Hair We Go Again

That’s not a typo in the headline, folks. After pouring my heart out about the final choice between a life with my mother and a life of sanity, I’m here to talk about hair. Specifically to talk about the new perm that I put (or inflicted, depending on your point of view) on my hair last weekend. 

I’ve had a natural look for most of my life. The reasons were partly religious. I’ve mentioned my staunchly religious upbringing before. For whatever reason all our church elders made it a point of doctrine to discourage women from chemically treating their hair. They would preach, and some women would listen. But honestly — telling 200 or so black women not to perm their hair is like cat wrangling, don’t you think? Any way, there was always a preference for natural hair among some strains of Christian men in my upbringing, so wearing my hair natural, braided or texturized was never a big deal. I’m also somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to cosmetics, so I always felt more comfortable with my look. 

But I also like to try new things.  I have a walk-in closet packed with clothes that I love to play in, and more handbags than should be decently allotted to one woman. Naturally (no pun intended), I wanted to try something different with my hair. Years ago I had a perm and a fierce short haircut done by a stylist whom I’ve since lost contact with. I walked into a semi-trendy salon in my city’s downtown, where for some time now, my regular stylist has been dying to do something far far different than my standard wash/cut/texturize. I held back from putting on, say, a hairpiece on the top so I could rock a Rihanna-style bob.  

No sooner had I walked out of that place with my newly bone-straight, short style, I felt a little crestfallen. No more natural hair. Sure, sure, I used a brand of a relaxer that had ‘soothing botanicals’ and which did no harm to my scalp. But I had just saved an issue of Essence magazine that listed salons that specialize in braids and natural hair and gave great tips on maintaining braids. Even though one of the listings was for Hair by Nedjetti (a big name in the tri-state area for natural hair styling) in a neighboring town, did I follow through?

Obviously not. So, although I give a LOT of credit to you women out there who can maintain a perm and get your hair to always look great, I think I miss the stylist (Ferrari) who put that amazing cut on my hair years ago and I might have to take this whole chemically subdued look one day at a time before I say I’m thrilled and my life is sooo much better.  

Hubby likes the new look, although he is partial to my low-maintenance look and might huff and puff if I get all high-maintenance and over protective of my permed hair in misty weather. Or if I shy away from a dunk in the pool because I don’t want the chlorine to ruin my hair. Or if I take so long to style my hair that it cuts into morning chats about this or that. 

As a backup, I’m going to keep tabs on Nedjetti’s Web site, and follow the goings on of other stylists who specialize in natural hair, like Diane da Costa. 

 

Interesting side story: I met and interviewed Nedjetti Harvey for a magazine launch several years ago. Although the magazine did not ‘blow up’, Nedjetti has gone on to be successful, I would say. She runs a salon and has been featured time and again in several fashion and hair styling magazines. If you remember the Internet miniseries “30 Dates in 30 Days”, you might remember seeing her in the credits as the stylist. That miniseries was fun — it set up five black women on six dates, allowing viewers to choose the guys, theme of the date and their clothes. I hope they do it again — and maybe show a more “diverse” pool of bachelors. Hint, hint.

Mixed Family Drama

Police dramas, hospital dramas and family dramas are what makes (and has made) for some of the best TV shows around aren’t they? And I bet some of us lead lives wherein situations either of our own making, or those inflicted on us, would bring in some pretty high ratings if they were put to scripts and dramatized.

