The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. ~Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"And so it goes in fashion"

As I looked over spring fashion trends earlier today, I came across an interesting article in the New York Magazine on race in fashion by Robin Givhan.

"Fashion pushes at the boundaries of political correctness in the name of creative freedom and buzz. But it often does it in a manner that is impish, sly, timid, and, at times, seemingly downright deceitful. How many times must we see a white model dressed in designer fare cavorting with the brown-skinned locals in India or Africa? Those who lead the cultural conversation about beauty, gender, and class biases can be shockingly uninterested in carrying on a dialogue about race—or simply unwilling to do so. I say, if you’re going to play with stereotypes, do it openly and honestly. After all, sometimes the culture needs to be challenged, even angered."

It's worth the full read.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

if anyone is still out there....

I went natural about a month ago now. It was one of the scariest things that I have ever done. My hair was a little bit longer than shoulder length, and I cut it all off, down to my natural hair. In the black hair community, it’s called the “big chop.” I broke free of my creamy crack addiction. I guess right now you could say I rock a mini fro. And I absolutely love it. I can’t explain the combination of emotion I felt during the process. So many ideas were running through my mind. Of course I was terrified, I haven’t worn my hair natural since fifth grade. I had completely forgotten what it felt and looked like. But now, I can’t stop playing with my curls.

A lot of people think that it was an impromptu decision, that it was just one of those crazy things I do. But there was so much more behind it. It is something I have been considering now for nearly a year. But for some reason every time I would think about going natural, I would convince myself that I had “bad” hair. I know now that it was stupid, and I’m nearly certain I knew it then too. But it’s not easy for black women to love themselves, much less their hair.

From a very young age we are shown pictures that define what beauty is. What we see is that beauty often times is synonymous with white. For example, look at Kenneth and Mammie Clark’s doll experiment. It is clearly impossible for any child of color to live up to that specific ideal of beauty, and so a form of self-hatred is developed. We do not even believe ourselves to be beautiful. The few black representations of beauty we are exposed to are generally light-skinned women with straight hair. So we conform to what society claims is beautiful, and we relax our hair.

Now, very few white people really know what the relaxing process entails. Let me give you a quick run-down. Relaxing your hair is one of the worst things you could ever do to it. It damages your hair, making it incredibly unhealthy. No hair stylists who was legitimately concerned about your hair’s health would ever perform this process. A very harmful chemical is applied to your hair. This chemical breaks away the outer layer of your hair, the layer that protects your hair from damage and gives your hair shine. By breaking away this layer, it is possible to smooth out the “kinks” of your hair, making it straighter. However, your hair does not magically become like the hair of our white counterparts. It is in some limbo state that is neither “white” hair nor “black.” It is a terrible process that not only damages the hair, but also the individual’s appreciation for their heritage, for the love of themselves.

Strangely, the people who most like my hair are my white peers. My black friends often freak out and gaze at me sadly while asking, in a near mortified voice, “What did you do?!” Ironically, the “people”who drove blacks to the relaxing process are the same people who now appreciate my new natural style. It is clear that self-hatred runs rampant through the black community because so many are unable to embrace the beauty that has been bestowed upon them from generations long past.

Sometimes I regret my decision. Occasionally I don’t feel as attractive to the opposite sex. But there are so many more important things. And I know that it will be a learning process and that it will take time to redefine my idea of beauty. But I believe I have already taken the most difficult of steps. When all is said and done, I am happy with my decision and the ending of my cognitive dissonance. And I like the feeling of my curls.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

As I Watch

I wrote this a week ago. There's this guy on campus who reads everyday, usually from the Bible. It's an older gentleman, and he's like some millionaire, yet he choses to spend his afternoons on a college campus reading. No one pays much attention to him, he's become such a common fixture. But everyday I get a chance, I just sit and watch him. He treats everyone with such kindness although others scoff in his direction. One day I'll work up the courage to talk to him. But right now, he's like a celebrity to me, and I'm still awestruck. But he was the inspiration for this. I gave him a copy, just because I felt like I should, and he read it aloud. He's incredibly amazing.

Just because something hasn’t been done before

Doesn't mean it can’t.

Because we are our own Gods

Watching the world play before us.

And it never really seems like we really have a place

Because there is no place for God in life.

So we make our own audience

and we don’t give them a choice

because God answers to no one,

Not even himself.

So we make our own podium

out of a worn, green chest that’s too short to serve it’s purpose.

But so are we, so who are we to talk?

So we preach our own doctrine

Though we know no one is listening.

Because we don’t preach for others,

We preach for ourselves.

So we stand nude in front of others

because clothes hide too much

and we have souls,

And souls weren’t meant to be hidden.


Monday, August 9, 2010

The End is Nigh

I posted this on my travel blog, but the tone really seemed to fit more with this blog, so I thought I would repost it here:

Whenever I leave a place I’ve stayed at for a substantial amount of time, I often wonder if it will miss me. I know it sounds silly, personifying such a large area, but I can’t help wondering.

When we first arrive in an area, we go through an adjustment phase. We get used to the feel, the look, the smell, all those good senses. For example, my room and the doorway to the bathroom. There is this ledge from my room into the bathroom and sits about an inch off the ground. The first night I got here, I walked into the bathroom, and stubbed my toe, tripping over the ledge. I did that for about two days, cursing myself, and that dang ledge every time. But now, I don’t even notice it. It’s amazing I remembered it at all actually. I avoid the ledge with complete subconscious dexterity. I have adapted.

