Rediscovering My 4C Hair

 

All 100+ individual locs I cut off!

All 100+ individual locs I cut off!

I had locs from  December 2008 until July 2012. Then, after agonizing over my decision for about 30 seconds, I cut off all my hair with a pair of scissors.

change and commitment by Amy at Grrrl Revolution

“This decision has been a lesson in commitment and going all in.  Eventually I had to stop wondering and criticizing myself, and instead take action.  We cannot make change – be it personal or social – if we don’t commit.  And sometimes commitment looks like a pair of clippers.”

When I cut off my locs over the summer, my hair was wet and deliciously curly from having washed it. It wasn’t just the length I adored, but the way it looked. I love curls – especially if they’re loose and make an excellent wash and go.

But it wasn’t long before I discovered what my hair was really like, though still soft my dried hair just looked like a puff ball. Almost immediately after cutting my locs – which weren’t looking all that great from lack of care anyway – I wore a hat. Even days after, I began to fret, being forced to deal with my frizzy and non-curly hair. But it was more than that – my hair was not wash and go. 

As someone who seeks to create a life of bare minimum physical upkeep, not only did this completely dampen my mood, but it highlighted that I just didn’t have the type of hair that I wanted. Even when I saw other black women with natural hair, theirs was long, flowing, curly, beautiful.

I kept wondering what the fuck? How come my hair isn’t what I want!? 

Then, last week, I discovered hair types and being able to give a name to my hair (and by extension, experiences) has given me the language to figure out WHY I never liked my hair.

It’s a 4C. 

At first, when my hair was longer (shoulder length), I still hadn’t known what to do with it. I wore a pony-tail throughout high school, stopping to get my hair permed once or twice. In college, I wore a silk headscarf for almost a year – with the occasional perm – before adopting locs that suffered from great neglect almost from the day I got them.

But now I know.

So now I have to make a decision: do I keep my hair super short so that I never have to worry about styling my hair or grow it out and figure out how to take care of it?

Honestly – I’m not sure. But not that I have more information about my hair type, I can make a more informed decision about what kind of relationship I want with it.

 

Boys, Breasts and Self-Esteem

The lovely Mara @ Medicinal Marzipan is hosting Teen Week: Words that Heal, which “is an annual blog series that occurs the last week of March, where bloggers use their sites speak out about their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.” Please check it out to read all of the other lovely posts.

How does one talk about their teen years? With a fun anecdote? Or something apt while being deeply informative and moving?

Let’s talk about how I looked forward to being a teenage because it meant boys and breasts – something I didn’t exactly have in grade school. Most ten year old girls aren’t thinking about dating, and even fewer seem to care about their cup size. But I did; and it consumed me. I remember thinking how I’d finally date, and all those boys who were jerks to me would be sorry. With my big, bouncing breasts, I’d finally be beautiful and my childhood would just be an unpleasant dream.

But when my teen years arrived, the only thing puberty graced me with was a face full of acne and period cramps that should’ve led me to the nearest hospital. By high school, I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that boys hated me and I wasn’t dating anyone any time soon – if ever. My body remained stubborn, as I sneaked into my cousin’s room to admire my make-shift bust in her full-length mirror. “Do high school girls still stuff?” I wondered, as I layered on two sets of bras, stuffed them with socks and put on my stretchiest shirt to admire my false, new bosom. I’d look great as a C cup…

But the Universe enjoyed rubbing salt into my wounds as my younger cousin seemed to be developing at a much faster rate. She went from a string-bean to a busty teen in under a year, regaling me with stories of the boys she was dating, or kissing (or whatever). My self-confidence settled in the red when she confessed that her and her friends were making fun of how small my breasts were.

Everything came crashing down; I hated my life. Why couldn’t I be beautiful and curvy? Why did I have to be so skinny and unattractive? I thought back to my friend, someone considered very attractive by her friends, who was curvy and bubbly. I seemed to only sink deeper into my depression, wondering who (or what) I had pissed off in a past life to end up with the one I’ve got now.

The conflict with my body – and what I wanted my body to look like – marred my young adult years as everyone seemed to be blossoming and I felt stunted. How can I be sixteen and some lady is telling me that I look nine!? How can these fifteen year olds not believe that I’m only a year older than them?

Rinse, wash and repeat – and you’ve got my life.

And that’s it.

Am I in a better place now that I’m older? No, not really. Many of the patterns I’ve created or experienced in high school are still repeating themselves today; cycles I don’t know how to break. I have a lot of problems, and I need a lot of therapy. But, my understanding and emotional relationship to some of these problems are evolving, changing or at least being challenged. I have an awareness of myself that didn’t exist back then, and I’m super grateful for that.

