Friday, November 8, 2013

DIY Cost-Cutting Haircuts

Lately I've been short on cash, so I've been doing what I can to cut costs. One of those cuts has been literal. After a full year of postponing a haircut until "the next paycheck," a few days ago I took matters--and scissors--into my own hands.

Following the growing advice of mixed race self-taught hair gurus, I've been putting my hair in about 10 to 15 twists each night, securing each with a hairband. Despite non-mixies assuming the twists create the curl, we mixies know the twists help keep our rebellious strands from turning into dreadlocks. On this particular evening, I grabbed my hair cutting sheers, usually reserved for "fairy knots," and cut the scraggly inch off of each twist below the hairband. This took all of five minutes, if that.

Granted, because my hair was in its twists, I had no idea if my self-grooming would turn out to be successful. But luckily, the next morning when I undid the twists, added my usual touch of water and my large touch of conditioner, those perfect curls sprang into a perfect line across my back. Success!

Now, I would be a fool to suggest that anyone follow my example unless, like me, they feel the risk is worth the possible blunder. But, as my mom says my grandma says, "Curly hair hides a multitude of sins," one being the "sin" of the hasty, unprofessional DIY.

Side note: Always angle your scissors as you cut.

Okay, so this obviously isn't a real photo, but you get the idea, courtesy of

Friday, June 22, 2012

What My Father Taught Me

June marks Father's Day, Loving Day, Juneteenth, and my dad's birthday. All of these special days remind me of my father, who passed away eleven years ago at the age of 71. Just like everyone, my father had demons, challenges, and setbacks. What he also had was an innate awareness of human interactions and a philosophical depth always two steps beyond his years. He was also wise, proud, stubborn, and loved his little girl to pieces.

Here, in no particular order, is what my father taught me:

1. Make copies of everything.

While this advice may be pretty obvious, it's served me well over the years. I make copies of all documents and forms before sending them to their recipients. If I need my tax information from 7 years ago or a bill from 7 months ago, I know just where to look.

2. It's better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it.

I remind myself of this favorite line of his whenever I question whether to grab my coat, sweater, scarf, etc., before I head out the door.

3. Follow politics.

My dad knew everything -- or at least it seemed that way to me. He read law books and studied history and watched the news. He knew that I, as a black female, would be affected by politics, and that knowledge is the best weapon a person can have.

4. Don't drink the Kool Aid.

My dad knew ahead of time that Jim Jones was going to do something horrible both to and with his cult followers. He has taught me to question everything, no matter how innocuous it might seem to be.

5. Blacks should support gay rights just as much as they supported the Civil Rights movement.

In 1993, a gay student at my California high school wasn't allowed to bring his partner to the school dance without a fight; but my dad already understood that his own gay neighbors should be awarded the same respect that blacks had struggled to obtain in the 60s.

6. Have no regrets.

I could tell my father had regrets as he lay dying. The most important thing he's taught me is to have confidence, fight for what I believe in, and never take a single day for granted. Dad, this one's for you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Know You Have Black Natural Hair When...

1. Your extra-strength hair bands don't last long.

2. You have a sweatshirt just for wearing while you comb out your hair.

3. You don't wash your hair for a date.

4. The longer you go before washing it again, the healthier it is.
Photo courtesy of

5. Strangers respond to your hair as if it were a cute baby or a puppy.

6. When you book your stylist appointment you make sure she sets aside 3 hours just for you.

7. Your stylist often needs backup in order to get through your 3-hour appointment on time.

8. You laugh when your non-black female friend hands you her wire hairbrush.

9. You wouldn't need a wig to be Marge Simpson for Halloween.

10. Your hair works in the ratio of miles to inches: Miles of straight = inches of curly.

11. Your nightly twists take a full episode of [insert your favorite TV show here].

12. Caps and hats often don't fit your head.

13. An earring can get lost in your hair for hours before falling on the kitchen floor.

14. Your black friends insist that if they went natural their hair would never look like yours.

15. When your black friends do go natural it's like coming out of the closet -- liberating and tremendously exciting.

16. You have a facebook album dedicated solely to your natural hair journey, and this album gets the most responses.

17. You would consider spending $200 for an Ouidad cut.

18. You and female strangers bond over your mutual "awkward childhood afro phase" and "chemically-treated singed straight hair phase."

19. You wish Michelle Obama would go natural but understand why she can't.

20. You wouldn't have your hair any other way.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Elizabeth Smart and Trayvon Martin are 21st Century America's Children

America has a new national child: Trayvon Martin.

Photo courtesy of
In 2002, sentiment over the Elizabeth Smart case reached a fever pitch during her abduction, which led to national representatives and countrymen alike viewing her not just one family's daughter, but America's daughter. The beautifully angelic Elizabeth stood as a symbol for all we needed to protect, and as an academic who's written about her case, I'm delighted about her upcoming wedding.

Trayvon's unnecessary death by homicide is the first national event surrounding the victimization of a child to gain so much media attention since Elizabeth's. Present Barack Obama has linked Trayvon to America in much the same way Elizabeth was when he says, "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon."

Photo courtesy of

 While both Elizabeth and Trayvon's experiences were tragic, I find comfort in knowing that Trayvon is receiving as much media attention as Elizabeth did. As a biracial American, Elizabeth resembles my own blonde sister and Trayvon looks just like a cousin I played with when I was young.

