How Ya’ll Like Us Now?

“Weave, weave, we don’t care. Give them horses back their hair!”

NaturalHairFrohawkIf you came of age in the 90s and the early millennium, you remember that chant. It was Black men’s favorite rebuttal to Black women who insisted on styling their hair with weaves, and a knee-jerk response against any female hostility they might incur for marrying out, particularly to white women. Black men thought they were pulling our cards by calling out the weaving. They said the artifice was one reason why they would not consider Black women for committed long-term relationships. Their other grievances included our supposedly disproportionate:

  • rates of obesity
  • crass and loud manners
  • hostile attitudes
  • slack moral standards, e.g., the tendency to be baby mamas from various men

Sooo, I couldn’t help wondering how they like us now, after so many of us have ditched weaves and joined the natural hair movement. Not only have we waved the white flag on that issue, but we’re hoisting the natural hair banner with pride. ‘Begone with fake hair, and embrace what God gave you!’ is our mantra. Are Black men changing their minds about us? Sorry to say, that’s not the case. In my very unscientific estimation, it seems like Black men have not had a change of heart at all, and they continue to date out without consideration for how we physically present our hair. I realize that I’ve listed four other strikes against us, but I also couldn’t help notice that the rates of Black children without a father in the home have skyrocketed among Blacks. So they are happy to knock us up, but still no ring, house, or coveted wife status. I guess Black men have trouble extrapolating how their individual dating choices might have broader implications and perpetuate attitudes of colorism, racism or self hatred among us.

 

NaturalHair2It’s hard to tell if Black men are cutting us more slack for making this major concession about our crowning glory. I just know that wearing our hair natural and ditching the European standard of outward presentation is not impeding us from attracting men outside our race. Truth be told, today I see more Black women with dreads, TWAs, twist-outs, Bantu knots and temporary press and curls — and these are dark-skinned sisters, OK — who are side by side with Asian and white men than I did in the 1990s. (Less so among Hispanic men, but I can only suppose that Hispanic men generally prefer to date among themselves.) A lot of them are wearing wedding bands and some are not. They’re in church. At Target. On the trains. For goodness sake, New York is starting to look like London as far as this goes.

Black women are making other changes that might also shift the dynamic of their dating practices and eventual partner choices. After they became more aware of the potentially damaging and harmful ingredients in their hair styling products, they carried that over to what they were putting in their bodies. I observe Black women in my everyday life being more committed to eating right — drifting into vegetarianism and veganism, exercising and bettering themselves in various ways. I think that is throwing us into the company of broader groups of people, honestly. Maybe women in my age group are leading the way on this out of some midlife course change, but I also see it among Gen Y and the Millennials. What I do not see are vast numbers of Blacks pairing off. I’m seeing a lot of gloating and backlash from the OK Cupid data that inferred that Black women are the thirstiest and the least desirable among other races of women in its pool of users based on historic response data. The best situation analysis I’ve seen comes from Cornelius Eady, writing for The Atlantic. First, he offered a rundown of OK Cupid’s findings.

Black women write back the most. Whether it’s due to talkativeness, loneliness, or a sense of plain decency, black women are by far the most likely to respond to a first contact attempt. In many cases, their response rate is one and a half times the average, and, overall, black women reply about a quarter more often that other women.
Men don’t write black women back. Or rather, they write them back far less often than they should. Black women reply the most, yet get by far the fewest replies. Essentially every race–including other blacks–singles them out for the cold shoulder.

Then he offered this breakdown:

People passing this data around need to be really careful about using this study to draw inferences about the dating world of black women. One significant problem is that, as any black person will tell you, when black folks date online they don’t go to OKcupid. They go to blacksingles. They go to soulsingles. Or if they’re truly high post, they go to EliteNoire. (Dig the sensuous piano riffs and candelabra.)
Black people who are going to a site like OKcupid are generally black people who, with some exceptions, are open to interracial dating. But the same isn’t true of white people on OKcupid.
So the game is rigged–on OKcupid you have many white men who have no interest in dating black women, but very few black men with no interest in dating white women.
That’s because all the black men who don’t want to date white women are on the African American Dating Network or Blacksinglesconnection. There simply is no real white corollary. Stormfront excluded, there aren’t many “WhiteSingles” websites or “EliteIvory” dating sites. There is no Caucasian Dating Network, because the broader world is the Caucasian Dating Network. OKCupid is the Caucasian Dating Network.

