It’s just hair

This post was hard to write. It’s hard to type when you’re rolling your eyes the whole time! Sheesh!

The source of today’s frustration is that ruckus about the magazine article showing how people with straight hair can get an afro. A lot of people seem to be upset by it. It’s being called ‘cultural appropriation’: a term that I hadn’t heard about or truly understood until last week.

The internet tells me that appropriation is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. I counter that with “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” perhaps.

I have worn my hair natural for about 9 years. I have a thick head of hair, which used to be even thicker when I was a teen, so early on, my mother had it chemically straightened, so it could be manageable. I continued that process until I moved to Vancouver. Unfortunately, the climate change was tough on my hair and it was hard to keep it healthy. I decided to keep it in its natural state and I never looked back. For me, my naturally curly hair was just my own and it was easy. I wear it because it’s relatively free to maintain and it’s easy and I think it’s authentically me. It’s not a political statement nor because I’m from the Caribbean. It’s just what’s growing out of my head. Need I remind you about my latest tattoo?

This photo was taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without permission.

This photo was taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without permission.

This whole cultural appropriation thing with regards to hair is kinda over the top for me. The article doesn’t make a cultural or political statement about afros, its headline simply says, “You (yes, you) can have an afro even if you have straight hair”. It makes no reference about race. Either I’m not understanding it properly or there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. I think that model was used to show that if you have fine, straight hair, you can have big hair with volume, as in, you can have a completely different look temporarily. You know, just like people with curly hair that get it flat ironed and have a completely different look temporarily.

I happen to think my hair is my most versatile accessory. Even when I had an online dating profile, I wrote right on there, “One thing you should know about me is that you can never assume you’re going to know what my hair looks like.” I change my hair ALL the time. I wear it super short, I add extensions, I dye it, I wear it straight (flat ironed) and I wear it big and fluffy. Every Thursday or Friday, I scour the internet looking for new styles and new ideas. I see something I like that would flatter me and watch some videos about it and then make the change. I never once stop to think about the origin of the style. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m not going to lie.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte

I wear head wraps on the weekends “like an African woman”. I don’t care that it’s an African-inspired style, I care about the flexibility of being able to leave the house in ten minutes without having to wrangle my hair into something decent. I don’t think about an African seeing me and thinking, “Look at her, she’s not even African, but she wants to wrap her head like us?” For me, a head wrap is not an homage to my African heritage, it’s a piece of cloth. The end.

To me, hair is just a thing. It’s not a political statement. In American history, the afro was a symbol. Women didn’t wear their hair that way unless it was to make a point. Even now, sometimes I get a Foxy Brown comment, which I don’t really understand, to be honest. I do like the attention my hairstyles get, but to say that it has a larger meaning than I have too much time on my hands, I don’t know.

The article shows how you can change your hair from straight to voluminously curly. I’ve read the comments on some websites and there are some that asked, “Why couldn’t they use a Black model? Here they go, not giving Black people credit. Here they go, using White people to celebrate Black successes.” Well, forgive me, but Black models will already have curly hair, no? Oh right, everyone’s sporting straight hair or weaves or extensions these days. So you’re mad because you have curly hair that you don’t want to wear and choose to wear your hair straight, but are mad because people with straight hair want to wear their hair curly? Hmmm…again, either I’m not getting it, or this doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve always thought the beauty of my curly hair is the infinite possibilities it allows me and I get excited thinking about what I can do with it. If someone can show me a way to change up my look (for free and relatively easily), then why the heck not?

Can someone explain to me why I should be offended?

V

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Brown skin, curly hair

Good Monday morning to you!

I trust everyone had a good weekend. I started writing today but couldn’t decide if I should write about my new tattoo or if I should write about the fact that I’m going to start giving less f**ks about things! Then I thought, “It’s my blog, I can pretty much write about whatever I want, so I’ll do both!”

I never thought I would be a tattoo person. Trust me. I have always walked the straight and narrow, but over the past few years, I realized that what I wanted shouldn’t really matter to anyone else but me. I wanted a tattoo, as long as I could afford it and I was happy with what it was, why the heck not?! So I got one, then another and now another.

This photo was taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without permission.

This photo was taken by Vikera Hunte. Please do not copy without permission.

This last tattoo is kinda personal to me. I’ve written before about how I feel about being black in Vancouver – isolated and different. Over the years though, it’s gotten better. I feel more comfortable. I’ve started getting more in touch with the woman that I am. Over the Christmas break, I watched instructional video after video about applying makeup on dark skin. I’ve gone through that exercise before where I look up how to put makeup on, but this time I tried to find women as dark as me. It made a difference hearing advice from women who looked like me. No longer was I trying to work with what was available, I wanted to validate my own existence. I wanted to validate my dark skin. I’m proud of it and I’m not going to try to marginalize it anymore. I’m trying to make a conscious effort to embrace who I am even if I don’t get that external validation.

