Month: August 2015

No, You Cannot Touch My Hair

I cannot tell you how many times—on the CTA in Chicago, while waiting in line at the Walmart pharmacy, and on the street— I’ve had someone ask to touch my hair. Friends, classmates, church members, and complete strangers always seem so comfortable touching my hair, with our without permission. These interactions often leave me feeling violated, angry, and frustrated. You’re probably wondering what’s so special, so absolutely extraordinary about my hair that magically turns the average pair of mitts into magnets. To be perfectly honest, nothing at all. Just your typical head of Black hair.

Non-black people don’t seem to understand why these social dealings evoke such high emotions for Black women, so I’ll explain why. But first I’ll give you the somewhat complicated history between my hair and I. For as long as I can remember I’ve always hated my hair. Now I know this seems a little counterproductive with me being a proud natural woman, but it’s the honest truth. I hated how thick it is, the curliness, and it’s rebellious and unruly nature. I hated the childish ponytails I sported day in and day out, plaited down to the tips and secured with a barrette. I hated how unpleasant life became every time I got it wet. And attempting to detangle it after a shampoo? Yeah, right! I remember sitting in between my mom’s legs every night before bed while she got me ready for the next day thinking to myself, “You know what? This is some bull!’

Different cultures have their own ceremonies that become a defining moment in a youngster’s life.  Young Jewish boys celebrate their transition into manhood with a Bar Mitzvah, while girls in parts of Latin America mark their journey into womanhood with a Quinceañera. Adolescent Black girls get perms and this is a monumental occasion, a right of passage. For us it means that we finally get to look like what’s been considered “normal”; “normal” meaning having straight hair. At age eleven my entire world changed, and my mom finally allowed me to get one of these coveted perms. I had lost all feeling in my scalp but I’d finally made it to the Promised Land.

My decision to go natural was an organic one, and about a year after I did the movie Good Hair came out and it had Black people, primarily women, in a tizzy. In the Black community the term “good hair” always reserved for biracial kids or the ones who claimed to have “Indian in their family” (growing up, the number of times I heard someone claim to be part Cherokee were too many to count). Their hair was considered “almost white” but it had an edge to it, the edge being the frustratingly perfect curl pattern that I could never seem to achieve. And then there was this myth going around that relaxing your hair made you a sell-out, that it’s a Black woman’s subconscious attempt to adapt her appearance to look like a White girl. That’s unfair. Yes, the standard of beauty has mainly (and some might say solely) highlighted European features for some time, but wanting super straight hair does not mean you inherently want to look or be White, that’s crazy. And that’s not to say looking or being White is somehow evil, but for so long the ideal beauty has always had blonde hair and blue eyes. So my decision to say no to the creamy crack and abandon everything I’ve ever know to be true about my hair was a pretty big deal. And I’ll have to say it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because with that giant leap of faith came an outpouring of self-acceptance.

From that day on my hair struggles became a cakewalk. I was flyer than ever, my life became full of glamorous selfies, and the lack of lye led me to discover unicorn piss actually cures cramps. Okay, not really. Trying to figure out the best products and regime was pretty difficult. I had to do a lot of research in order to figure out what works for me, all naturals are not the same. It took me a while to get my hair to cooperate and do what I wanted it to, so for someone to come up to me and stick their hands in my hair really pissed me off. The things I have to do to finesse my fro—washing it, detangling it, styling it—all take a lot of time; so yeah, the hands of a stranger aren’t welcomed. My journey as a natural has been a beautiful experience, but every time I encounter someone that’s a little too touchy feely I feel like a Pomeranian puppy. Once I was at work and I was discussing hair with a coworker who is also natural, we were exchanging thoughts on different products we use, and another coworker (a Caucasian woman) jumped in. “Do y’all spend a lot of money on your hair?” We both looked at each other like “Girl! Did she just…?” Now I love this girl I really do, she’s very sweet, and I know she didn’t mean anything by it but I just couldn’t believe she said that out loud. I was about to go all the way in on her, but I realized non-Black individuals really don’t know much about Black hair. I said, “Do you spend a lot of money on your hair?” and that question was met with silence. Instead of that snarky remark I should’ve taken that opportunity to explain to her just how different our hair is from everyone else’s.

