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

The Internet is bullsh*t

Okay, so the title is a bit strong, but read on…

So Kidlet and I were running an errand on the weekend. A song came on that I hadn’t heard in a while. Naturally, I began car dancing. I’m a GREAT car dancer. I can drive and shake my shoulders like nobody’s business. The car slowed at red light and then I really started dancing, putting my hips into it. I then felt a kick on the back of my seat, “Mum, stop!” I thought, “Huh? We’re just getting to the best part of the song!” “Mum, stop dancing!” I looked beside me and realized that both people in the car beside us were looking at me. It didn’t bother me really, but I thought, “I should be able to car dance if I want to!” I asked Kidlet, “Are you embarrassed of me?” What he said next is what blew my mind.

“Mum, do you want people to laugh at you? What if they’re taking video and then they put it on the internet? What if they put it on Facebook and then everybody just laughs at you? Is that what you want?”

Yeah. That happened.

Am I just naive? Maybe I just don’t get it. Is this something that people have to think about these days? What the hell? It took a while to process. I suppose he had a point, but it wasn’t something I never, ever thought about before. Sure, sometimes when I’m engaging in a shenanigan or two, the thought does cross my mind that perhaps what I’m doing is unseemly for a woman of my age, but my car dancing? Bite your tongue!

His reality is that people who are different or who are just living their lives are subject to JUDGEMENT on a global scale. Maybe twenty years ago, shows like American Funniest Videos were good innocent fun, but now, kids are killing themselves trying to escape from the fallout of viral videos. It weighed heavily on my mind.

Then last night, a friend on Facebook posted a picture of a female topless sunbather whose breasts had not recovered from breastfeeding. She was wearing sunglasses and looked like she was sleeping, so it could be that she didn’t even know the picture was being taken. My eyes were drawn to that picture since you know how I feel about my boobs. The woman was wearing a bikini and you can see the stretch marks across her belly, so she probably has had children. Anyway, I didn’t need to see the stretch marks, I know the cause of those boobs because I have a pair that do not look dissimilar.

The comments on that picture broke my heart. They really did. I piped in with

Vikera Hunte When you push out some chirren and feed them for a year each, then you can make any comments here….

but it didn’t make a difference. My three comments and one other were the only ones that were not negative. Everyone else seemed to think it was the worst thing they’d ever seen. The reality is though that this is how life is now. Anything is open for ridicule and judgement regardless of the cause. While I was taken aback by Kidlet’s comments in the car about my car dancing on Saturday, I had proof that he had a valid point.

The internet is a place where you can bring good and positive things to the light. It’s a place where things you never knew about can be seen, like those flowers whose petals go transparent when they’re wet (or was it frozen, I forget) or you can see what people or places look like in countries you’ll never be able to visit. The internet can also be CRUEL.

So where is the line? Can I not car dance anymore? Can I not sing (and dance) while I’m doing grocery shopping because it makes me happy? Can I not wear my bikini if I don’t have the perfect breasts and perfect body according to “people” even though my body is ravaged because I brought another human into the world?

Sigh.

Vikera

p.s. While I do not actually think that the internet is bullsh*t, it’s becoming or has become a weapon of mass destruction and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all!

It’s the courage that counts!

[Yes, you’re in the right place. I’ve changed the look of the place. This is the third time in 17 months that I’ve given the joint a new look and feel. I will try to restrain from tweaking it every day (but I can’t guarantee) and let the new look sink in.]

One of my besties had “It’s the courage that counts” tattooed on her body. It’s how she lives her life and the more I live, I realize how much that is true. It’s not always about where you’re going, it’s about what it takes to make the steps to get there.

A friend of mine (I’ll call her Walking Mama) began working out “to lose the weight and not feel so bleh every time I had to put on clothes” and what happened next changed everything. She had been doing her daily walks in the neighbourhood and was approached by a woman who had admired her perseverance and dedication to her exercise programme. They had a conversation, she shared her experiences and she never gave it a second thought and kept on walking. Some time later, Walking Mama was approached again – it was the same woman, who was now 45 pounds lighter. It seems her pep talk and demonstration of strength had inspired someone else to make a change.

Now, Walking Mama is amazed by these chain of events. I get it. When you choose to do something personal, you never think about who is watching and how your actions will manifest itself in someone else’s life. She went for her walks when she actually didn’t want to, when it was raining, when it was too hot, when she was tired, when she just couldn’t be bothered – that is strength. We live in a world where every little thing you do can be found on social media – all efforts big and small must be pointed out, given a spotlight, and acknowledged. What I find funny is that despite that all, no one REALLY knows how hard it is to put one foot in front the other and keep going, so it’s always a shock when someone understands.

