My Sisterlocks – One Year Anniversary

Monday, July 24, 2017 marked the one year anniversary of my Sisterlocks install. I am so excited about the look, feel, and ease of my hair at this one year anniversary, and I cannot imagine NOT having the freedom that comes with locs for the rest of my days. 

Before Sisterlocks:

Day 1 of Sisterlocks Install: My hair and scalp were cleansed with a clarifying shampoo and there was no product whatsoever on my scalp or in my hair on the dual-day Install.

Day 2 of Sisterlocks Install: The finished product. My hair was pretty short, but healthy.


One Year of Sisterlocks Freedom: I lost some weight during this year and worried about the overall condition of my locs for about three months, but they survived the transformation of diet and exercise. 

Make-Up Free works well with Sisterlocks (below):

My locs continue to evolve. The grays continue to show up.

Year One Retightening – Wednesday, July 26, 2017: Prepping before bedtime. I must massage my scalp more and manipulate my locs. My retis leave me feeling “tender-headed” and hating the peripheral Retightening process. I cringe…literally, every single reti. 

I’m not sure why these next two photos were filtered like this, but the length and fullness are still apparent.

My hairline (edges) remain intact a year later 😌…not much can be obscured with my broad forehead though. It is what it is…so, I embrace it. 

My consultant will do some targeted “grooming” of my locs-either over my next couple of retis or from an appointment made for that purpose. The grooming will help tame my “frizzy fuzzies” and allow her to assess each loc’s strength and health. We combined a few locs in the front that had weakened.

I’m expecting great things during this next Anniversary year, and a loc growth spurt is among them. I continue to take 10,000 mcg of biotin with my evening meal, and from my consultant’s view, the biotin is contributing to incredible new growth. I’ll be experimenting more with my diet over the next year, enjoying more plant-based nutrition, to see if my overall health improves and to customize my lifestyle to include healthier plant-based choices.

Looking forward to sharing with you all – my hair journey and most definitely, the freedom of Sisterlocks! 

Be well!

‘Leven&AHalf Months – Year One Is Near

Am I the only one who perspires uncontrollably?! I was relaxing in an epsom salt soak and reflecting on how profusely I sweat, and I was sweating while thinking about how much I sweat. Whew! Just today, I was talking to two very close friends about how I sweat, abnormally so, when I exercise outdoors. I’m almost embarrassed to walk one of my normal routes because of the vehicular traffic and numerous traffic lights; they’ll definitely see me out there sweating! There is no hiding from the onlookers. This is no normal sweat, y’all. I promise.

To build upon healthy living habits and to maintain my weight loss, at least five days a week, I am walking and/or jogging 3-7 miles (depending on my energy level and the weather) outside, in the elements. I call myself “training.” My long-term goal is to run a half marathon at 50 years of age. Since I still have well over a year before my 50th birthday, I am taking advantage of the beauty of the great outdoors, mild southern temperatures, and honoring my refusal to be tucked away in a germy, expensive gym. I love to be outdoors, in the fresh air and sunshine-especially during the early morning! However, the humidity in Memphis is oppressive in July and August. It’s the devil, y’all.

My hair though…I really wonder if the sweat is damaging to my hair. With all of the benefits of perspiration, could there be benefits to one’s hair?

I don’t feel compelled to shampoo my locs more often, and I suspect that is because I still do not use any oils on my scalp or in my hair which tend to contribute to excessive buildup. Those additives can be smelly over time, combined with perspiration.

My locks continue to be “bleached” by the sun.  It’s ends are reddish-brown. That gray? It’s not going anywhere, and I do not want to cover the gray using harsh chemicals.

At the near end of Year One, my locs continue to be varied in size and density. Frizzy, fuzzy, fat, skinny, wiry, curly, strong…just a few descriptors.

Most of the ends in the back are locked with curlier ends on the top and sides.

I’m actually very proud of the growth over this year, and I’ll chronicle that growth in my next entry.

On any given day, my hair remains thick and full.

At Year One, I will do the ACV rinse I’ve been hearing so much about…and will consider it an annual “birthday gift” to my locs as a gesture of love.

I’m working on me…still. My Sisterlocks are the easiest part of my daily wellness plan. Effortless and uncomplicated. It’s a good thing because I need all of that energy to be dedicated to the internal pep talk I must have to sustain an exercise regimen.



