Week Five: What happens during your follow-up after install?

I’m still on a natural high and loving the freedom of Sisterlocks! I never have to wonder what I’ll do with my hair, and my hair will never be my excuse for not being ready at a moment’s notice. I’m never “having a bad hair day,” and my lifestyle is blessed by more opportunities to sleep longer (not fussing with my hair), get ready sooner (not wondering what to do with my hair), and spend more time doing the things I love on the weekends and after work (because I’m no longer a slave to the salon). 

These are pictures of my hair on Wednesday night, August 24th, the evening before my first retighten (follow-up after install). Grid lines are difficult to see.

On Thursday, August 25th, I had my first bundling and banding, shampoo after install, and retightening (reti).

Here is a picture of the bundling and banding process. Most of these locks were retightened, then bundled and banded (prior to my shampoo).

My consultant shampooed my hair using the Sisterlocks shampoo, massaged my scalp, and shampooed my hair twice more before my bundled and banded sections were taken down. Next, I sat under a warm dryer for roughly five minutes for my consultant to finish the reti around the top and edges of my hair.

You can see the difference between my reti’ed front here:

and last night’s pre-reti’ed front in the picture below. The grid is more apparent:

Here is the back of my hair, post-shampoo and reti:

My cousin, Randy (RJ) says I’ll be “throwing them locs in no time.” 😍

Here are a couple of side photos of my hair, post-shampoo and reti:

The entire process (bundling, banding, shampooing, and retightening) took about 2.5 hours. Our maintenance plan is for me to visit every five weeks for shampoo and reti. Between visits, I’ll use SEA Breeze Astringent for Skin and Scalp to cleanse my scalp. The astringent is popular for braided and locked styles as it gently removes duling excess oils and dry scalp cuticle. 

My first reti is in the books now! I’m still finding daily joys in my Sisterlocks journey! 

Week Four: Why can’t I shampoo my hair?

One of the strangest things about having baby locs is understanding when it is appropriate to shampoo one’s hair. Going from a twice weekly shampoo or co-wash to a scalp massage and ruffling of the fingers through my little locks is about all I do daily. I’m a member of a FB page dedicated to the care of Sisterlocks, and the opinions vary, as much as the lock lengths and personalities of my fellow sisters, about when is the best time to shampoo. Indeed, I’ve seen posts about everything from three (3) HOURS post-install to six (6) WEEKS post-install before shampooing. I wasn’t concerned about shampooing my hair during Week One and Two, and at the start of Week Three; there are no products being applied to my hair, so what was I trying to wash away from my scalp and hair? Product buildup and odor were not concerns either, but by the end of Week Three, I had slightly more scalp itchiness. I assume the natural oils from my scalp are the culprit. Now that Week Five is here, my hair doesn’t smell as fresh, but it’s not offensive. I’ve asked my husband for verification. ☺️  Never once plagued with dandruff or flaky scalp, my hair continues to grow, quickly, and from this picture, you can see that my scalp is not flaky although my hair has not been shampooed since July 23rd.

It makes me wonder-why some Sisters are able to shampoo soon after installation and others must wait weeks for the warmth of water and the soothing properties of shampoo.  Perhaps most shocking to me is that my hair remains “oily” although I have not added any oils since my install. I’m thinking about my ‘fro prior to install and how dry it seemed in comparison. I also wonder why Sisterlocks lend themselves to natural oils producing, but my ‘fro could not thrive without product to protect its fragile ends. Perhaps those curly ends, which are struggling to lock, are protecting my hair from its roots.

Above: The picture on the right (maroon tee) is my hair right after install. The one on the left is three weeks post install.

The picture above was taken just moments ago (Sunday, August 21st) prior to the release of this post. I spend a lot of time with my cousin, RJ, and he thinks my hair is progressing as it should. Because I have decided that my consultant will maintain my locks, I will wait until her cue for my next shampoo. I suspect within the next week or so, I’ll be sitting in her chair. I’m pleased that my hair has grown about one half inch since my install a month ago. While that’s not surprising growth, it is a healthy start to the length that will, eventually, giving me the styling versatility I want with my Sisterlocks.