I set the OK Cupid study aside right away when it first came out, because it seemed unsupportable in some level. There is no level playing field in the dating world, and so for various reasons Black women always seemed to be at a disadvantage. But we are beginning to make strides, based on attitude changes. And mind you, the are not adjustments in our disposition. We’re still the same women that we were in the 1990s, but with different cosmetic needs and dietary preferences. And yet, aside from one or two videos in which a lot of Black men say they prefer to see a woman’s natural hair, I don’t see Black men meeting us where we are on on our journey.

 

 

St. Valentine’s Day Styling

It’s the most wonderful time of the year … St. Valentine’s Day of course. I have to hand it to Hubby, he’s come through with a few pretty good presentations for this particular day in years past. Once, he surprised me at the train station with a while bag of goodies from Crabtree & Evelyn and a bouquet of French tulips. Another year he bought me a bee-autiful wine-red leather jacket. Yet another, a Motorola Razr in fuschia. (Or was that the one I bought for myself after I lost the first one in a restaurant on Central Park South?) Anyway! Married life isn’t quite as spoiling as the ones “when we were courtin’,” but Hubby still does a good job every now and then.

Just in case I get told to “dress up,” I’m pulling together a few styling options. After assembling these outfits, I realized that they’re all based on dresses! Oh well. We are grown-ups, after all. In any case, hopefully you’ll get some inspiration from these styling options.

Oh, and by the way … every one of these dresses was bought from consignment stores in my local area. Don’t sleep on frugal fashions, ladies!

Cashmere Dress ZigZag Cllutch Ribbon LilBlack Beaded Purse Everything Dress Cashmere Dress Patent Clutch Beaded Gown Beaded Gown Ferragamo Purse

Don’t Look Now, but He’s Flirting

It’s holiday party time, and the Singletons are decking the halls, and themselves; they are gifting and mingling. I came across a childhood friend’s social media update, where she mentioned that she suspected a White guy at work was flirting with her. She said it was the oddest thing, because she hadn’t experienced anything like that before.

jourdan

Well, actually, it probably has happened to her before. I’ve known that young lady for years, and she has always been beautiful inside and out. She, her mother and her sister are all cut from the same fine, luxurious, beautiful fabric. In any case, I suggested that it had happened before, but she was just noticing it because men outside our race are being bolder about stepping to us.

Dating and flirtation have always been potentially treacherous undertakings for men and women, fraught with the dangers of misread intentions, fumbles and deflating rejections. But it seems like you hear more stories these days about White guys wanting to approach with Black women, and asking how he can get her attention. I’ve had front-row seats to the spectacle of really handsome White guys trying and failing to get the attention of Black women. Only to be totally overlooked, like she didn’t know he was there.

And the objects of their attention aren’t strictly the Mowry twins type, either. These are slim, professional, articulate and desirable Black women. And did I mention that they include the types with dark skin and short hair? Men of all cultures have always openly admired world-class women like Lupita N’yongo, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross. But for us commoners, the admiration has been less obvious.

In my case, it was a mixed bag. There was one guy who seemed supremely confident, which is attractive in and of itself, and never held back. He flirted so much that people in the office thought for sure that we were dating, even though we weren’t. And then there was the super subtle one who kept offering to make me popcorn. I think he might have been trying to break the ice in his own way. But who knows?

Ladies, here is the point: Be aware, and be polite! If you want to date, and aren’t averse to being immersed in someone else’s way of life for a spell, then pay attention to what’s going on around you. If he isn’t your cup of tea, so be it. Just be cognizant of things that are happening around you.

The Very Best of Her Generation

Genius strikes again. Just when you thought that Whitney White, known in blogging and vlogging circles as Naptural85, had exhausted her reserve of natural care topics, think again. If you thought she had tapped out her repertoire of creative and attractive styling techniques  — or as the carping crepehangers in discussion forums put it, had gotten boring — you need to rethink that. No, recant!