Ultimately, I did a little research to discover the benefits of perspiration and came across this article: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-amazing-benefits-sweating-you-didnt-know.html.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t plan to change my living environment, switch to an indoor facility to train, or stop exercising outdoors to live my best life-now or in the future. I’ll be sweating to the oldies, as an oldie…and that’s just fine with me.

Be well! 😘

My 10 Month Journey – Locked For Life

Your hair…its texture, its state, its look, its health, its feel…tells a story. Mine has been deprived of proper hydration over the past few months; now I’m in a re-hydration mode, and over the summer months, I will be trying to replenish all of the water it needs to experience a growth spurt and the sheen I know it should have. 

My grays, especially in my temple areas, have begun to show up and show out…wiry, uncontrollable, and rebellious. They don’t even want to hide within the confines of a locked tress-they just want to do their own thang. My locks continue to change in form during this tenth month. Not a lot of uniformity yet; thinner and longer locks on the top-thicker, plumper ones along the sides and back. 

I’m amazed by the many “looks” I can create, on any given day, although I do not “style” my locks. They are long enough to twist or braid; however, I believe that styling them in this teenaged phase may weaken my edges and cause undue tension in the back, especially along my nape area. I’ve worn enough updos and styles pulled off and out of my face to appreciate the free style of well…no style. This forehead is here to stay. I choose to celebrate it and its broadness-show it every chance I get. It’s a reminder; I really do have a lot going on up there, in this head of mine. 

Over this past month, I’ve stopped sleeping in the Loc Soc. I’m feeling the 48-year-old hormonal change of night sweats and the weight of denser locks confined in a tight space, so I’ve switched to just satin pillowcases, which seems to work well so far. I rotate crimson and cream satin pillowcases (imagine that ❣️), and they have given me a cooler head without much concern about the health of my locks. At my next retightening, I’ll ask my consultant if she notices any lint or buildup from my transition from the covered head to open air. As an extra precaution against lint, I do not wear caps, scarves, or hats on my head.

There is no appreciable difference in what I do to my hair in the morning. I still take a hot/warm towel (sometimes prepped with a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint or Citrus Castille Soap) and move my locks to refreshen and “style” them in their free-style way. Most of the time, the humidity of my hot morning showers do the trick. I’ve stopped covering my hair with a plastic shower cap now that it is locked. 🎼🎧🎤 I never knew love like this before…

My hair is not fully locked all over, but coiled enough so that I do not have to fear the rain or getting it wet in the shower. The back is more locked than those stubborn curly top locks, so there are still so many different textures apparent within my hair. 

The picture below (black shirt, gold oval pendant necklace) is a good representation of my “workday hair.” A bit more “fluffed” and contained. Still with a bit of edginess and personality, I love the dynamic attitude of locked hair.

This picture (denim jacket, camo shirt-representing with the silver pendant) represents my “weekend hair,” which is slowly becoming my workday hair now that the school year has ended. I’ll be working much of the summer, and casual Monday through Friday will rule the summer work gear. Some days, I just can’t control the direction of one or two locks. I have stopped trying. 

A year ago, right before I decided to lock and started this blog about my hair journey, I was so preoccupied about my image, as a professional educator, and how locking my hair might impact people’s perceptions of me. While I understand that is somehow a real concern in this competitive world of titles, relationships, and performances, I no longer worry about whether my hair speaks something to others before I even open my mouth. My prayer is that I’ll have an opportunity to speak my own truths before they are assigned to me. However, I’ve spent this year learning, and in some cases, the hard way, that no matter who you are, how you look, what you have to say, and how your story has evolved, some folks will create an image, shape an opinion, write YOUR story, and choose to believe THEIR story of you, no matter its truth or fidelity. 

My hair tells a story, my friends, but it’s only a small part of my story. Such a small part…

The Nappy Hair Chronicles: Nappy Hair IS Good Hair! 