There are many more examples I could site, and you know exactly what I am talking about. You do it in your own homes, too. That squeaky part of the stair you avoid, that screen door you slowly close to prevent it slamming shut, the drawer you have to gently open to prevent it from coming off the hinges. We adapt, without hardly noticing it.

So places must do it, too, right? I know, places are just nouns. They don’t have beating hearts or buzzing brains. They can’t remember, and they can’t feel. But they get used to you, too, just like we get used to them. Your desk chair knows your weight, your keys recognize your touch, and your office feels your presence. So when you just leave, when you just go, it must notice your absence.

People don’t thank inanimate objects enough. But if you recognize those tools that make your life so much easier, you develop an attachment. Not an unhealthy attachment, like most of the ones people have with objects. But an attachment of adoration built from appreciation.

This place here, my office, my dorm, my bike even, they have been home. When I first referred to my dorm as home, it felt awkward, unnatural. I actually corrected myself, calling it my dorm, not my home. But this is my home. The dingy walls lined with my Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus posters have become a familiar sight, the squeak the broken hinge on my wardrobe makes, a usual sound, and that annoying ledge that gave me so much trouble my first few days, is now just a commonplace fixture. It is safe to say that I will miss all of these things, as trivial as they may seem. And though I know life will go one here once I leave, that some new resident will take this room and make it their own, I wonder if the chair will miss my weight, or the keys notice my vanished touch, or my office feel my absence as it gets to know it’s new inhabitant.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Playin' it Safe

It’s somewhat ironic, isn’t it? That I continually ignore the one thing I want because the one I currently have is safer. I’m all talk, really. Let me lay it all out for you. I used to be innocent. I used to be completely clueless of the workings of the world and how everyone always gets fucked in the end. I used to be a dreamer. And what sucks is that I’m young enough to want to return to that “used to” time, but old enough to realize that it is no longer possible. I’ve been talking a lot about being an adult and growing up, but I’ve finally pinpointed the exact time when it happened, when all my innocence was lost. It was when I began to make my choices based on what was safer, instead of what made me happiest. It was the moment I thought, “Yeah, well I would like to do that, but that’s not very probable. I better play it safe.” We always play it safe. I always play it safe. Why? Because the risk is too great. The chance that you might fail is a very real possibility. And then what? And then you look back and wish you had played it safe. Except, would you? Now that I think about it life really always does work out in the end. It’s like I was told, it doesn’t matter how much you make, you’re always going to spend it all anyway. And really when you think about it, that really is what is driving our safety; money. Because money brings security, regardless of how false it is, it doesn’t change the fact that it seems very real. So what if I don’t want to play it safe this time? What if I want to write? Will anyone read? Maybe a few. But those who write for money aren’t really writers. They’re crooks, manipulating the system. I write for different reasons. Not for audiences, but to live, because no matter how much I try to ignore it, the only time I come alive is when I’m creating. So I guess the question isn’t really, will anyone read, the question is,

Will I play it safe?


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Great Expectations

Just recently I graduated high school, right? The last few months or so, the teachers got all emotional like. They would tell you how much they were going to miss you and how much fun they had with our class and what not. We had our little award ceremony where we get our prizes for doing shit we should have done anyway, like taking AP classes and taking four years of a certain subject and all that other shit. I mean, you have four years of high school, why shouldn’t I take four years of math? Seriously, quit being lazy, that’s why we’re all so stupid.

But anyway, the last few weeks of school, teachers really get into it. At least they did for me. Almost all of my teachers told me how impressed they are with me and things like that. First of all, I hate when people tell me things like that. It makes me cry. I know that seems odd and sounds stupid, but that’s just what it does. Not like ball or anything, just teary eyed. I think I get embarrassed.

But a lot of my teachers began telling me that I was going to do great things, and that really made me upset. That’s such a scary thing to say. Do you know how much pressure that puts on a person? These people barely know me, all they know about me is what they’ve gathered by that hour I spent in their room five days a week. There are twenty three other hours in the day. How do they know I’m not out selling drugs or stealing from stores? They know nothing about me, or at least very little, yet when they tell me I’m going to do great things they say it with such certainty. I can’t handle that.

I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I have big dreams, but who doesn’t? Dreams mean nothing, it’s reality that counts. What do they even mean by great, anyway? What if all I want to do with my life is be a mommy and raise my kids and take care of my husband? What if all I want to do with my life is be a librarian and never marry? What if all I want to do with my life is become a nun? You may answer, “Well it’s you who defines great. That’s what they meant when they told you that you would do great things. So they we’re right.”

Bullshit. If that’s what they meant, then they would say it to everyone, and I know they don’t. I feel like this post is making me sound conceited, but that’s not the tone I want to give off at all. I’m upset, if anything. But no one refers to being a mum, a librarian, or a nun as great things. Sure, they’re caring, necessary, and noble, but they’re not great, by societal standards anyay. So what do they mean by great?! If they’re so sure I’m going to do them, you’d think they’d give me a hint. There is so much pressure with the word great, so many expectations. I don’t know if I can live up to that. Or if I even want to.