That brings me to the awkward, even queasy part of my marriage, my mother. I generally avoid talking about her too much, because in my mind, people have much bigger problems than whether or not I get along with her. And I’ve refrained from talking about my mother on this blog because I’ve already done that with a therapist last summer and I didn’t want to conjure up old ghosts. Well folks, Hubby and I have been married for almost 4 1/2 years, and for half that time, my mother and I haven’t had a decent conversation. I only call at Christmas — maybe Easter, too. Mommy is usually aloof, offering almost nothing beyond formalities and customary pleasantries. I didn’t even tell her I was pregnant until I was well into my seventh month, and it was well-meaning family pressured me to. I meant to tell her in March, but the timing coincided with her decision to send a nasty birthday card to my 15-year-old sister, who as a result of a fallout with Mommy, lives with us. The card was so mean and icy that I’m pretty sure just opening it sent up an Arctic blast that should correct the whole global warming problem any minute now. Hubby and I couldn’t just let it slide. At the end of a tense exchange between the three adults, Hubby and I drew the line yet again with Mommy: We want you to be part of this family, but you must be civil. Mommy pretty much let us know that she wasn’t interested in our lives if it meant treating Little Sister with respect. And so the estrangement continues.

Now that Baby is due next month, I find myself fighting fiercely to keep this woman out of my head. It doesn’t help that the expectations are high for me to mend fences. How should I handle the news about the baby? Do I tell my mother when I go into delivery or wait until after the baby is born? Would she come to see the baby and to the christening? Do I do what’s right for me and stay away from her, or listen to the entreaties of family and keep her in my life? Considering that nothing I do or say will stop my mother from behaving in vicious, damaging ways, why should I give in? Something is wrong with this picture. In a perfect world (at least according to magazine pictures and based on my friends’ stories about their moms), she would be helping me decorate the nursery and I’d be getting the spare room ready for her to visit after the birth, right?

This is a tough situation, because my mother is an unforgettable woman. She is tall and has those high cheekbones and regal beauty that remind a lot of people of Phylicia Rashad.  She’s affluent, usually well put together and a talented singer, organist and pianist. She is such a great cook that when I brought Hubby (then possible fiance) home to meet her and my little sister, Hubby gave this assessment a few days later: “Your mom is exactly the person I’ve been looking for my whole life!” Hubby is a devout gourmand.

On the other hand, Mommy and me have never quite seen eye to eye on anything worthwhile. It’s safe to say we’re almost opposites in temperament. But I didn’t expect her to ignore me during our wedding weekend in Jamaica, dress up like the wife of the sun god and outshine me, yet behave as cold as ice and aloof toward Hubby and the in-laws. She barely socialized with any of us, did not stay at our hotel or tell us where she was staying (I asked her a million times), never had a meal with us, did not send Little Sister to the wedding rehearsal like I asked her to, and did not sit with us during the rehearsal dinner.

More than one family member has asked me privately whether Mommy disliked the fact that I married outside my race. It never occurred to me that she didn’t want a white son-in-law. I just thought she was being an extreme version of her usual button-down, circumspect self. If she did not think I should have married this man, I reasoned that it must have had something to do with her (formerly mine, too) staunch religion, social class or culture. I won’t accuse her of racial bias, because I think I’ve said previously on this blog that Jamaicans are used to intermarrying, and she must be used to that sort of thing by now, right? But the thing is that Mommy is one of those stoic, insular Jamaican women. She is religiously conservative and very opinionated about everything. During the last presidential election, she drove her luxury SUV out of her gated community to her polling place and voted … Republican!!! Hubby is kind of like a leftist New York intellectual, so if my mother has any kind of aversion to Hubby, it might stem from their different politics.

This situation is so complicated that it’s hard to guess how things will turn out. But now that she has emphatically let me know that she is no longer interested in me or my life, then what am I supposed to do? I know that babies are magical, and when they come into the world, they have a tendency to melt people’s hearts and make the way for reconciliation. But whether she’s in her glory or her disgrace, my mother is a force of nature, as anyone can judge from the clip below. I think the reason she left Florida several years ago was that she was tired of competing with the hurricanes to leave destruction in her wake, and I’m not too thrilled about passing the family madness to another generation.

 

She Looks Marvelous, Simply Marvelous

Many dedicated blog and ‘net surfers have probably already dug up photos of Halle Berry’s little bundle, but can we ever get enough of a cutie? Naaaah. Here she is, Nahla Ariela Aubry.  She really is cute, and I can understand why her parents decided to keep her under wraps ever since she was born in March. If you lived a very public life, wouldn’t you want to have your hard-won child all to yourself for a few months before showing her off to the world?  