When I was just a little girl, I began to understand the negativity associated with the word “nappy.” I would hear six and seven year olds say, “He got some nappy hair,” or “Her hair is so nappy.” Not quite knowing what “nappy” meant, for special occasions only, my natural hair was straightened with intense heat using some kind of colored grease and a straightening comb in my momma’s or grandma’s kitchen. As a practical matter, my daily look was quite different-my thick natural hair was regularly shampooed and conditioned. Afterwards, my scalp was greased with Blue Magic Hair & Scalp Conditioner, then meticulously styled with a plastic wide-tooth comb. To finish the process, my clean, wet hair was brushed before styling it into parted, rubber banded, plaited sections and embellished with hair bows, ponytail twister balls, or barrettes. As far as my young mind could process, if your hair was “nappy,” it was uncombed, unruly, and definitely undesirable in the 1970’s. My hair was not “nappy.”

I was in junior high school and headed to high school by the time I had my first kiddy perm, but by then, I was clear about the meaning of “nappy” hair vs. “good” hair. “Nappy” hair in the 1980’s, took on a different meaning; it was a textural, touchy-feely, purely aesthetic thing. My first cousins, Len and Jackie who are sisters, had “good” hair. My hair was distinctly different from their textures, and because they both had different fathers, even their “good” hair varied in texture. Interestingly, our mothers are sisters who were birthed by the same mother and father, yet their hair textures were quite different. Back then, I remember thinking that my auntie, their mother, had hair like “white folks.” It was long, jet black, wavy, and clearly what I would define today as Type 3A hair. She hardly ever wore it “down” or in a style. My aunt’s pretty, Type 3 hair was always in a shiny bun, carefully pinned in the back of her head. My mother, on the other hand, had a very different type of hair. She wore a lot of long wigs when I was a child. In fact, I don’t ever recall seeing her natural hair. I’ll talk more directly about hair types later, but as I reflect on those early years, it was around that time that I first understood that I just might have “nappy” hair.

My cousin Len’s hair was very similar to her mother’s, still in the Type 3 family. Her sister, Jackie, with Type 4A hair, had hair that was more similar to my own hair texture, Type 4B, but in my mind, Jackie’s hair was still “good” hair. I suspect I always thought that because their momma had “good” hair, they couldn’t help but to have “good” hair, too. I don’t really remember harboring any negative feelings about my hair as a child, nor do I recall being envious of my cousins’ hair when we were all children. The styling process was identical, no matter the texture. As small children, we sat on the floor, on a pillow adjusted comfortably between the knees of a female family member, to get our “hair done.” Whether or not our hair was “good” or “nappy,” it was always neatly combed and styled.

When did things change? When does hair become an obsession for girl children? In middle school, hair becomes more important to ‘tweens and teens. By the time high school is a certainty, physical appearance, in general, along with a hyper-preoccupation with looks, personal hygiene, body image, and clothing can be all-consuming. For a young girl, the desire to wear her hair “down” is a right of passage-the daily plaits, braids, or ponytails take a back seat to a more mature look. Eventually, parents yield just a bit; they allow make up and more fitted clothing complete the look.

During my career as an educator, I’ve seen the devastating effect that a bad hair day causes for the psyche of a young girl, especially if the texture of her hair is the subject of ridicule or made her the target of “checking” which inevitably leads to those dreaded four words, “…with yo’ nappy head!” Nothing, I mean nothing, seems quite as harsh to a young woman who is still grappling with her own sense of self worth than to be verbally attacked by someone who, more times than not, looks like herself. Those four harsh words, unfortunately, can become the sum total of her being. If she is not hearing consistent positive messages about her appearance from those she loves, this fact may negatively impact her self-esteem and relationships with others in the future.

The unwanted nomenclature of being “nappy-headed” conjures up images of unruly, kinky, coily, hell…nappy hair. But from where does this stigma come? What’s wrong with nappy hair? Why is nappy hair undesirable? I suspect its vestiges are deeply rooted in slavery and the rape culture that bred black and white offspring. When I was growing up, if you had “good” hair, you must have had “Indian in your family.” A quick Google search of “Indian in your family” reveals Luster’s S Curl Regular Texturizer for Natural Looking Wave & Curl Styles in Minutes. Funny to me! Clearly, in order to possess desirable, silky, wavy, or naturally “springy” curly hair, you could not be 100% black;  your genetic make-up had to include a race or culture that made you, your momma, or your grandmomma the product of a mixed-race encounter somewhere along the branches of the family tree.