Check out her video on DIY faux locs, and you’ll see what I mean:

Ingenious, right? Neutralizing synthetic hair in an apple cider vinegar solution so it doesn’t irritate your scalp, then wrapping your natural twists in a single layer of added hair instead of two, so it doesn’t weigh you down. This might be something I try myself — with one major adjustment. I’m all thumbs and no patience when it comes to my natural hair. I’ve always prioritized everything else over cultivating my 4C grade of hair in life, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have to recruit someone with the dexterity and diligence to help me.

And since I’m in the Royal Court of Basic B*tches, the HRH Duchess of Hair Fails — why you lookin’ bug-eyed, though?? Y’all know that on my worst days, when you see me on the train, in the coffee shop or in Macy’s, you drag me to an inch of my life. Sometimes to my face. It’s all good. If I can bring a few moments of joy to your second chins and the batwings that used to be your triceps, I consider it a public service. But — ahem, s’cuse me — all of that brings me to the second video I want to share, Naptural85’s “Edgy Curly Wash & Co Hairstyles.” You can use it on almost any texture, and it’s also a good trick to camouflage hair fails.

So if you ever get to wondering who holds the title as the absolute best in natural hair care and styling of her generation. These two videos right here attest that it’s Whitney White.You better recognize!

And as a sidenote: I have to wonder if there is something about the name ‘Whitney.’ Anyone who has read this blog long enough understands that I hold the late, great Whitney Houston in the highest esteem among vocalists of any genre. She easily makes any listing or ranking, in my opinion, as the greatest singer to ever pick up a microphone. And now we have Whitney White, holding it down as the best to ever do a big chop and never look back.

So let the discussion forums meanies huff and puff. Let the reformed creamy crackheads who were in danger of relapse find new strength. Whitney’s got your back.

WaterLily716, CurlyNikki and the Jouelzy Breakdown

So tell me this: Do you consider yourself a part of the natural hair community — one of those women who actively seeks information about how to groom your hair without the use of relaxers or excessive weaving and constant wig wearing? 😉 Do you incorporate what you’ve learned into a personal routine, experiment, pass on tips, and — in the case of other Black naturals — hope for general acceptance of hair in its virgin state wherever it falls on the texture spectrum? How about we focus on the word ‘movement’ itself, which suggests that a group of people are  embracing a way of life completely different to what they’ve known before.

If so, then how do you feel about a guest blog, “There’s Something Very Freeing About Accepting Your Natural Hair,” that appeared on the CurlyNikki blog, written by a guest blogger, Sarah — also known as the YouTuber WaterLily716? It’s part of this week’s Share of the Week, which is actually a three-pack — so you’ll get a lot of content. As for the guest blog on CurlyNikki.com, I was left shaking my head. Tell me what is so “freeing” about taking down a bun and wearing one’s hair out more often? Girl had me thinking that she had a tough road her entire life –beautywise, that is — because of her curly hair. Did she and her mother endure hours of washing, conditioning and styling every week? Did she go for entire months on end without seeing a single curly-haired woman on TV or in magazines? Or lose chunks of hair due to excessive perming, weaving, etc.? Some Black women have grown up completely unfamiliar with their natural hair texture, much less a healthy grooming routine. Although I think curly haired women who are not women of color can point to a pattern or annoying experiences throughout their lives connected to their curly hair … the two experiences are not on the same plane at all, because a lot of them kept their textures their whole lives. What exactly are they reclaiming and how does that fit into a movement, exactly? I think it’s comical that her little flesh-wound gets her rolled into the same triage unit as me — in the name of diversity. But life is funny!

The article kicked off several rounds of blog and vlog commentary about whether white women belong in the natural hair movement, but I won’t subject you to the tangle of unorganized thoughts that followed up on the guest essay. Writer and blogger Jouelzy, who I follow when I’m not up to my own shenanigans, offers the best situation analysis to date, in my opinion. Her blog is a great place to start, and it has a companion vlog post on YouTube:

 

(She’s supremely confident about her influence among Black naturals, by the way, declaring that although she was late to the party with her response  (WaterLily716/Sarah’s essay was posted in late June) the party doesn’t start ’til she shows up anyway! LOL.)

OK, so you’ve seen Sarah’s essay and Jouelzy’s video. What do you think?