Almost exactly ten years after Elizabeth's abduction, we have a black president stating that his son would look like Trayvon, in much the same way former president Bush's daughter would look like Elizabeth.

While I can't speak for Elizabeth Smart, I'm sure she feels for Trayvon and, like much of the rest of America, wishes his unfortunate death can somehow change the national perception of what it means to be an American and the protection of life and liberty that each American deserves.

More Naturally Kinky Curly Hair Sightings

Sure, I'll admit it: Sometimes I read eHarmony advice columns. While I'm often disappointed in the quality of their articles, this one left me refreshed--both in content and in images. The very last page of the article, entitled "Ladies: What Men Think About Your Body," reinforced the notion that self-confidence and attitude are the biggest physical attributes a woman can possess. And what was the physical representation of this attribute? A woman my age sporting my exact hair--texture, color and all. (Not to mention the lavender shirt!) Finally, a sexiness I can truly get behind.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Beautiful flower clips for Curly Hair

After my hair fiasco, my dear friend Isha sent me a wonderful collection of handmade flower pins and earrings that she makes and sells on Etsy. They come in many different colors and styles, and I've been matching each flower with my outfit of the day.

Get yours here:

Isha's Flower Garden

Monday, December 19, 2011

Will You Date My Hair?

Finding a good stylist is like trying to find a good boyfriend. You want someone who "gets" you, who knows what they're doing when they touch you, and someone who makes you feel beautiful instead of ruining what beauty you already have.

I have no trouble rejecting men. I can usually tell within five minutes of a date if I'm going to like the guy or not. There's that instant chemistry (or lack thereof) that speaks volumes. If he's an hour late, that's one strike against him. If he forgets his wallet, that's another. If he pressures me to get into his car I know to run the other way, and if he wants me to drive an hour to his house on the second date with no plan other than coming over, I know not to get behind the wheel.

What's funny is that this confidence and intuition doesn't translate when I'm on a salon chair. I can pour out my sob story about how a previous stylist refused to do my hair or cut off uneven chunks at random, but every time I get in a new salon chair I'm convinced that this stylist will know exactly what to do. And it's not that I don't do my research. I just seem to be destined to have horrible stylists. Maybe they should make therapy sessions for people who have codependent relationships with stylists and who always seem to "choose the wrong one."

Last Tuesday I went to a new stylist. This was an inevitable change as I'd moved from the Pacific Northwest back to California. I found her salon on Yelp as one that got high recommendations for working with natural black hair. My first faux pas was in not making sure I got the stylist recommended on the site, but instead booked an appointment with the one who answered the phone.

I got in her chair, chatted her up, and entrusted her with one of my most valuable and only painstakingly-replaceable assets. I went in for a highlight touch up at my roots and a simple cut. Four hours later all I'd received was the highlights. Though my previous highlights were only 6 or 7 small sections, this stylists kept going and going with what must have been close to thirty. My hair began to sizzle a little under the dryer, but I chalked this up to it being hotter than the one I'd been under at my previous salon, and fell asleep. After the normal 30 minutes under heat, I got my rinse, paid my money, and dashed out the door to work. Once I got to work I realized that the "copper" highlights were bright orange/pink. Once I got home I realized that I'd also been partially balded. Not only that but she'd charged me $20 more than what she quoted me over the phone and I came to regret my $15 tip.

To make a long story short, I called her and she discovered that she wasn't supposed to put me under the dryer. She offered me a partial refund and a reconstructor treatment and then cancelled my treatment half an hour before it was scheduled because she wanted more sleep. Later that afternoon we each pulled up in front of her salon and I felt like I was in the middle of a drug deal as she handed me the cash. Once she saw my hair she insisted it was copper ("copper is orange, just like your [bright] orange sweater") and proclaimed my hair healthy even though it had been entirely sapped of natural oils and lay as dead on my head as if I had put my finger in a light bulb. (Yes, for kinky curly haired girls, "dead" does not mean flaccid.)

I took my partial refund to a Regis which is the chain of my previous stylist in Washington. I had her on the phone at the new salon, and my stylist said to run away as fast as I could, which I wasn't surprised about as the woman took one look at my hair and didn't want to have anything to do with it. Not because of the color but because my hair is so thick and curly. My stylist's sentiment was reinforced when the woman behind the counter lost my hair band, searched the entire salon and couldn't find one, and then tried to give me a rubber band instead. In a salon.

I'm reading tragic mulatta literature for a graduate class and so I'm immersed in mulattas who do not feel like they fit in either white or black society (though by the end they often choose black). I'd like to say that this double-consciousness is long gone, only, through my discussions with other mixed-race women--and black women who have decided to go natural--we're finding that there is almost no one out there who is willing or able to touch our hair. I for one I have decided that I will give myself a haircut, and that the only other person I'll entrust with scissors is my Washington stylist when I next go up for a visit. She is the only white person who will cut my hair (yes, I've been turned away that many times!) and black stylists always fry it to pieces because that's they only way they know how to deal with their own hair.

After a period of being worried that I would have to chop off my mane and start all over, home care, a well-placed hair wrap and a little bit of patience looks like it will slowly bring my hair back to a normal state. As for my mentality, stylists will now have to meet me, woo me, and prove their worth before I'll hand myself over.