Not until recently did I really care about my own hair type. The care of my natural hair made me want to understand more deeply how varied hair types require a very different hair care regimen. Do you know your hair type? This article is comprehensive and helpful when it comes to figuring out your own hair type: http://www.black-women-beauty-central.com/black-hair-types.html. You’ll see images, descriptors of curl patterns, and suggestions on how to best care for your hair type as determined by Oprah Winfrey’s famed stylist, Andre Walker. In his book, Andre Talks Hair, Walker discusses the fact that there is no such thing as bad hair and teaches you how to care for and love the hair you have.

Here are some other images to consider for the majority of black women who have Type 3 or Type 4 hair:

Type 3A Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

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Type 3B Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

Type 3C Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

Type 4A Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

Type 4B Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

Type 4C Curly Hair-Image Courtesy of Naturallycurly.com

In 2016, black hair is still as controversial as it always has been. In our community, folks continue to reference “good” hair and its desirability. I’ve even heard stories of black women purposefully breeding with men of other ethnicities for the sole purpose of ensuring a baby with “good” hair. As ridiculous as that sounds, there is a large segment of our community who thinks this way, and it underscores the unfortunate reality and level of self-hatred in our community. Call it what you like.

If you have ANY hair, I suspect it’s good; just ask anyone, of any ethnicity, who has lost their hair to chronic illness, genetic thinning or balding, unexpected physical or emotional trauma, or unsuccessful chemical hair treatments. In my opinion, the love of your hair is inextricably tied to self-love; you cannot profess to love yourself fully without loving every inch of yourself, even the Type 4 hair that may grow from your scalp. With the resurgence of natural hair as a conscientious choice of beauty personified, I am so proud of the young sisters I see in the hallways of my school building, proudly wearing their curly mega ‘fros, hair beautifully coifed in intricate patterned braids, colorful hair clips and blingy head bands adorning frizzy, nappy, curly hair, and confidently rocking that teeny weeny Afro…with a smile, heads held high because they know, even at that age, that what they have on the inside is what really matters. Nappy and proud…

However, it took me many years, some time during my mid-20’s, to understand that ALL hair really IS “good” hair, no matter the hair type. When it comes to “nappy” hair and the images associated with deeply coiled, kinky, curly hair, we must be careful how we message self-love, especially to our children. Make it your personal goal to look into the eyes of little black girls, tell them how smart and beautiful they are, and it won’t hurt one bit to add to your loving declaration (withOUT touching it), “I love your hair!” That little girl with the Type 4 hair needs the same inner and outer beauty reassurance that the one with the Type 3 hair gets with ease. After all, India Arie expressed it best in the chorus of “I Am Not My Hair,”

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am not your expectations no no

I am not my hair

I am not this skin

I am a soul that lives within.

Change, Decision-Making, and the Sense of Loss

As with any significant change in life, you reflect on what happened immediately before and immediately after the transition-sometimes just to gauge whether or not the changes you made were for your own personal benefit, to benefit others, a total error in judgment, or the best decision you could have made given the facts or knowledge you had at the time.

In my school leadership training, one of the most impactful realities for me is the true sense of loss that you or others may feel when faced with change. For educators, being good often is just good enough, and the time, commitment, and energy it takes to be great (which, ultimately, makes children great) is rationalized as “above the pay grade,” “too much work,” “too difficult given the population, parent engagement, historic performance levels, test scores, etc.”

Still, I think about the new teacher in me, that 1998 teacher, that 2002 teacher who struggled with understanding how changing my thinking, just the slightest bit, to do my part, was merely a piece of a much larger part to positively impact student achievement. Internalizing how big the problem is negates your ability to do your part. Reflecting on how many children are behind grade level negates your ability to do your part. Bitching and moaning about overpaid administrators, low teacher pay, and apathetic Central Office Staff negates your ability to do your part. Challenging an innovative practice in favor of nurturing an ineffective one negates your ability to do your part. Change is, in large part, about the decision-making process, and where there is the least bit of indecision, your ability to do your part will be impeded.