Being Ugly and the Power of Beauty

I’m an ugly girl. 

That’s right – I said it. The big “U” word. The word that people run away from, or try desperately to cover up with make-up, compliments and pseudo-self esteem. Call yourself ugly, and you’ll be under the barrage of:

1. Beauty is subjective! Isn’t it in the eye of the beholder anyway?!

2. Everyone’s beautiful! You’re beautiful!

3. *Lists a bunch of reasons why you can’t POSSIBLY be ugly*

4. Says you’re delusional/insane (re: being completely dismissive)

Part of this problem is that people tend to imagine in extremes. Ugliness is defined as horrific – like Hunchback of Notre-Dame type stuff – so if you don’t look like Quasimoto, then you can’t be ugly. This is irrational. NO ONE looks like Quasimoto, except for him, and few people would go around calling survivors of accidents with physical deformities as ugly. So basically, ugliness is reserved for fictional beings and monsters – which humans are not.

Granted – I understand it, really I do. With great beauty comes great power; to be called a model is probably one of the highest compliments a person can receive. Humans are so fixated on beauty that whole enterprises have been constructed in order to dismantle fabricated beauty (ie: Hollywood stars, magazine covers, etc) in exchange for “natural beauty” (ie: Lady Gaga’s Born This Way type stuff).

And I can understand the sentiment: everyone (well, most of you!) want power because power makes things easier. Money is power, but not everyone has money, but  nowadays anyone can be beautiful, right? I remember my friend, who is from Appalachian, telling me about how beauty pageants were one of the few ways to get out of their town.

So yes – I deeply understand the influence being beautiful has over people – even those who wish to bunk beauty standards. Not so that they can be ugly, but so that they can be beautiful in their own way.

This is all well and good but ignores the truth: not everyone is beautiful (and in some cases, don’t want to be!). I’m not a beautiful girl. Most people focus on my personality, and what’s going on in my mind, not so much my body.

Being ugly, and being willing to call myself that, is always tricky business. When you’re conditioned to believe that ugliness is bad and prettiness is good, well, most people will do anything to show you how “good” you really are. But here’s what I’m here to say: being ugly isn’t a death sentence, it doesn’t say anything about your character (any more than being pretty does) and it’s not mutually exclusive from being awesome. 

Yes – I am a ugly girl but so what? Why do I need to soothe myself with compliments in order to make myself feel better? Why is happiness so directly related to “feeling/being beautiful”? Why can’t I be ugly AND happy, successful, accomplished and unafraid? Why is ugly such a dirty, fucking word? 

Ugliness is a descriptor, like anything else. Being ugly doesn’t make me less than. It simply is. 

Even in the quest to “re-define beauty” why is beauty even a necessary part of the equation? Why force people into believing they’re beautiful? There is power in all things, including ugliness. Many people are terrified of being ugly, but if there’s power in exactly who you are, that includes being ugly too.

 

People are often quick to prove you’re beautiful, even if it’s just one feature.

Why do you think that is? Why can’t people be both ugly and happy?

This is definitely a discussion I want to have with as many people as possible. I really want to understand – why do you want to be pretty so bad? And why are you so quick to downplay people’s assertion of their own looks – which has NOTHING to do with you?

Preferences and Prejudice: Which Is It?

Is it classist to reject someone because they don’t have a job? 

Most of us know that it’s fairly racist to reject a potential partner based on race or on the color of their skin. Many self-identified feminists mourn the perceived standards being projected onto the female gender, and there is more than enough discussion about how people feel in regards to women having short hair or natural hair. (Unfortunately, I am not as well versed about the criterium projected onto same sex/alternative couples, so if you know any – feel free to list them in the comments for added discussion!).

A great deal of people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove to others (and themselves) that we’re each unique individuals and aren’t required to abide by arbitrary beauty prerequisites.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the concept of beauty and whose opinion matters the most. When I was a Senior in high school, there was this guy, CJ, that I liked. He was a white boy; tall and rail-thin, and I remember chatting with him online. In my usual style, I told him I liked him and he responded with: I only date white girls.

Most people would respond with complete disgust over this – How dare he!? That’s so racist!  I lived in a racially diverse area where a myriad of people attended my high school, so you would think that most people would have a more “open” view of who they’d like to date. But -

My whole life, I’ve never really been attractive enough for anybody:

1. my skin wasn’t clear enough

2. my breasts were too small

3. I wasn’t perky enough, hood enough, outgoing enough… the list continues

Of course, our choices aren’t made in a vacuum. Do many white people reject black partners out of some racist agenda? If we had a more egalitarian media (since television and cinema influences many people’s understanding of relationships and who they’re attracted to) – would more people be interested in dating outside of their race, economic class, sex, (etc)?