No need to auction of first photos of the baby, like the Jolie-Pitts have decided to do, even if the money is forked over to a children’s charity. I think the amount of attention paid to ‘celebrity news’ and ‘celebrity gossip’ is really excessive. Anyway, doesn’t it get awfully boring and predictable after a while? Someone is always breaking up, divorcing, having someone else’s baby, spiraling to the bottom of a whiskey glass, snorting heroine or something else equally tawdry. 

But I guess that’s human nature for you. Eventually, magazines engage in to silly practices like publicly auctioning off baby pictures, on the argument that demand from us, presumably sane people drive demand for it and they need to stay competitive.   

Anyway, that’s the world in which we live. We can either jump in and improve it, or stop pretending to be shocked (!) when magazines like ‘OK!’ depravedly pursue fallen pop stars like Britney Spears, in their lowest moments of mental illness. The editors of those magazines are depraved people and that series of photos and stories turned me off of celebrity magazines permanently.

My Very Unscientific Opinion

Whew. That last post had me fired up. I won’t blame the pregnancy hormones, though. This sort of thing happens with me A LOT. Hence, the blog. 

I need to shift gears a bit and talk about baby genders, you know … am I having a boy or girl. Before I let the cat out of the bag, I’ll let you all in on a funny story line. When Hubby and I jumped the broom, it did not escape my notice that no women had been born into his family in three generations. I’ll stand corrected if there was a still birth or some other tragic occurrence that befell a female relative, but as far as he knew, no one — not his grandfather, father and certainly not he had any sisters. Coming from a family well represented by girls, I thought this was crazy stuff. What could these men possibly have been thinking? To this day (and the best of our knowledge, because there are a couple of cousins who fell out of contact) only one of Hubby’s brothers and cousins has had a girl. Still, that’s only one female in four generations. 

So you can imagine that I laid down some hearty threats on Hubby to give his wife a girl. But not to be a total nag about, I thought I’d sweeten the pot. I left all kinds of prompts around the house to encourage Hubby’s swimmers to move the girls in front and tell the boys to back off at least until their sister got first dibs for mommy’s cuddles. There were pink cotton outfits with frilly bloomers, pink Ralph Lauren dresses with matching undies and melt-you-down adorable accessories like mittens and hats and all. If we were ever out walking or whatever and I saw a cutie of a girl, I pulled Hubby aside and told him to ‘focus and concentrate’

Now, this is all very unscientific, but we had fun while it lasted. Plus, I tried to convince Hubby that a lot of interracial couples produce girls. I don’t know why it is, but of all my cousins who intermarried, they’ve all had mostly girls. Plus Halle & Gabriel had a girl, and we could go down a whole list of female biracial celebrities and debutantes, right?

Hubby wasn’t buying it. Not when I left cute outfits on his desk, his side of the bed, on his mirror in the bathroom or when I commandeered his computer and set his wallpaper to pictures of cute little girls I found in magazine ads for Gap or Polo Ralph Lauren.  He just chuckled or shook his head at me like I was Lucy and he was Ricky and went on reading The Wall Street Journal or some other brain food.  

Well it worked!  I’m having a girl and I couldn’t be more atwitter about it. She’s a mover, too. There are some days when I can’t concentrate at work, for all her hiccuping, fluttering and full on Judo demonstrations. I have to rub my belly down with a tennis ball or ice to get her to settle. You know those videos that show babies distorting their mommies tummies with kicks, punches and all sorts of rolling around? That’s my life most days of the week. This kid is an active baby. Watch out Janet Evans. This little swimmer is going for gold! 

Now, that I’ve got my girl, I’ll take whatever comes next. Hubby can even go back to his family family tradition of handing out all boys, if he likes. 