Personally, I think certain white women had better claim a seat on that bus and in the march to wherever this movement is going, particularly if they have biracial daughters or if they have adopted little Black girls. Naturally, they want to share information about how to keep their kids neatly coifed and looking good. We know that sooooo much of a girl’s personal self-esteem (and self-worth in a way) is tied to her looks and the state of her hair weighs heavily in that. A girl’s mother is often her first influencer when it comes to beauty and self esteem, but peers are by far her biggest. If a white mother can raise a Black or biracial daughter to love her hair without excessive heat styling or perming and weaving, then yeah I think they have something to say. My situation is similar because I have a biracial daughter.

The difference between vloggers like 4C Hair Chick or the others and the trend hoppers is that the latter used their curly hair as their ticket to building potentially lucrative social media followings. I used to follow these “naturalistas,” particularly very light-skinned Black women with oodles of gorgeous, easy hair. They would yammer on about nothing in particular while spritzing water in their hair and slathering on products laden with mineral oil and parabens and whatnot. You probably think you know who I’m talking about, but no, it isn’t the really vain one with all the kids. There are other impostors!

Ironically enough, NaturallyCurly.com was not a good resource for me when I first started caring for Baby’s growing hair and eventually swore off relaxers for myself. I relied heavily on research and tips from Curls.biz, KimmayTube and Naptural85, read magazine and newspaper articles following experts like Diane DaCosta, about the growth of YouTube hair vloggers and the natural hair care businesses, did strand tests on myself and Baby, read countless product reviews and labels. I also did some digging into the past and rediscovered the book, “Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff,” by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner. So that NaturallyCurly.com audience is just not in the thick of it. When their wash days are as laborious as some natural’s I’ve seen out there, or even stretch from late one night into the next morning to allow for effective pre-shampooing, I might listen. If they have to spend an hour installing 95 makeshift curlers out of milkshake straws to get the right ringlet set with bounce and shine I might listen. But not before.

I can’t say that I’m surprised that the guest blogger’s essay appeared, or that the response column is full of simplistic and fawning comments about ‘diversity.’ Americans can be very superficial and naive in their thinking. What surprises me is little of this discussion is happening over at CurlyNikki.com’s forums itself. That site should be the counterpart to NaturallyCurly, a hub of discourse for Black naturals. That’s where I should have been getting most of my information back in the day, and it should be more in the mix here. Maybe CurlyNikki was and still is in the mix (they do still snag some interesting celebrity interviews), but I didn’t get that feeling while I was on the search for information. Live and learn, I guess.

If you’re thinking that it’s only about hair, you’re right — sort of. The slightly deeper issue is one of self esteem for Black women and ownership of something they spearheaded to benefit themselves. It just defies common sense for women like Sarah, who are not coming from the same place, to suddenly claim that our experiences are the same, and in an obvious bid to feed clicks (and eventually ad revenue) to a site that overlooked us in the beginning!  If this is simply about hair, then the solution is simple: I won’t give them the same level of attention (or clicks or money) as I would a Jouelzy, NaturalMe4C, GlamFun, 4C Hair Chick or Chizi Duru.

Share of the Week: When Our Country Hates Our Hair

I never would have imagined that our hair would become the subject of discussions in the halls of government or an op-ed in The New York Times, but so it has.

Image

A leaked photo (via thegrio.com) depicting supposedly questionable hair styles.

 

The media, particularly TheGrio.com is closely following fallout from proposed updates to the Army’s personal appearance and grooming policies in AR 670-1, which severely restrict how women will be allowed to wear their hair as they dedicate their lives to upholding our democracy and protecting strategic diplomatic and energy resources overseas.

According to one source, women service members may not be allowed to:

  • wear multiple braids
  • wear anything but plain headbands
  • wear twists

Of course, the regulations drew the ire of women in the service and female members of Congress who view the new rules as insensitive to and ignorant about the realities of caring for thick, ethnic hair. Don’t the policy makers have any experience at all with Black women and the lengths they go to to manage their hair before showing up at work? And even so, a line of propriety has been overstepped here. As long as these women report to their commanding officers on time, and their hair styles aren’t distracting or impractical for their helmets, why bother picking this fight?

