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We’re HERE!!

Noah and I drove 15 hours from Georgia to Ohio, yesterday and we’re both dead tired. We still have work to do and many more miles to get settled. Turning off utilities, setting them up. Moving our stuff from the truck to a storage space (because our apartment won’t actually be ready til the first week of August!).

I have a job interview with Noah’s college for a Admin Assistant position. Yes, that’s right, your girl hasn’t had a “job” since April and it was working at a pub. But I’m very ready to use my skill and intellect in a better environment.

I’m also going to scope the location and hopefully meet up with the people of the Natural Hair and Beauty Expo. Hey! If you’re in the area and you don’t mind spending $10, come visit with us. Evelyn and I will, of course, be there. Okay guys, I gotta go move my furniture to storage. . .

-xxx charish

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Relaxing in Ghana

I saw this YouTube ad yesterday for Dark and Lovely boxed relaxer that was targeted for the women of Ghana. It follows the same formula of the commercials here in the states. As you can see there’s a beautiful young lady with her friend, letting the wind whip their straight hair around. She walks past a young man who’s all “Whoa, check out her hair!”

This commercial is also perpetuating the same myths surrounding perms and relaxers:

  • It’s fine if you find a relaxer that claims to be a moisturizer. This one happens to be “blend shea butter” with its “Moisture Seal Technology”
  • A man will become attracted to you and potentially fall in love with you when your hair is not just “straight, but silky straight. . . with extra bounce.”
  • You will gain confidence with straight hair, causing you to dress better, hang out with prettier friends and potentially pull yourself up out your depressed socio-economic state.

This is where my Shea Butter comes from too! So it makes me fume when the announcer of the commercial says that the super toxic chemical treatment is infused with shea butter. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure. And so what if it is? The chemicals of the perm are the active ingredients and they are all dangerous.

I was so intrigued by this commercial that I scouted about for more information about the straight hair influence in Ghana and found this amazing article written by Yukiyo Oda, entitled: WOMEN WORKING AT HAIRDRESSING: A CASE STUDY OF A RAPIDLY INCREASING BUSINESS AMONG WOMEN IN URBAN GHANA

I learned that Ghana only gained independence from British colonizers in 1957 and today, because of their industrialized society and Free Zone Act of 1996, they have received a major influx of foreign products from both America and Europe. Relaxing kits are one of those booming imports.

The western influence and the urbanization of some parts in Ghana are some of the reasons why homegrown salons have been spouting since the 1980’s. It’s a great way for women to make money. Women who don’t want to work manual labor like farming and forestry, can work in their own homes and now they can get certified. I’m all for women have the opportunity to work and make their own income, but it saddens me that it’s through an industry that continues to hold women back from becoming their natural selves.

But of course, not all of the women of Ghana are on the hair straightening bandwagon. There are many who are trying to free themselves from years of European influence. I was excited to read this Facebook discussion between Ghanaian woman on the subject of natural hair. It’s slow moving, but it’s happening, just like here in the states.

I think they are getting to their natural hair revolution too. I hate to sound ironic, but soon, even the “Motherland” will be natural.

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Trimming the Ends

It’s that time again. I needed a trim and I did it myself. It’s been about two months since the last one and I’m worried about my split ends. I have read in the book Evelyn sent me, Thank God I’m Natural, that a trim is needed every 4 to 6 weeks. I try to do this every time I twist. That way, I can just clip the ends and not over trim in the same area.

I also read that natural women are not in a hurry to trim. Or that natural hair doesn’t need that sort of maintenance. Everyone needs to trim their hair, no matter what kind you’ve got. Naturals who are worried about length, need not fret either. I only snipped a half inch off of each twist. The down side to not trimming, is that the damage you sustain later will be much worse. The split shaft will start at the ends and travel up to the root, making the shaft much weaker and eventually you will get breakage. Do any of your ends look like this?

Do what the sign says: Cut it out!

