. I’ve often railed against the establishment–I’m no right-winger. Yet lately I’ve been concerned about the meaning that religion of any kind has in contemporary society–even religion lite.
Furthermore, currently, I’m on a bit of an alternative spiritual path. Some of my thoughts are bound to upset old friends and close family. I’m still processing how I’d like to explain my evolution.
Ultimately, as I look ahead to 2014, I’d like my blog to offer a more accurate representation of myself. In the future I may or may not be more transparent…We’ll see. The longer I live, the more I understand that I need to make self-care a priority. I hope to chronicle my journey, including my spiritual evolution. It turns out that all those clichés about what it takes to keep a human being in one piece aren’t pretentious BS. They’re actually true!
I was on duty before the show started at the Sony Centre. There were a few famous Canadians in the room. It was hilarious. I offered a cheery “Hi!” to one actor, before I reined myself in.
Note to Self: Following someone on Twitter does NOT mean that they will recognize you in real life.
I can’t wait ’til next year! Lord willing, I’ll be back–either as a volunteer, or an attendee.
*ALN –> About Last Night
A few weeks ago I wrote the following piece for an assignment. In our criticism class we had the chance to comment on the new pack of fall shows. I picked Robin Williams’ latest vehicle–The Crazy Ones.
As you’ll see, initially, I had my concerns. Will the daughter always save her father…? But the show’s surpassed my cynicism. I love it to pieces.
And as for the title? Well…I was trying to be… Punny.
The Lazy Ones?
“Robin Williams is back! YES!!”
That’s what I said to myself when I first heard about CBS’s latest offering, The Crazy Ones. Over 30 years ago, I first fell for Mr. Williams as Mork in Mork and Mindy, and he hasn’t been on television since. Back then, in Mork, Williams inhabited the body of an alien. The role was perfect for him. Mork’s eccentricities gave Williams the freedom to showcase his comedic talent.
This fall The Crazy Ones’ creators seem to be relying on the same formula, only in human form. In The Crazy Ones, Williams plays Simon Roberts, an advertising executive whose grip on reality isn’t quite as strong as it ought to be. I can tell that Williams’ abilities won’t be wasted. Although capable of portraying straight characters, it’s clear to me that he’s at his best when playing men who are a bit left-of centre.
The cast features other actors who are bound to be audience favorites.
James Wolk plays Zach Cropper, the office playboy. Meanwhile, Sarah Michelle Gellar, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame costars as Simon’s daughter. Hamish Linklater from The New Adventures of Old Christine, is another series regular. With all these familiar faces, a few weeks ago when I first watched the show, I felt like I was in the midst of a nostalgia sandwich.
Yet it was more than the cast that gave me serious déjà-vu. The producers caught my attention. For some reason I was drawn to Bill D’Elia’s name in the credits. At first I couldn’t figure out why. But a quick search on imdb.com opened my eyes. Mr. D’Elia has a history of producing single-camera comedies featuring quirky ensembles. However, his name is also tied to one of the biggest fish in the TV pond: David. E. Kelley. Kelley and D’Elia have been tied together as producers since the days of Ally McBeal.
But enough background, let’s talk about story. In The Crazy Ones’ pilot, Simon accepts a challenge from his clients—McDonald’s—to find a signature voice to sing their latest jingle within 24 hours. The agency is thrown into chaos after he decides to rely on the old adage, “Leap, and the net will appear.” He courts Kelly Clarkson and with the help of his daughter, is successful. However his business coup doesn’t come without risks.
Throughout the first episode, I found the father-daughter dynamic between Williams and Gellar believable. I also had no trouble buying them as stressed executives. However, in the first and second episodes of The Crazy Ones, I was concerned about the plot. During both shows, Simon manages to push Sydney (and by default, the agency) into high-stress situations where she must deliver a superior end product to prestigious clients. If the show’s shtick relies on Williams throwing his colleagues into a state of jeopardy each week, I predict that problems will arise. Anyone who has seen The Crazy Ones can tell that the show’s cast and audience are too intelligent for that type of dreck. With Williams and Gellar at the helm, The Crazy Ones is a comedy that deserves smart stories that serve its characters.
Back when I was a little girl, there was a show called Barney Miller. It was a *multi-camera sitcom that took place in a police precinct in New York City.
Everything about this show, I dig. From
Andy Samberg the entire cast, to the theme song, to the look of the show and the writing. In my book it all works.
I’m glad it’s been picked up for a full season.
*Is it weird that I think it’s cool that I actually know what this means? The odd, nerdy ish you learn in TV school…One day at a party, I’m gonna blow someone’s mind.
Thought I was finished with 80s ballads? Me too.
But this…This showed up in a pilot for a show that
I can’t talk about we saw in class today.
The cool thing is that when that video was done, I discovered an extended Anita Baker track:
I hadn’t heard it before tonight. Good stuff.
This is one of my favorite 80s ballads. As a girl I used to listen and wonder if I would ever find someone who could make me think of its lyrics.
A few years ago, I discovered this extended version:
I really love that sax solo…
And now…After that ending, I want answers.
Of all the pop-culture references, the first thing that came to my mind was this song
I know Chanté’s singing about an entirely different circumstance. Yet the chorus kept popping into my head. I found myself replacing “Chanté” with the name “Leslie”. And then of course I thought, “Hmph! Leslie should be singin’ this about Jake.”
However, of course, she can’t because, well…She’s MARRIED.
Both Jake and Leslie’s hubby are handsome dudes in scruffy beards with leather jackets. So at the very least, we know that she’s got a type.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the hell out of this twist. But I feel betrayed.
Has Leslie been married for the entire run of the show? Did she pull a Britney Spears and get hitched on a weekend away?
This chick wants an explanation!
Recently one of my fellow students shared a great article with my classmates. It featured two talented actresses:
Black female comedians exist. They simply need to be appreciated.
More than that—they need to be acknowledged by key players in the entertainment industry.
When will folks’ ideas about what black
people women can do change? This current controversy has affirmed something for me. I’m in the right place. The only way to improve the media is from the inside, through hard work.