But, what does all of that have to do with hair, Andi? Speaking of change…

Motivated by the fitness results of a good friend and colleague, in late-Spring 2013, I joined an outside, Marine Corps-style fitness program called USMC Fitness Boot Camp (www.usmcfitnessbootcamp.com) run by commanding officer and founder, Sgt. Tony Ludlow. By the time school ended in late May, I was over the initial soreness and exhaustion one feels when you finally start “taking care of” your body. For all of June and most of July 2013, I was determined to jumpstart my weight loss goals and work hard, on most days twice a day for an hour each, sweating, running, lifting weights, along with cardio/fat-burning exercises under the watchful, comedic eye of Sgt. Ludlow. All was well until I noticed the condition of my relaxed hair. I remember feeling a great deal of resentment about my normal routine of going to the beauty shop weekly or bi-weekly. Since I was too tired to style my hair, only to go right back out into the Memphis heat, sweat profusely, and destroy any semblance of a “style,” I needed a Plan B. More important, it was a huge waste of money to even visit a salon for professional hair care, so I got the bright idea to “go natural.”

“Going natural” did not have any significance attached to it other than making my life easier so that I could do what I wanted to do over my summer vacation-work out and take better care of my health. My relaxed hair was an impediment; it was in the way. So, I cut it off. Just that simple. I didn’t discuss it with anyone, and I cut it myself. It was imperfect, and I was not trying to make a fashion or political statement…I just wanted to work out everyday and rest my body when I wasn’t working out. I never went to a professional stylist or barber; my mom clipped away  any “loose ends,” and I tried to make the most of it for about eight weeks.

In my very first post, I briefly discuss that my husband is not a fan of short hair, so as soon as his criticism of the “look” became uncomfortable for me, I succumbed to the pressure and went back to a relaxed, short cut. Luckily, school was about to start again so my exercise activity would lessen. I did not mourn the loss of my natural ‘do. In fact, I was a bit relieved. “Going natural” is more work than people think. I would even venture to say, reflecting on my two most recent experiences with natural hair, having relaxed hair makes you lazy about hair care, in general. I never cared as much for my relaxed hair as evidenced by the ways I now love on my natural hair. That’s the cold, hard truth.

Here I am arriving to a morning Boot Camp session, June 2013:

And again…sometime Summer 2013. My hair was pretty much one length all over, and at that point, it had not been permanently color-treated since the late 90’s. From time to time, when I my hair was newly relaxed, I would add a semi-permanent dark rinse to infuse rich, shiny color. 

That encounter with my natural hair at 45 years of age was short-lived because I lacked the motivation to continue to care for my hair in its natural state. I was looking for support in order to maintain the look, the state of being, and when it was lacking, I folded.

My mother has worn her natural hair for several years now. Yes, I look very much like my mother in this picture of her:

She, like my cousin Len, isn’t shy about wearing a wig every now and then. Here she is on my Wedding Day wearing a salt and pepper number:

While I’m sharing the maternal side, here’s a peek at my father:

With a finer textured hair, my father was fresh from the barber shop in the picture above, but in the one below, his hair is a bit longer:

But, again, what does all of that have to do with hair, Andi? 

To me, there is a certain authenticity in making the decision, finalizing the decision to wear your hair in its natural state. The authenticity I craved was somehow connected to my entire being…hair was just a part of it. I wasn’t ready to be authentic, nor vulnerable enough to let others see my natural hair in 2013. I didn’t want to answer questions. I didn’t want to deal with the loss of relaxed control. I didn’t want to deal with styling trials and tribulations. I didn’t want to think too hard about what it really meant to wear my hair natural.

I’m so over that.

You Would Be…If Only…

How many of us have heard the accusatory words, “You would be…if only…”? The words imply not only that you’ve done something wrong or that you’re not quite good enough, but that the person stating their opinion knows exactly what would cure your deficit and make you more acceptable in their sight. Even if stated in a loving manner, these words, more often than not, hurt us.

Courtesy of Quotesgram.com

So many times, I have reflected on myself, my friends, my family and the countless conversations about what each of us would change about ourselves, if we could. Some of the changes are purely physical-my spider veins, his skinny legs, her love handles. Or the conversation might center on emotional strength-my weaning patience, his lack of commitment, her intolerance for diversity. Perhaps the issue is deeper-Am I enough? Is he stronger than he thinks? Is she capable of moving in the right direction? All point us to a place of questioning ourselves, our intentions, our efficacy, and our innate ability to make smart choices. What makes the situation sticky? It is our insistence that the opinions of others really don’t matter to us. But should they?