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A Letter to My Younger Natural Self

 Dear Younger Natural Charish,

You’re twelve years old, you’re long and gangly, bespectacled, and you’ve got all this hair hanging to your ass. It’s thick and curly and you hate it. Remember all those restless nights you tossed and turned in bed dreaming that it could be straighter, more acceptable?

Slow down a little. Don’t be in a hurry to forsake what you were born with.

Try not to let those girls wear you down. “You, know your hair would be longer if you straightened it.” “You got dookie braids!” “You must be tender-headed?” Try not to grow bitter because of their taunts. They are confused and alienated girls who will unfortunately grow up to be confused and alienated women.

Mom will eventually give into your pouting and slather you up with Dark n Lovely. Just know that it won’t change things. It won’t make you feel better, it will actually make you more neurotic. The acceptance and validation you want will only come when you expose the world to what’s in your
head. . . not what on your head.

You’re going to have the chance to do whatever the hell you want with your hair one day. I’m going to tell you now, that you’ll fuck it up a few times. You’ll brush and comb with an intensity that no hair shaft should experience. You won’t moisturize at all. Your most dangerous toy will be a flat iron. You’re going to wield it like some arrogant musketeer. You’re going to have more hair in the bathroom sink than on your head. You’ll cry about it.

It does get better, don’t fret.

One day you’ll be in your boyfriend’s bathroom picking out your hair, in it’s natural state. You’re going to suddenly stumble upon your “blackness.” You’ll look in the mirror, and I swear, you’re going to finally feel at home. Tired of burning your ears and neck, tired of sore arms, you’ll be reintroduced to an old but surprisingly sexy friend. You and this afro are going to be thicker than thieves. You’ll do the research on order to keep your friend alive and healthy. You’ll take her to another country and introduce her to other friends.

It will take you a while but you’ll get used to the idea of being natural. After you get the hair situation under control, you’re going to start focusing on more important things. Namely, the man you’re in love with, your writing, your general health. You’ll want to think outside yourself for once. How are other women around the world living? How can I be more giving? Should I consider eating less pork? These will be legitimate concerns that will make you a well rounded human being.

The point is, younger natural Charish, it’s not the end of the world when that knuckleheaded boy sitting behind you in English class yanks on your braid and tells you it’s nappy. There’s a good chance that he’ll be a knucklehead for the rest of his days. You, on the other hand, will blossom into a beautiful brainy woman who will refuse people’s wooden nickels.


Grow Up, Will You?

The younger natural Charish, before “womanhood.”

Sorry for being M.I.A. lately, but things have been a little hectic on this end. Have no fear, I’m back and with a smidge more attitude. I was at the last meeting of my workshop group “For Colored Girls” and today’s topic was about, you guessed it. . . hair!

One of the young ladies spoke of her experience of talking to black men about natural hair and let me say, our group got a little heated. We were upset by this particular young man’s response to: “What kind of hair do you like to see on women.” He admitted that he was into “a loose coil.”

A loose coil?

We were shocked by his use of our vernacular. I didn’t know any man could articulate different hair types like that. We were even more shocked that he also said, “I don’t like that afro stuff. No afro puffs.” Hrumph, was what I said. Now, let’s add another dimension to his tale: Did you know this man was black? I could have guessed, but shit, why a brother gotta be like that?

I’ve experienced this kind backlash from black men who don’t understand or don’t appreciate the natural state of hair. You can argue that it’s because of a long line of media depictions of black beauty or just physical preference. Either way, a natural needs support and it’s disheartening that some black men are not available. Check out this video:

Sunshine couldn’t have put it better: The black guys were TRIIIIIIIIPPPING!! One things that screamed at me was one black man told the subject of this video “natural hair was for little girls and grown women NEED to get their hair relaxed.”
WHAT?! Are you’re telling me my natural hair is prohibiting my growth as a woman? 