One last thing, and let me be clear on this: I got what I asked for, and I’m thrilled. No complaints. But I do need suggestions. How do I settle a developing baby that insists on waking me up at night to use the bathroom and then play for 30 minutes?

Can’t Let it Go

I’ve waited for what seems like a long while to talk about the latest circuses going on with the DNC and RNC. I want to first say that Michelle Obama’s speech almost had me in tears a couple of times. She really adored her dad, didn’t she? 

Obama, of course, was brilliant, and it wasn’t because he gave a great speech. Much of what he aims for is attainable, with the right blend of straightforward governance and bipartisan cooperation. Plus, he held ordinary Americans partially responsible for the housing market predicament that we are in right now.

But let me get to my main point in this blog: What is the difference between a ‘reformer’ and someone who is too inexperienced to govern in Washington? Apparently, it all depends on whether you’re a manipulating Republican spinmeister or whether you’re a gullible American voter willing to fall for that garbage.

It burns me up that the Republicans try to get away with taking jabs at Obama for being an inexperienced Congressional legislator. Yet they wave that obvious token, that gun-toting ‘hockey mom’ in front of American voters and call her a ‘reformer’, who is ready to take on the special interests and the self-serving elites of Washington.

Please, America, brush aside all the snarky remarks about Obama’s inexperience in Palin’s speech and ask yourself: if Beltway experience is SUCH A MAJOR ISSUE, then why is she on the Republican ticket? Oh, I forgot. Bitter bimbos like me, disappointed that Hillary didn’t get the Democratic nomination, are supposed to suspend logic, abandon our political philosophies and vote for whichever candidate put a girl on their ticket. 

Problem solved. 

Oh, wait. There is the small matter of Bristol Palin, who found herself in the same position as millions of other girls in this country — knocked up for no good reason. I suppose I admire Obama for taking that whole issue off the table. I however, don’t have as much class as he does, and I’ve got a few things to say about that, too. 

First of all, the Republicans are the BIGGEST HYPOCRITES in the world for asking Americans to simply move past this issue. I won’t. I remember all too clearly the way that black (and Latino, too, but to a lesser extent) women were relentlessly demonized for being single mothers. It was all our fault that the country’s ‘family values’ had gone down the toilet. Apparently, we were the ones, each with our litter of welfare-dependent children, that were degrading the sanctity of family in the good old U.S.A. I was in my young adolescent years when this trash was being peddled on the American public. Later on, it wasn’t fun realizing that as a black woman from New Jersey, it was very likely that more of my federal taxes were being diverted to white welfare mothers in Nebraska and a bunch of other GOP-loyal states than were coming back to my state for my purposes. 

And NOW the GOP waves this unmarried teenage mama, who happens to be white, Republican and very well connected, in my face and I’m supposed to just call a truce and move on?!?! Just because she and her barely-out-of-high-school boyfriend are holding hands for the camera and making shotgun wedding plans?

In my twenties, both in college and out, some white guys thought nothing of hitting on me RELENTLESSLY, like it was a game. Maybe it was just typical male buffoonish behavior.  But then there was one dude who kept asking me OUT LOUD to do all sorts of crazy, dirty things (like, a week after we met) and it’s probably partially due to the beating that black women’s reputations took in the 80s and 90s. And I’ve heard many stories from my black female peers too; white men of almost every stripe would hit on them, expecting them to be a sure thing. I’m sure this kind of stuff goes on with women of every other nationality and ethnicity, too, but you can’t tell me that this overtly trashy behavior wasn’t implicitly made OK — by BET and the GOP. 

And yes, I know I just recently complained about too many black girls having their dreams deferred my unplanned pregnancies. My overarching point is that during this election, a farce is going to be passed over on the American public, and when all is said and done, there will still be a double standard for moral rightness, for ‘family values’.

Ugh. Would EVERYONE please keep their houses in order, and after you’ve done so, shut the door and stop calling out your neighbors for what they’re doing?