Many women (and perhaps men too) spend a lot of time looking at how they’re not represented in the media, and how this somehow suggests they’re not attractive by conventional standards. I’m not exempt from this; I spent a few minutes on Twitter yesterday lamenting how small breasts are rarely touted as being signifiers of attractiveness. Essentially, large breasts are considered more “womanly” and “feminine” than having a “boyish figure”.

This is a complex problem: on one hand, the world is giant mirror, reflecting back to us what we believe about ourselves and the world at large. On the other hand, I see this as a type of Second-Hander rhetoric – where I long for other people to give me validation about myself in some capacity. It’s almost like I don’t exist until someone else decides I exist. All of this pertains to self-esteem, and the value being placed in one’s own ideas and opinions.

I don’t want to be a Second-Hander, and have other people’s prejudices and preferences dictate Who I Am.

 

What About You? What are some of your preferences or prejudcies? 

As anyone said you weren’t enough because of the way you look?

Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number. Kinda.

What is age?

This is an interesting question for me because I’m very much against age gaps in dating. I don’t even have age gaps in my friendships – all of my closest friends are within two to three years of me.

Flickr credit to: c a r a m e l

Part of the reason why I’m taking the question on is because I found two posts that discusses age and our expectations:

1. Power + Grace of: aging

2. A Burden of Expectations 

My addiction to the conversation around age is because I look really young. I’ve been getting the “you have a baby face” thing since I was sixteen. At least. When I was a sophomore in high school, people were telling me I looked twelve.

Self-Esteem: -1

Ouch is putting it mildly as I basically went through the rest of puberty being told how young I looked. I remember being at a relative’s house, standing next to my cousin who is four years younger than me (and significantly more attractive) and being told that she looks older, and I look younger.

Self-Esteem: -2 

It doesn’t help that I blamed my rail-thin figure as the leading cause for this nonsense. Many adult women – most well into their 40s – complimented me, telling me that I should be happy because when I’m older (re: their age) I’ll be happy. This comment seems to blatantly ignore how much of one’s self-esteem is tied up in how one looks – particularly to others. Having a high pitched voice and a face plastered with acne doesn’t help either.

Self-Esteem: -3 

Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve gotten the chance to meet a variety of people within the “Generation Y” sphere; from my age to those in their early 30s. And I’ve met the gamut: people my age who seem to be flourishing in their careers, relationships, blogs, or possessing such a wealth of information about a wide variety of topics I thought they were much older. I’ve met people older than me who seem to be in the same place as me emotionally, as we all struggle through this abyss called Life (or Hell – depending on who you asked). And there as just as many people in between.

The same thread seems to run through many of these people: We have no idea what we’re doing.

Currently, I only have three large focuses that take up a majority of my attention, and I’m trying to enjoy the process instead of longing for the finished product. And sometimes I think age is about that – longing for the finished product.

I recently found a post about the “perks” of dating older men, and the “reasons” they gave for it pertained to issues of being a finished product. A finished product is something (re: someone) that’s accomplished or experienced in certain things in life, so they “know” already.

This places an unseen burden on those of a specific age to have all the answers, to be at a specific point in our lives when this is simply not the case. Our life experiences can only pertain to our age when we discuss issues of pop culture: what movies we grew up on, the music we both loved and loathed, the latest fashion trends. And even then – it varies so wildly, as I’ve met many people my age who long for the 80s, 70s and 60s; eras we haven’t personally experienced.

To me, age is important, but it doesn’t pre-determine who we are, what we know or where we come from.

What do you think about age? 

Ayn Rand and the Fight Against Beauty Ideals

Stop blaming society and the media for your low self-esteem dammit.

I love Ayn Rand because she speaks at length about self-esteem. The characters in her books are under constant assault; having their choices second guessed and being belittled because of their differences. Any other person may have crumbled under the scrutiny that Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart faced, but Rand’s characters have something that few people in real life do: a self sufficient ego.

Her characters are self-assuared in their decisions, and how they go through life. In The Fountainhead, many of the female characters didn’t find Howard attractive. Something about his overall demeanor repulsed women. Yet he doesn’t cry himself to sleep over it. In fact, he seems to pay very little attention to other’s opinions about him.

This is the approach I take in regards to women, media and self-esteem.