We, Black women, are very sensitive when it comes to our hair; we always seem to find ourselves defending it, even amongst Black men. If you wear your natural texture it’s nappy, if you get a relaxer you’re a sellout, and if you wear wigs or weaves you “want to look/be White”, there’s absolutely no middle ground at all. In many companies, wearing a fro is a dress code violation; I remember my best friend recalling an incident at a former job involving this. She worked at a rather large car washing company, and one day she was secret shopped by the higher ups at corporate. She did pretty well, they said she was very polite and knowledgeable when it came to company policy, but when it came to her appearance they said she looked “unkempt”; she was wearing her fro out that day. I think “unkempt” was a politically correct way to say her hair looked nappy.

Once, in light of my mother’s burning desire to have grand kids, I folded under the pressure and decided to give online dating a try. This really handsome White gentleman sent me a message expressing his interest, and soon we exchanged numbers. Upon texting him I was flooded with a bunch of stereotypical Black girl question. Among “Can you twerk?” and “Is your booty big?” he asked “Is that your real hair?” As if he hadn’t offended me enough. So because my hair is long and curly it automatically has to be weave? This is an everyday struggle for naturals. I can’t tell you exactly what I said to him, but just know it was littered with some very colorful language. Why the anger, you ask? I’ll tell you why, take a trip with me back to the 1800s. I’d like you to meet Saartije “Sarah” Baartman

Sarah was a South African woman who, after being sold into slavery by the Dutch, was trotted around Europe for exhibition. She was fooled into believing that she would find riches and fame, but instead was put on display in both England and France because her large buttocks, big hips, lips and elongated labia were curiosities that Europeans had never seen before. In 1810 she became a freak show attraction, given the name Hottentot Venus. Surely she couldn’t be human because she didn’t look like a White woman, so therefore she was considered inferior and made to dance for the entertainment of White people. She was poked and prodded, absolutely humiliated. After the circus no longer wanted her she became a prostitute and later died from disease in 1815, she’d only been in Europe for five years and was 25 when she died. Even after her death she wasn’t allowed dignity; when she died they cut out her vagina, her brain, and her skeleton, preserved them in jars, and placed them all on display along with a plaster of her actual body. For one hundred and sixty years people could walk into a museum, look at Sarah Baartman’s vagina, brain and skeleton and see what she looked like naked. In 1974 they took down the display, but still kept her remains. It wasn’t until 2002 that they were finally sent back to her home in South Africa and she was given the proper burial.

History records that Sarah was a highly intelligent woman with an excellent memory, she had a particular knack for remembering faces. In addition to her native tongue she spoke fluent Dutch, passable English, and a little French. Aside from her large breasts and buttocks she was described as having graceful shoulders, slender arms, and charming hands and feet. She was also very skilled at playing the Jew’s harp, could dance according to her country’s traditions, and had a lively personality. If reading about Sarah made you uncomfortable it should, and I’m glad it did because that means we’re getting somewhere. Every time you reach out to touch a Black woman’s hair or make an offensive remark about it, whether knowingly or unbeknownst to you, you awaken the hurt and pain that comes with Sarah’s story; we become Sarah Baartman and we have no say so in the matter. Please don’t mistake my desire to want you to know how we feel as an opportunity to point the finger at White or other non-Black people as if to say, “Look at what you did to us!” I just want this to resonate with you.

Curiosity about Black hair isn’t a bad thing, and I’m sure many well-meaning people don’t mean to offend me in these situations. But there is a fine line between interest and treating Black women like urban zoo animals. If you have questions about natural hair or the Black experience that’s great, ask away! You can approach a close Black friend or coworker but tread lightly, remember we’re sensitive creatures. If you don’t have any Black friends you should seriously think about diversifying your circle. But if you feel compelled to reach out and touch, just remember it’s best you keep your hands to yourself.