My brown skin and curly hair are what make me me. It makes me feel different, yes, but I’m done apologizing for being me and I’m done pretending that I’m the same when I’m not. I saw Kidlet’s face when I showed him the tattoo. He had a smirk on his face. I think it might have been the moment when he realized that this tattoo applied to him as well and that I placed value on those things about myself and by extension those things about him too. I don’t know for sure. For me though, I wear it as a badge of pride.

A couple people have asked why I tattooed something so obvious. I think a tattoo is not like a sign I wear around my neck advertising something. For me, I will only put on my body the things in my life that mean something and will always mean something to me even 20 years from now. I’m not saying what I am, I’m saying what’s important to me. You can hear me talk and know I’m a Trinidadian, I don’t need a Trinidadian flag on my ankle to say that – but when you see it on my body, you know I’m not only a Trini, but I’m proud of it!

This last paragraph is a nice lead in to the other part of today’s post: I’m going to try to start giving less f*cks! My sister-friend sent me an article about how to give less f*cks about things. I’ve shared with you before about how anxious I get about things – either rationally or irrationally. I worry about so many things all the time. I plan, I obsess, I think, I worry. Understandably, she sent me the article in an attempt to get me to relax.

The writer of that post FINALLY got me to understand that I don’t have unlimited f*cks to give in a day. I should really be more selective about what I choose to worry about. If I’m disproportionately annoyed about forgetting to add a dryer sheet to the laundry or incensed about something that happened to a friend, I’m just squandering my annoyance.

I have to learn how to not get worked up over everything. The article really made me see in a straightforward way that living this way will only stress me out. Now, this is a work in progress, but I already see where I’m making a conscious effort not be annoyed. I am CHOOSING not to be annoyed even though I very well could be! Being in traffic this morning, for example: whether I’m annoyed or not, will not make the traffic dissipate. Whether I’m annoyed or not, instead of tailgating the people ahead of me and being grumbly, I chose to sing one of my favourite songs on repeat a few times instead at the top of my lungs. There is so much in my life right now that I can’t control, being upset and outraged about it without having any control over it just seems like a waste of my emotion.

Now this new frame of mind is a work in progress, but I’m going to give it a shot! I’ll let you know how this week goes.

Have a good week ahead!

V

My new label

Funny story, well not really funny. More like pathetic.

I was putting back on my belt the other day and I noticed that I had put it on the wrong way. Instead of pulling it to the right to tighten, I had somehow put it on so that I had to pull it to the left. I stood there puzzled for minute or so thinking, “How come I put it on ‘wrong’?” then I thought, “This feels weird!” then I thought, “That’s interesting that I’ve never done that before,” and I kept thinking about it. Then it hit me. I am in a rut. If changing my belt provided all that introspection, heck the fact that I even noticed something so trivial, it means that I don’t have that much on the go! It’s kinda sad, right?

The point of telling you this is to discuss an adjective that was hurled across a dinner table at me the other day: spontaneous. Friends and I went out for dinner and we got to talking about my upcoming trip to the Salsa Congress and I brought up the fact that it’s a few days away and we don’t have the workshop schedule yet. Someone was saying that there’s still time. I was saying, but it’s less than two weeks away! Then my friend says, very innocently and, of course, it was her own personal opinion, “You have to understand. She’s not very spontaneous.” I had never heard that about myself before in all my years. I looked at her and then looked at myself and I thought, “That can’t be true, is it?” How does one get a new label at the age of 36.92?

I took those words home in my mind and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It’s funny when you see yourself from a new perspective. I know I have control issues, but it’s hard not to when you’re responsible for another person and living your life without a safety net. It’s hard to be frivolous and foolish when you have to take care of two people’s tomorrows. I didn’t see it as a criticism, it’s just something about myself that I have never considered before. I started thinking about situations that might validate this assessment. I found more and more examples of me holding back. I can’t help but laugh, even now, because it seems preposterous that someone as spunky as me could not be spontaneous.

Then it clicked in. While I may not be spontaneous, I am easy going. Wait, that’s not strictly true either. I can get a little high strung. Hmmm…so maybe I don’t know myself at all! hahaha…isn’t this weird? I have always had a perception of myself in a certain way and now I’m questioning everything. I’m definitely not a fuddy duddy and I am definitely adventurous. That I know for sure. I guess I’m not adventurous AND spontaneous. I would think they would go together, but I guess in my case, they don’t. I would definitely travel on my own or go to places I’ve never been before or do things I’ve never done, but not on a whim – I’d have to plan it first. Hmm…I think I’m starting to see who I might actually be here.

Perhaps, the actual adjective is not as important as what it meant to me at this time in my life. Maybe hearing and digesting it is a catalyst for introspection and making a conscious decision to be the person I want to be rather than the person that I HAVE to be. I don’t want to be one of those people in their late 60’s thinking about the things they wanted to do but didn’t. I’m not talking about regret, I’m talking about being the person you WANT to be before the opportunity slips away. Maybe a little spontaneity is just what I need to get out of this funk – to get out of the routine and structure that is my life.

Okay, so this begs the question: how does one plan to be spontaneous?