Courtesy of Inspirations.allwomenstalk.com

Many of us have suffered in familial relationships where we have felt the discouraging sting of not being accepted fully because of how we act or look on any given day. Experimentation or just “being ourselves” is often discouraged, and we are reminded that how we look and act represents “the family,” “your people,” or “the legacy.” I’m not a parent, but I can imagine the agony any parent might associate with the actions or activities of their offspring which may cast a disparaging light on the family. As an educator, I’ve often attended parent-teacher-student conferences and heard the very words, “We didn’t raise you like that.” The admonishment is just as embarrassing to hear as it is to make; the implication is that you would be pleasing to me if only you did what I raised you to do which is always the “right” thing.

Courtesy of Picturequotes.com

In romantic relationships, control often is exercised by one partner or the other when stating those disapproving words, “You would be…if only…”. While we know that we teach others how to treat us, if someone you love disapproves of you, it is not only hurtful, but unsettling to your sense of well-being. Unfortunately, insecurities may settle in and become the basis of our future dealings, which may, in fact, cause irreparable harm if the relationship is new, developing, or uncertain. Sometimes, the actual words may not be spoken, but a disapproving glance, the silence associated with an anticipatory acceptance, or the communication of distaste to others builds resentment and detachment in romantic relationships.

Courtesy of Cartoonstock.com

In friendships, we say that we want transparency and honesty; however, when we hear those words, “You would be…if only…,” we feel judged. Unconditional acceptance, while it is desired, is not truly expected from our friends. We hope that verbal criticism is constructive, in our best interest, and extended in love. What happens when it’s not? What happens if your friend criticizes the fit of your new dress, and you disagree with her assessment? What if the issue is semi-permanent, like your new platinum blond hair against your cocoa brown skin? The criticism takes on a whole other feel. Not only is your new hair color an issue, the skin you’ve always been in is now an issue. Or is it still really about the hair? Can you truly be a friend if you withhold judgement when your friend is traveling a slippery fashion slope? Can the friendship survive a dose of honesty that is based on an opinion?

Truly loving yourself comes from being self-aware and forgiving of your flaws. It means that larger than average nose you inherited from your dad’s side is loved. It means those curvy hips and thighs you got from your momma are cherished. It means those teeny tiny boobs you were born with are yours to adore. It means that propensity you have to use strong expletives to signal disapproval is managed. Can you be proactive and physically modify that less than perfect nose, those challenging hips and thighs, the small breasts, your fussing and cussing side? Sure! When you encounter another, who attempts to place a value on your connectedness based on how you act or look, you may re-examine your flaws. This re-examination can be healthy, particularly if the flaw causes dissension or a disagreeable nature that prevents others from connecting with you. Sometimes change is what we need.

Courtesy of Pinterest.com

Now that I have made the best hair resolution for me, which just so happens to be the decision to never again chemically alter my natural hair, I needed to get through a period of uncomfortableness with what my hair represented, not just to me but to those I choose to love. Every day, I grow more certain that I could be anyone except me if I don’t learn how to balance my perceptions. Before I big-chopped, I had all of the lengthy conversations in my mind about the image of me. Although I’m just six months into my journey, I’m still amazed when my friends or family ask me about coloring my hair, cutting my hair, or “styling” my hair. Yes, I’m always pleasantly surprised when anyone says, “I love your hair, Andi!” I’m even more thrilled to hear, “I love that YOU love your hair, Andi!” And even if those words are never uttered by those I love, deep down inside, I continue to expect the freedom from judgement…I expect the “You would be…if only…” thoughts to remain somewhere dangling in their own head, and more appropriately, on their own hair.

 

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Me, Loving The Skin and The Hair I’m In

Protective Styles: Protecting Your Hair From YOU!

Until recently, I’m not sure if I really understood the technical term, “protective style.” More accurately, I’m not sure if I knew from what, exactly, I might be protecting my hair. I have lived in Tennessee for most of my life, and in West Tennessee, it’s just hot. Not hot like Arizona hot, but hot like humid, sticky, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk-hot. Sure, in the Deep South, we have wind, snow, cold, and sun damage to consider as it relates to hair care, but styling challenges are the insidious kinds of damage that can stunt hair growth and health. As far as I knew, a head covering, of any type, was the best way to protect my delicate tresses from damage. Over the years, I’ve come to associate protective styling with any way that I  cover my hair (relaxed or natural) so that it can relax (pun intended) and rest from the many drastic and often damaging ways that I style, prepare, or handle my hair.