Who is to blame for your low self-esteem and self-hating beliefs?

You.

By resting all of the blame on an abstract entity like “society”, you become prey to the Victim archetype. It’s societiy’s fault that I am miserable and society will pay for this infraction! 

But -that’s a half truth. The full truth is that you allow these messages into your subconscious. You accept these illusions and fantasies as reality, instead of acknowledging them for what they are. Falsehoods.

But instead of re-directing the attention inward, and re-shifting the focus, the obsession is directed even more powerfully to destroying the illusion. The things we see daily are merely projections- our own thoughts, feelings and ideas for others to consume. The magazines and billboard ads are projections of the world their creators live in.

We live in a world where oppression, violence and privilege run rampant. Many of the individuals who enforce these illusions are products of this: white males who hold sexist ideas. Women who buy into patriarchy while becoming female chauvinist pigs.

Magazine covers, billboard ads, commercials – all of these are a reflection of deeply held beliefs in our culture. By attempting to destroy these images, you’re attempting to force these illusions to change their opinions about you instead of simply re-adjusting your opinion about the illusion.

For example: whenever I see a magazine cover I dislike, I simply ignore it. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about it, or buy it to show to my friends so we can complain about it together. When conversations come up about body bashing, I don’t participate or give in to their self-destruction. I keep a reminder that the people in TV aren’t reflections of who I am or what I believe. And that I will only support media that aligns to my own personal belief system about myself and the world.

 

So instead of trying to fight an enemy that has no name, why not take it upon yourself to be more like Randian characters; self-sufficient ego bearers. Rejecting fantasies – not through dismantlement, but by shifting our own individual relationship to ourselves. For as long as women, men and children continue to have low self-esteem (an ideology that is passed down from generation to generation), nothing will abate the insatiable thirst for self-hatred.

You must take your battle within, first by looking in the mirror. And so the image in the mirror will change.

The battle for self-esteem can only be won within, not outside of ourselves.

It starts here – with you. 

 

What about you? What personal opinions and ideas would you need to change to make yourself less susceptible to external pressure to look a specific way?

Acne Acceptance : Expanding the Body Acceptance Discussion

Confession: I have acne.

Credit to: BeautyCareLines.com

I’ve had it since I was fourteen, and it hasn’t really gone away since. Acne is a fascinating topic because it is predominantly overlooked when discussing body image. This is probably because acne is seen as transient, something that happens when you’re a teenager and goes away as you get older. Even though having acne increases depression and suicidal attempts. But unlike some other beauty standard fallacies (like strict body type standards), lots of normal men and women have clear skin too. So with acne, comes the “Why me?” question.

Acne is predominantly genetic, but the myths surrounding acne, particularly the idea that diet links to acne, can make it difficult to transition into a healthier state of mind. This isn’t to say that you can’t control your acne to some extent; not picking your face, pulling your hair back, and regularly washing your pillow sheets can do wonders in meditating acne breakouts. But I’m also an advocate for not living in the future – meaning, don’t wait until you have something before you can let yourself be happy. There’s no reason to wait to have clear skin, before you can be healthy and whole.

But the skin care industry is a multibillion dollar operation, averaging at 43 billion dollars in the US, for a reason. The skin care industry offers hundreds of different methods and antidotes to the acne dilemma. And just by typing “acne” into a search, you’ll get millions of hits from teens and young adults looking for ways to clear their skin, or express acne harassment from peers.

Everywhere companies like ProActiv and Neutrogena who use young, white, women to show how happy they are washing their face, and having clean skin – it seems like a call to arms. Add the fact that unlike other body image problems, acne is something that still manages to skip some women and men. Again – the “why me?” presents itself.

Problems are compounded when real life starts to sink in. Such as yesterday, my grandmother told me how bad my skin looked, how many break-outs I had. I break-out every day, but she said that this time it was worse. I wanted to die; I’ve been using Biore scrub and cleanser for over two months now and my skin still wasn’t improving?

Today, I looked at my Biore and wondered if I should throw it out. When I go to the store, I hover in the skin care section, wondering what regiment I can use to finally get rid of my scars, my pimples, my painful cysts. But, it seems like money down the drain. Wouldn’t I be better off not worrying about it at all? If acne is based on genetics, I might never have clear skin. And is that really the worse thing to ever happen to me?

By and large, I definitely think acne acceptance needs more discussion. It’s a problem that goes unaddressed, and is easily dismissed by pretty much everyone. Which is, of course, insanely problematic.

 

Do you have acne? Were you or your friends/family ever teased about it?

How do you handle your acne now?