This is why this piece touches me. Walking Mama had been posting pictures over the course of her transformation and she received a lot of encouragement. We watched, in pictures, as her body changed and her smile got bigger and bigger as she achieved her goal, yet, we were not there at 5 am cheering her on or watching her do what we wouldn’t do ourselves. We don’t know the real struggle. This woman did. This woman was up in the morning and saw the whole thing as it unfolded and saw the true demonstration of strength.

Funny, that’s the thing about courage and strength. It’s rarely private.

People have the potential to be strong and brave, but sometimes they just need to know that it can be done. We are always on the lookout for someone to show us it can be achieved. We are bombarded every day by images of six-pack abs and toned bodies, but it seems unrealistic to the average person. We don’t have personal trainers, we don’t have home gyms or unlimited time on our hands. What we do have is an hour to walk in the morning before the husband, children and the sun get up, what we have is online workouts we can do while the children play in the yard, what we have is a quick trip to the gym on our lunch break instead of frittering the time away surfing the internet.

It’s easier and more convenient to do something when you have all the tools available and someone pushing you to do it. It’s not easy when you have to be creative to work towards what you want. That is where the strength is. That is when the courage is needed: pushing through and past the exhaustion, the laziness, the hurdles. To see someone exhibit that kind of courage consistently IS inspirational and motivational. Hell yeah!

So we press on. We put one foot in front the other. Sure, we fall off the wagon, but then the next morning we get up and keep going towards our goal. One foot in front of the other. We start again despite our setbacks because it’s the courage that counts.

V

This week’s choice – HAPPINESS!!!

I posted this a while ago and I often think about this post. I don’t actually remember what happened to put me in this mood. Maybe something bad happened and I was trying to boost myself, which I do a lot – it’s call the Fake It Til You Make It Pick Me Up Plan or maybe something good happened and I was manifesting the happiness. Whatever the case, here it is again.

Happiness is…..

Happiness is laughing until you feel a tear run down your face.

Happiness is forgetting and then remembering that your favourite show will be on soon.

Happiness is finding a dress in your favourite colour…on sale.

Happiness is catching a glimpse of your smile in the mirror.

Happiness is when your hair does what you want it to do.

Happiness is being told, “I love you.”

Happiness is the warmth of your bed under a comforter.

Happiness is friends who help themselves to the food in your fridge.

Happiness is watching movies in bed.

Happiness is flip flop tan lines from a day in the sun.

Happiness is cooking a meal for your family.

Happiness is a wet nose from a furry friend.

Happiness is a new pair of shoes.

Happiness is a cold drink on a hot day and a hot drink on a cold day.

Happiness is a small hand holding onto a big hand.

Happiness is finding someone who accepts you, flaws and all.

Happiness is the wind as it blows on the back of your neck.

Happiness is singing out loud in the car even if you’re not sure of the words.

Happiness is getting a phone call from someone far away.

Happiness is a first kiss.

Happiness is choosing to be happy every day, regardless of what life throws in your path. It is only when we choose to be happy, we will be happy.

Here’s to choosing to be happy this week!

V

Yeah, it’s not flat…and?

Monday? Again? Seriously? Well, if we must, we must.

I haven’t posted about body image in a while. I guess it’s been winter and every body has been under 14 layers of clothes. Okay, so despite not trying (and much to my friend’s annoyance), I have trimmed down a bit. Not sure how it happened or when, but it did. I notice it in the way my clothes fit. I notice it in the smaller clothes I buy these days.

As I’ve said before, I don’t exercise. I am not interested in going to the gym or any of that stuff. I did give it a go though. Last summer, I was a bit more active: getting out on my bike and generally being busy. Now, I drive to work, so there’s minimal walking and it’s been cold, so I’ve been indoors way more, yet, I’ve trimmed down. I’m not going to lie, I do feel healthier and less jiggly.

We were invited to a house party for New Year’s at a friend’s house and on a whim, I bought a dress to wear. It wasn’t something I would EVER wear, let’s say, two years ago. I would never expose my stomach because it wasn’t flat and toned and with nary an ab in sight. These days though, I’ve really gotten used to my new old body. In the end, I never did wear the dress. I thought it might have been too fancy to wear to a house party and opted for something a bit more casual. Flashforward three months and I had to attend a dance festival social and I thought, “Hell yeah!”