It just smacks of racism, too. As if someone, somewhere went looking for a reason to make life harder for certain armed forces members. I read somewhere that Black female officers were part of the rule-making committee in this instance, which makes me wonder what sort of function they have in the Army. Are they among the active duty service members who need to tame their hair under a helmet while hauling around tons of gear through deserts, jungles and mountain trails, etc?

I suppose we can take some solace in the fact that tattoos will be limited as well, so that men will have to be more careful about how they carry themselves.

But even that comes as little comfort against the bigger picture — of a weird, creeping feeling that most people in the U.S. still don’t have a clue about the lives of Black women, their own fellow Americans, and that if they do know what we experience they want to trivialize it.

It used to be that Black women could carry out their love-hate relationship with their hair in private. Naturalistas love the range of looks our hair can adapt to, from teeny-weeny Afros (my current style to an array braids, bantu knots, locks, twists and twist-outs, and variations on those themes. But impatient ones like me hate the time and effort it takes to manage and groom thick, curly and often coiled and zig-zagged hair. Those who chemically straighten their hair or cover their locks in weaves and wigs could talk about how to preserve hair health while wearing the styles they want.

Now that good judgement has been taken out of our own hands and thrust into a White House petition, of all places. This is so demeaning and silly. I can only hope that actions being taken to review the policy result in something more fair and less humiliating.

What do you think of the Army’s rules, lawmakers’ responses and the media backlash?

 

 

Share of the Week: A Shea Moisture Makeup Demo

After Shea Moisture announced a new line of makeup, I went looking for tutorials on how women were using the eye shadows, foundations and other products. I wanted to see what real women thought about them before turning my cart down Target’s makup aisle the next time I was there.

I’ve seen one video giving an overview of the line, explaining the range of offerings and quick first impressions. But Destiny Godley’s YouTube channel was the first (in my list of subscriptions, anyway) to feature a tutorial. Here, the L.A.-based makeup artist and beauty expert gives us her first impressions of the Shea Moisture foundation and bronzer. Just one tiny issue … she couldn’t remember the name of the foundation, because she was so enthused to get the product at she tore open the packaging and destroyed it — name and all! LOL. Hmmm. Maybe that item has the scent and hint of chocolate somewhere?

Anyway, here is Destiny Godley’s take on how well the Shea Moisture cosmetics actually work. Enjoy! She seems to give the products a thumbs up.

Then like, comment and subscribe … you know the drill.  🙂

 

While Dencia Seethes, Lupita Lands Another Cover

Wow, some folks are really sensitive. Like Cameroonian-Nigerian pop star Dencia for instance, who is taking yet another shot at Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Readers who are faithfully following this rivalry (Lupita versus who again?) might remember that Dencia took offense to remarks that Nyong’o made in a speech at the Essence luncheon for women in Hollywood. She read a portion of a fan letter, in which the young woman expressed gratitude to Lupita for inspiring her to embrace her dark skin and abandon the idea of buying a skin bleaching cream. Since Lupita’s touching speech, Dencia has made srenuous efforts to take Lupita down.

But it’s not working! Lupita went on to score a lucrative Lancome endorsement deal, and now … the cover of Marie Claire, May 2014. Feast your eyes on her dress, her face, everything …

Lupita Marie Claire May

 

In the latest catty remarks, again on Twitter Dencia responded to a fan praising Lupita , saying that the actress, who also has Mexican citizenship, represents a brand that sells skin lightening cream. There’s more on this over at The Grio.

Listen folks, there is a vast difference between lightening a few spots on your face to match the rest of your complexion, and considering dark skin impure. The latter is Dencia’s line, which I’m not buying for a minute.

Let’s all just keep rooting for Lupita, OK? She’s on fire, and with her talent, intelligence and good looks, deservedly so.

 

Share of the Week: Serious (Fashion) Talk with Chimamanda Adichie

To this day, I feel uncomfortable doing any makeup in the ladies bathroom at work. The president of our small firm, a woman, once walked in while I was applying a Milani lipstick that I had searched several different drugstores to find. It was early in the morning, when people are still checking emails and debriefing each other on their exploits from the weekend or the night before. Surely, a little sprucing up before diving into a day’s work would be OK, right? But as she swept into that lounge, the space seemed to get smaller, probably as my paranoia inflated.