I know if Noah told me such mess, we wouldn’t be married. I chalk it up to these boys unable to grow up themselves. It’s an incredibly immature response to the way a woman carries herself. I got no problem with the way women wear their hair. If you want to rock a natural or a weave down to your ass, I want that to be up to YOU. I want you to make that decision without any pressure or expectations. You need to do you.  Don’t raise a crazy high bar of expectation and make me pole vault over it!

I also chalk it up to some black men seeing something in us that reminds them of their own blackness. It’s in their minds not our hair. The heritage they’re avoiding is messing with their heads. This leads to a perverse transference of insecurity unto us.

I have written in a past blog post about my hair relationship with my husband, a white man. I can tell you that the white men I’ve run into have fully supported my afro. The ones that don’t, I don’t hear anything from, so I couldn’t tell you what their deal is. A white man’s reasons for loving lush voluminous black hair are their own and sometimes those reasons can get “hairy.” (A discussion about natural hair adoration bordering on exoticism will have to be saved for another post).

But I also have to tell you that I hate to generalize on this topic and want to remind you (and myself) that not all black men share this opinion. I’ve gotten some interestingly positive feedback from black men about my afro. Some have fallen over themselves trying to “hollar” at me. Some have been utterly fascinated that leave the house like this, in a good way. Noah and I were walking around the local mall when I was sporting a freshly picked fro. When a group of black men passed us, Noah said that one of them murmured to him: “Good job, man.” I know that this particular young man was not a “natural-hater” and it made me a little prouder.

There are more young brothers like that out in the world. I’m certain of it. Sunshine also said that it could be a generational issue. Well, until all black men can get on the same page, I recommend you keep your heads up and be you. Maybe one day, they’ll grow up and get on your level.


Reflections on a Bad Hair Day

Stomping down the street like somebody stole my bike. Hair sticking up fiercely, like weeds growing through sidewalk cracks-resisting. Saying we were here first.

Yeah, well so were the Indians-I mean Native Americans…I mean American Natives…I mean the indigenous…I mean…people. Labels are the easy way out. They seethe with oppression and domination. Just like when she called me a nappy-headed bitch. Well…she didn’t say it, but that’s what her eyes said. They did. I know they did.

I’m self-conscious and offended by my consciousness. Sometimes I wish I knew less, felt less, was less. But no. I’m very much here. Alive. Present. Salivating. I spit on the ground.

Off with this hair tie, out with these bobby pins. Out and upward with the mane.
The wind caresses my hair and tickles my skin. Breezy. All breezy. Exhilarating.


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Healthy Breakfast + Unhealthy Television

 Note: High-lighted hyperlinks will take you elsewhere to learn about the health benefits of each ingredient.

You know, sometimes I surprise even myself with genius meals. This morning’s breakfast consisted of fried egg, guacamole, and cilantro on a whole wheat bagel. To wash it down? Hot mug of Chinese Detox Tea, a full glass of ice water and half glass of almond milk (to get my calcium without the lactose). And last, for breakfast dessert. . . yeah, I do that, a small cup of Mott’s Granny Smith apple sauce with cinnamon. Now that’s what I call a breakfast!

The bad thing is I usually don’t have breakfast like this, I usually don’t have breakfast AT ALL. When I met Noah, he was horrified to see me flitting out the door with a toaster strudel or nothing. I’m trying to do better now that I’ve lightened up the “meat load.” And I’m also trying to be creative with what I’ve got in my pantry, taking a page from Evelyn’s book.

While I’m eating, I’m deep conditioning with a thick thick coat of Tresemme Conditioner and wearing shower cap. I’m watching the Wendy Williams Show and drinking in the gossip about Lindsay Lohan. I like Williams, she’s the kind of bawdy lady who talks frank, all the time. She’s kind of an Everywoman too, very preoccupied with cheap fashion, bitchin’ heels, and beef jerky.

How You Doin’?

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Packed the Fro and Took it to Bangkok

This is an old blog post from my days in Thailand.
If you want to read more a black chick’s adventures in Bangkok, go here

That’s me writing this blog. In my fro. You all have seen it, no big deal. Here in Bangkok, even with their progressive fashion sense, it is a HUGE deal.