In the past, I have shunned sew-ins, wigs, and weaves. Why? Well, I’m from that “old school” mentality of – “Just wear the hair the Good Lawd gave you. If you’ve got hair, it’s good hair.” However, in my late 30’s and for all of my 40’s, I see braids and the use of weave for braiding as the lesser of the protectant evils-a weave or sew-in is just “too permanent” a fixture for my lifestyle, and I have visions of my hair being “trapped” underneath it-sweaty, moldy, stinky, hot, and I have seen horror images of spider webs and larvae literally growing in unkempt weave. Okay, I know…dramatic and way over the top. It’s my perception though, and as ridiculous as it may seem, it’s the one out of a million reality that keeps me from wearing a sew-in weave. As I said in a previous post (See: Product Junkie: Not I… Well…), I sweat, a lot, particularly at night and during the warmer months in Memphis (May-October). Every single time I have worn braids, I have either 1) planned and increased my exercise activity exponentially, 2) undergone a drastic hair transition, or 3) was indecisive about what I wanted (or needed) to do with my hair and needed an easy style to wear until I determined my next hair move.

Living the easy life of a TWA-er means I am finger-styling my hair on most mornings, beginning with a steamy shower and continuing throughout the ten minutes it takes me to get dressed and to put on a little make-up. Water is my first and most needed protective styling “product,” and considering the manner in which I sleep and wake up, it preps my hair for moisture-infusion and IS my hair protectant in the most basic and necessary way. Along this natural hair journey, I’m learning how to better protect my hair, from me, each day.

Here I am wearing braids, my second most preferred protective style:

A baseball cap does the trick every time! On a casual day, it definitely beats a “bad hair day” like no other.

Scullies (or is it, skullies, sculleys, you get the point…) are a quick way to cover your tresses on a cold day and most appropriate when you’re representing your sorority! 

My late grandmother, Sister Berry, loved hats! In fact, for her December 2009 funeral, each woman in the family wore one of her hats as a tribute to her good taste and fashion sense. Here I am, at a recent sorority fundraiser called Hats for Bettye, wearing the hat that I chose from my dear grandmother’s collection of hats:

Ah, yes! Braids…my “Braidist” (is that a word?) – Braid Stylist – Natural Hair Stylist is one of my former students. She’s licensed, talented, professional, braids in one seating, and gives me the “teacher discount.” I know that I’ll be pleased with the results, and she braids my hair without very much notice although she works as a fellow educator.

Every time I look at the picture below, I smile. Pictured with me is my first love, my cousin, Valencia (Len). We are just nine months apart in age, and we were each other’s best friends growing up; our mothers are sisters.

Here are Len and I together during the Christmas Holiday 2014:


I view my cousin, Len, as a quasi-wig expert. She LOVES wigs, and changes her look often and dramatically. She has worn weaves and wigs for almost twenty years, longer than anyone else I know except our grandmother, Sister Berry, a fashion icon (in the First Lady, Southern Missionary Baptist tradition). Interestingly, Len has some of the most beautiful Type 3b-c hair you’ve ever seen. When she was in her mid-20’s, she just stopped wearing, publicly, her own natural hair and decided to wear wigs and bonded hair. I don’t know what her natural hair looks like now; the last time I remember seeing it was when she was the Matron of Honor for my first wedding in May 1998. She always looks fabulous though, and I call her “Rapunzel” every time I see her in her long, luxurious wigs!

Here are some other pictures of my gorgeous cousin and her many wigs:

Get yourself a fierce wig as a versatile and protective style! Thank  you, Len, for the hair inspiration!

Not only do I have a pretty good tan in the picture below, the “bun” I have fancied as a messy top knot is really weave haphazardly twisted around a ponytail on my short-lived road to relaxer-sanctioned, permanent colored-treated hair growth. The colors of my relaxed, color-treated hair and the weave hair are “off”…the “blonds” just don’t match. Funny thing is I took Len with me to the beauty supply store to choose the weave.

In the store, the colors blended well, and the weave hair really was the closest color we could find to my own. As far as that visit to the beauty supply store goes, we both got it wrong that time-looking at the photo. Because of that photo, I never wore the “bun” outside of my house, but I keep it as a gentle reminder to myself: Do NOT be the one who everyone thinks has no friends. Your close friends or family members should be able to state the truth (in a loving way, of course), “Girl, no one told you?! Take that thing off your head!!”