She thinks I’m a shallow dimwit! Especially because it was only a few days ago when she walked in while I was brushing up my edges – because you know we sisters have to have laid edges – and now here I am putting on lipstick. Terrific. 

I snapped the lipstick shut and tried to talk myself out of being ridiculous. The date book and task list have another day full of work waiting. It’s OK to just add a pop of color before starting your day, if that’s what you feel like doing.

I wasn’t raised this way at all, to feel so awkwardly self-conscious about putting even a modest amount of effort into my appearance. My mother, as I’ve described her before, is a beautiful woman. She also knows how to dress elegantly, which only magnifies it. While She didn’t influence my style heavily, and I figured out a lot of it on my own after moving out, my mother did encourage me to make myself presentable and appropriate for every occasion. I remember one specific tip she passed on when I was teenager: When you feel down a little makeup can help brighten your mood. Not one of these dramatic, glittered, smoky-eye makeovers. Just something to enhance your skin and face so you don’t look haggard.

The thing is, after I graduated college and started working I ran into very few women like my mother — or the ones in my social circles at church or the neighborhood — who were smart, hard working, and stylish. Seems like smart women judged each other as harshly for dressing up as vain women did for slacking off on even the smallest detail in their appearance.

That’s why Chimamanda Adichie’s lovely essay in April’s Elle, caught my attention. It’s written perfectly, of course, and perfectly reflects what I think about this quirk smart women have. We love the words on the page and the clothes we wear, because there is enough room in our very open minds to love fashion as much as we like discussing the human condition. Ignore whatever the surly, dressed-down versions of the mean girls will tell you: It’s OK to look your best, or close to it.

At a newspaper where I once worked the editor in chief sniped at my hair style du jour, another one of the other writers popped off about how my mother probably did my laundry for me. Dressing neatly incurred scorn as well. After I started dating Hubby, we often ran into women who were happy to be shabby. One woman at a party watched me negotiate a steep, narrow set of stairs in heels and suggested I ditch them altogether. Clearly nobody took me seriously, because although I could explain to you what a waterfall in the repayment structure of a mortgage-backed security was and how it worked, these surly people took such issue with my generally secure attitude as to comment about it.

Listen, at a certain point I just had to forget about all the sharp-toothed, downer remarks from the Fashion Resistance. I knew the subject matter of the field in which I worked, and the people around me who mattered recognized that. Worrying about making a serious enough impression on the surly crowd who considered brown a ‘splash of color’ really didn’t help me solve any of my problems. But a little nude lipstick in the mornings did help brighten my mood for the day.

 

Let It Storm: Favorite Frosty Lipsticks to Brighten the Winter Blues

Oh, the weather outside is frightful this winter! New Jersey has been caught up in the conveyor belt of wintry storms in this cycle, and it seems like every week we’ve been hit with snow, sleet and freezing temperatures. So what do you do on those snow days after you’ve worked from home, entertained the kids, made dinner and are the only one still up folding laundry? You take a break to play with makeup, of course!

I decided to pull out a few tubes of my favorite frosty lipsticks and glosses to help me ride out the storms. Most of the colors are in neutral shades, but I included a couple of glistening winterberry-type reds because they had shimmery undertones. I didn’t get into shades that were too dark, because I generally think darker colors age me — although now that I think about it, “Black Ice” would make an intriguing, edgy name for a lipstick color. It might be worth the risk, don’t you think? Me too!

This grid layout is also a good way for me to judge which shades, undertones and formulations look best on me. Let’s get to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lipstick/gloss colors, left to right from top left: BlackOpal, ColorSplurge in “Glam;” Iman Cosmetics, Luxury Moisturizing Lipstick in “Saffron,” with Luxury Lip Shimmer gloss in “Honey;” BlackOpal, Dual Lip Gloss in “Mocha Matinee;” Milani Color Statement lipstick in “Cherry Crave,” with Neutrogena lip gloss in “Glow;” Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in “Champagne on Ice,” with BlackOpal lipliner in “Mahogany;” Milani Color Statement lipstick in “Dulce Caramelo,” with “Nude Touch” gloss and lined with NYX lipliner pencil in “Coffee;” Iman Cosmetics, just “Honey” gloss; and Clinique lipstick in “Surprise.”