One night last week, one of my besties came over and I tried on the dress and she gave her stamp of approval. My stomach still wasn’t flat and it was still going to be exposed, but I was stoked. I asked Kidlet, “This looks great, right?” Here he comes with, “Yes, but your belly is a little big-ish!” What came next was the gasp heard around the world! My wee kidlet had an opinion on my body? What? Um…

Right there and then, I thought, this world is F**KED UP. At first, I thought, “Wow, prior to that comment, I felt good about myself and my non-flat stomach and now there’s this cold bucket of water poured unceremoniously over my self-confidence.” The second thought was “What does this boy know about flat stomachs?” Though not actually flat, this is the flattest my stomach has ever been, so what’s he comparing my body to? The third thought was, “Thank goodness I don’t have a girl because right about now, I’d be even more PISSED!”

I’ve discussed this before. If your wee kidlet has an opinion of your body, and a negative one at that, what the heck is wrong with the world? What about unconditional love? What about loving yourself? Then the panic set in…does HE have things about himself that he wishes was different? EEEEEEK!

Okay, I may be overreacting here, but still. See? This is why I am a believer in positive body image! This is why I’m always trying to see the beauty in people. This is why I’m always trying to lift people up. This is why I always compliment people, not just women, but people in general. There are all these latent opinions and judgements lurking out there that HAVE to be counterbalanced. Grrrrrr….I know people who don’t like their ankles or their necks or their ears or their knees or whatever! Sigh. I try to tell them it’s okay, it’s good, but I’m only one person. Double sigh.

Inadvertently, though, by even buying that dress, it was to counterbalance the perception that only rock hard abs can be put on display. I wasn’t making a statement when I bought it, but I sure am making one now! By wearing the dress, I’ve said, “Yeah, it’s not flat. And?”

IMG_2716 cropped

We have to make up our minds not to give in to what ‘they’ want us to think about ourselves. We have to push through and accept our bodies as is! It’s the only one we have and if it’s a healthy body, ROCK ON!

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

I don’t hate food. So what?

I don’t hate food. I just don’t. I enjoy eating and tasting food. My only restriction is if there’s meat or horseradish in it, not if it’s overloaded with calories or gluten or whatever else.”

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, and I suspect for a large part it is, but I’ve always had a healthy appetite. I enjoy eating. In the Trinidadian culture, an abundance of food is a sign of wealth and health. People often show off at weddings, not by the venue or the music, but by the spread of food presented. When someone comes over to your house, you offer food even if you live in a one-room home. Food is a good thing. Being a good cook is a high ranking skill in our culture. Being a vegetarian in a BIG carnivore culture was often met with disapproval because when I would visit others’ homes, they felt like they wouldn’t be able to feed me, which meant they were a failure as a host/hostess. Food is serious business in Trinidad.

Food is serious business here in Vancouver too, but not in the same way. How many times would you go somewhere and hear people beg off an offer of food because “I’m watching my figure,” or “I’m on a cleanse,” or my most hated, “I shouldn’t.” Okay, I get it. People want to lose weight and be healthy and be fit, I get it. I really do, but when did EVERYBODY stop enjoying food? Why ‘shouldn’t’ you eat food unless you’re allergic to something or you’re already full?

Let me ask you a question? When did rice become a bad thing? Remember when it was called “a staple” like flour and sugar and pasta and milk? None of which are welcome anymore, by the way.

[I want to apologize if I’m sounding sarcastic, but I just can’t help it. The volcano has erupted. I can’t control how the lava spews.]

I often go to potlucks and when you have treats and other stuff, it’s left untouched. Even if it is touched, there has to be a ten-minute preface about how bad it is and a spiel about weight-loss or calories. Do you know in Trinidad, there are things that we buy and eat and we don’t know where it was prepared, let alone what’s in it? Heck, doubles, which is pretty much our national food, is a kind of fried bread and people eat that all the time without batting an eyelash.

I feel like food should not be something that has to be apologized for before eating. Remember the good ole days when you said Grace Before Meals, giving thanks for the food. Now it’s the opposite. Now we have the Preface Before Meals. You don’t have to be religious to be thankful that you have food to eat, but maybe that’s what it is. Here in North America, having food is a given, so no big deal there, so something else needs to be said, I suppose.

There are days when I eat that I feel grateful to have that meal. When I prepare a great meal and Kidlet and I polish it off and go back for seconds, I feel grateful and happy. When he eats and he tells me he’s too full because of food I’ve prepared, I’m happy. What scares me is that, despite how I actually feel, I find myself saying things sometimes that I know I don’t believe. The subtly negative attitude towards food is starting to rub off on me slowly. I will try to make a genuine effort to resist it though. I’ll continue to drink my full fat milk and white rice and all the desserts I can get my grubby hands on and I won’t apologize for it.

V

p.s. I don’t think I’ve finished ranting about this yet…..