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A DIY Nail Tutorial For Even The Most Uncoordinated Diva

I’m the type of woman who sees tons of DIY tutorials and wishes she could accomplish such greatness. I always come across the cutest nail tutorials on YouTube and Pinterest and curse the universe because I’d be hard pressed to achieve dashing designs for my digits with such grace. Have you ever heard of two left feet? Well, I have two left hands (and I’m right-handed). But the tides have somehow turned in my favor, I recently came across the most amazingly simple nail art tutorial, and it’s super cute too! So if you’re looking for a cute new design keep reading, this one’s a total cinch via the good people at Lulu’s. Enjoy!


This chic design is deceptively easy.

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How To Knock Out Negativity’s Two Front Teeth & Keep Your Sanity While You’re Doing It

pow

Dealing with negative people is a fact of life, you will never be able to escape it. Have you ever had a day where it seemed like everyone was barking at you or was in a bad mood? Or maybe you have a boss or coworker who always seems to be in a really negative space? When placed in those situations it’s hard to keep your spirits up, isn’t it? I totally know how you feel.

I work at a very dysfunctional chiropractic clinic, and it is very draining—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually—the said dysfunction is internal and external, so I get it from the front and back end. The doctor I work for is always in a terrible mood, and I know you’re probably thinking, “Come on Shaniece, nobody can be in a bad mood all the time”. Oh, but they can be. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, but it really is too much to deal with. He’s rude to management, he’s rude to patients, and last week he became belligerent and aggressive towards me. This horribly timed blow-up came at the worst possible moment, my grandfather just passed and I’m not coping with it too well. My boss knew this but that didn’t stop him from acting like a complete donkey. So saying that I’m emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually drained would be more than fair.

On top of the normal day-to-day hardships of working with people (I love my patients, they’re the absolute best) and they’re different personalities, quirks and sometimes inflated egos, I have to deal with a middle-aged man that behaves like a two year old. What gives, man?! How could I possibly deal with all of that, the death of my grandpa, searching feverishly for a new place, and other unnecessary negativity? Firstly, I decided to take back control of my energy and my emotions; a person, group of people, or situation cannot take you out of your element without your permission. Then I implemented the following, and you can do the same:


1. Arm yourself with positives.

Load up with whatever positives you can before you tackle a new week. Watch funny movies or Youtube clips, read an inspirational article or two, have a chill day with your friends and put your phone in Airplane Mode, do whatever you need to do in order to get into a positive place. Enrich your life with as much positivity as you can, because everyday is an opportunity for you to be robbed of it. Your job, unexpected emergencies, family hardships and drama, traffic and morning breath from that one coworker who cannot seem to grasp the concept of personal space can all take a toll on you if you’re not prepared.

I like to pray  before I go to work (if that’s not your thing fine, but we’re #TeamJesus over here). “Lord, please allow me to have a great and productive day, allow me to get what needs to be done taken care of in a timely manner, give me the strength to do it, joy to keep me pushing forward…and please don’t allow me to go to jail for choking someone. Amen” I’m just being real but, on a more serious note, I find writing to be so therapeutic; I like to listen to music while I write, I’m actually doing that right now. Classical music has always allowed me to keep a calm demeanor and I focus way more when I’m listening to it. Find whatever positive thing you can and engage in it when you encounter negativity, it’ll become your lifeline.


2. Choose not to mirror others.

Vibes are contagious, and sometimes others’ negative vibes subconsciously influence us. If someone’s rude to you, your defenses go up, and you dish out what’s been served to you. It’s not your fault, you’re human. We all unknowingly become trapped and mirror the negative energy thrown at us to a tee. If someone’s being negative toward you, and you notice it’s influencing for the worst, make a conscious effort to get back in control.

Instead of mirroring their energy, try to help them mirror yours. If they raise their voice, speak calmly. If they’re rude, be and stay polite. That’s how you play it, never react to their negative behavior. Maintain your energy, and stay the course no matter what. You’ll know you’ve got them when they start matching your tone. I once had a patient that, once I said something that he didn’t want to hear, started yelling and hurling obscenities at me. I paused the conversation, told him whatever he had to say could be relayed without yelling, and that I was being respectful to him and I expected him to do the same for me. He immediately changed his tone and apologized for his behavior. After that he was able to express his frustrations in a calmer way and I was able to help him. Problem solved. Always remember your tone has everything to do what message you’re trying to relay, try to keep it as neutral as possible.