So Monday, I stepped out on the street in a gray pencil skirt, blue blouse and cream colored pumps. There was never a hotter English teacher in all of Thailand.

And the people knew it.

The Thai teachers were amazed. The kids were enthralled. The two sisters, who own the restaurant I go to, gave me a thumbs up! Of course, there were blank stares. Those I expected immediately.

“Teacha! Teacha!” screamed a group of girls.
“You are BEAUTIFUL!” They all ran around, arms circled above their head, giggling like mad. There is the occasionally pointing and staring, there are giggles, but I say it all beats having to straighten my hair obsessively for the next four months.

I couldn’t believe how big an issue hair would be before I came over here. To tell the truth I feel like I did very little to prepare for this trip, hair was probably the last thing on my mind. Friends and family did ask my what I would do about the it.

Leave it as is, I guess. I don’t know.

However, when I got here, I chickened out. I wore it in a bun, a ponytail, and then I started to straighten it. A hot press job takes a good hour to complete on a good day. On a bad day, (going from an afro to straight locks) maybe two hours.

I don’t have that kind of time! I can’t possibly wake up earlier than I already do just to fry my hair! Only for it to frizz up in this wet and humid weather anyway. For that reason, there was no way I could keep it up.

Another reason was the enthusiasm my co-worker Ploy had for my straight do as opposed to other days. “Ahh Charish, your hair look beautiful! Wear it like that all the time, yeah?” Or whenever we had a meet and greet with school officials. “Look beautiful tomorrow, yeah?”

uh. . . no.

Never been too fond of people telling how to look. I broke down and combed it out. The first afro outside of the house was to a bar. At this particular bar, women, who I believe were prostitutes, swarmed me immediately. The “madam” asked me if it was real. Sure it was, who would willingly fake this? About ten hookers began patting my hair.
“Oooh. . . aaah!”

Interesting first.

Just today, the third day of the fro, a student asked if I got it at Khaosan Rd. I was puzzled. Got what? My hair? I tugged at it and told her. This is mine. I didn’t get it anyhere. My student was amazed.
“You grow?”
I nodded.

Yeah, well. The fro is not going anywhere. I think it’s going to be a staple.


Do It Yourself (For Real)

I’m back in twists and I’ve been wearing my hair like this for a week now. They’re holding up nicely, here’s a picture:

I’ve gotten lots of compliments on my hairdo which is really exciting. Black women that I don’t even know have approached me on the street, in the mall to tell me they like my twists. They’ve also inquired about who did them. When I tell them that I do my own hair, they are almost always shocked. 

“You do that?”
Sure, I do.
And you can too!

I have the attitude that if I can’t do it, then I need to know what it takes to learn. I’m also cheap. I’m not trying to fly to the salon just so someone can braid my hair. I know there are livelihoods at stake and salon owners depend on the business, but I’m afraid they won’t be getting any of my paycheck. I’ve got working hands! I’m crafty and smart!

In this new techno-age, where information is so readily available, people are now able to make well informed decisions about their health and beauty. As consumers, we are finally at a time where we can get our power back from companies. If I don’t want to buy your shampoo because I can’t read your ingredients, that’s now my prerogative. I can search the internet, read a book, watch a YouTube video and find that I might want to slather avocado in my hair instead.

Imagine that!
Black hair care is not a Super Secret Club 
with an exclusive membership, decoder ring or handshake! Don’t feel like you
need to go somewhere to get something done by a wizard or buy something in a magic elixir bottle that promises to save you. 
Now this doesn’t mean that journey to self-help is not fraught with some mistakes! If you read about my Chia Seed SNAFU from earlier posts then you know experimentation can be risky. But you feel great when it pays off, don’t you? I love my twists and I have no one to thank but myself (and of course the YouTube video that I watched). That sense of accomplishment is worth it! So remember this, even though it’s a tad corny: I did it and you can too!