3. Allow others to talk your ear off without ruffling your feathers.

Let me offer you this disclaimer before I make my next point: It is not healthy to always listen to someone vent. You have to set boundaries, because letting people treat you like a punching bag is not the move; but when you’re dealing with customers or clients, you can’t exactly ignore them. In those cases just let them vent their frustrations without taking it personally, most of the time it’s the situation that’s making them angry and not you individually. If they are angry with you  (perhaps you unknowingly made an error) put your ego to the side, be honest about it, apologize, and move forward. Create the least amount of friction as possible by shifting the negativity away from you. The same can be done for non-customer interactions, like for someone you actually know. I can honestly say when I sit and let someone vent about why they’re angry I find out exactly what the issue is; this isn’t always easy (because I can be a prideful moth…person sometimes) but it’s definitely doable. Knowing what caused the miscommunication is the most logical and unbelievably simple way to solve it. This is where thick skin becomes a valuable commodity, so develop some.


4. Kindly compliment others whom you dislike. 

Key word kindly: meaning without malice, sarcasm or shade. When you do find yourself disagreeing with someone, make your best effort to find a point they came up with that you actually agree with. Then genuinely take the time to compliment them for their idea. Craziest thing to do during a disagreement but I promise it works. Doing this subconsciously creates a small bond, and it sets a foundation that you can build on for a better relationship in the future. I know it sounds sickeningly Kumbaya, but it’s always better to leave a conversation on a good note rather than leaving behind seeds of negativity.


5. Treat yourself when you feel the negativity getting to you.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a new pair of shoes or jewelry, treating yourself could be something as simple as your favorite food or a great book your friend keeps raving about and a glass of wine. Whatever you choose will be the perfect distraction to help shift your mindset and lift your spirits when you’re down. I just treated myself to an enchilada, a taco, and a quick run through my iTunes and I feel a lot better. You should reward yourself, even a small one, at the end of the day or week. This gives you something mentally positive to hold onto and it’ll help you get through a tough time.


Your positive actions make you a leader, not a follower.

Negative people exist, you can’t really change that; and even positive people can succumb to negativity on a bad day. But you can definitely change how you deal with their behavior, you just have to allow yourself to. You have to change how you react. Is it easy? That my dear is solely up to you, you control how difficult or how smoothly this transition goes (and no one else, remember that).  At the very core of it’s existence, negativity is how you perceive it. You can choose to stay positive no matter what negative people throw your way, and you could even change their moods in the process. In the end, it all benefits you and gets you one step closer to being a more whole and grounded person. Take control of your life, lead it where you want it to go. Don’t let others dictate how you should feel, who made them the boss of you anyway?

(Nobody)

Exactly.

Stay beautiful loves ❤

Foodie Diaries: Bacon-Wrapped Pesto Chicken

I love bacon, in fact, I love it so much I feel like it should be it’s own group on the food pyramid. Chicken is my BFF (sorry, Mercedes), I eat literally every other day. So a dish featuring two of my all-time favorites? I’m so down. I got hip to this dish after a guy that I was supposed to go on a date with (I decided to go in a different direction) suggested to make it together. The date, once it finally happened, was a disaster but I got this awesome recipe so I’ll take that as a win. This recipe is super simple and it is the personification of happiness, so you should definitely try it.


Ingredients:

  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (pounded flat)
  • Salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons of prepared basil pesto
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil

Basil pesto:

  • 2 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Pecorino cheese

Directions for pesto:

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth and season the mixture with salt and pepper. If you’re using it immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

Directions for chicken:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lay the chicken breast flat and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Spread the pesto over the chicken breast, and roll the chicken breast in a slice of bacon securing the roll with toothpicks. Lay the rolled chicken breast in a 9×9-inch baking dish. Pour the vegetable oil over the chicken breasts.

Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink inside and the bacon is crisp, about 30 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Take the baking dish out and let it cool for five to six minutes. Garnish, plate, and enjoy!