Until next week….

Week Three-What’s going on with your hair?

Have you ever made a decision that was just for you? A decision that was so selfish, so self-absorbed, so about you and only you? As women, we rarely consider how we are impacted by our own decision-making because, more times than not, we are making the best decision for the wellbeing of others, not necessarily for our own wellbeing.  Women express ourselves in multi-layered ways. Over the years, I’ve worried less and less about what others think of me; however, my career and my work with students and with teachers has always been the image I most strongly clung to in order to define my worth. Since I decided in my mid-30’s that parenting a child was not going to be one of my life experiences, I dug in deep, face forward, toward the goal of being the best educator I could be. It’s in me, it’s my calling, it’s what I think about when I am happy, and it’s what I think about when I am sad.

But, what does all of this have to do with my Sisterlocks. Well, as my hair continues to transform, so does my opinion about my hair and my womanhood. Here’s an up close photo of my baby locs on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 right before bedtime.

I understand that my baby locs require a certain amount of healthy eating, sound nutrition, water consumption, and general care, which will maintain a healthy look and growth for years to come. However, I’m really talking about that internal stuff. You know, how you feel about yourself-no matter the condition of your hair.

Here I am on Thursday, August 11, 2016 returning home from work. The gray hairs are quite noticeable now as they wrench away from the confines of each baby loc.

You can see how my babies have thickened throughout, but especially on the top. My current pictures, for Week Three, are pretty reminiscent of my ‘fro a few weeks earlier-kinda frizzy, kinda disorderly, kinda free.

But, what’s going on with my hair? When I decided to Big Chop in December 2015, I took a huge risk. For some time now, I have understood that my husband, Frank, was not too fond of short hair. It wasn’t quite clear to me if his distaste for short hair was connected to short natural hair or just short hair, in general. In my mind, I kept going to a space of when we first met, I had shoulder length hair, but for the bulk of our dating experience and for years prior to even knowing him, my hair was always short and relaxed. I remember when we got married in March 2012, by August 2012, I came home with a short, freshly cropped, relaxed ‘do. He hit the ceiling.

For me, when I decided to wear my natural hair, the shedding of my relaxed tresses left me feeling a bit vulnerable. I knew, even before I did it, that it would not be well-received by my husband. Internally, I struggled with, “Is this really about him not liking short hair or is more about him not liking me with my own natural and short hair?” Therein lies the struggle-the one of unconditional acceptance of the person you profess to love. So, if Frank’s issue with my hair was really about him not liking me, in my natural state of being, the battle, the risk, the sacrifice was truly worth it to me. He was going to love me, as I am, or he would have to face himself, his biases, his God to justify why I was suddenly unattractive, unworthy, undeserving of his love-ALL BECAUSE OF MY HAIR. That’s when I understood, for the first time, that it wasn’t really my problem. It was his. What’s perhaps more important here is that, on more than one occasion, he expressed his distaste for my ‘fro. I dealt with it, I stood by it, but I didn’t shrink from my decision. I was going to do what I wanted to do with my hair. Period.

Here are some photos of my hair on Friday night, August 12, 2016. I had been outside for several hours for a football jamboree. I sweated quite a bit, but my hair seems relatively unscathed.

Where my hair is its thinnest, across the very front and closest to the temples on both sides, the grid pattern is still noticeable.

In the back and very top, I would have to manipulate my hair to see the grid pattern. The change in just a few short weeks is jarring. Sometimes, I’m not very sure what’s going on with my hair, but I know that whatever is happening is welcomed and a part of the process.

Which brings me back to my original question: What’s going on with your hair? My Frank asked me this question a week ago today. It’s very interesting to me because I have not felt compelled to share one iota of my hair transition with him since I big chopped last December. In fact, when he asked me, in that very frank way he addresses me, I was a bit startled. I began to explain what my hair is doing, what my hairstyle is called, why it is a perfect choice for my lifestyle, and I even showed him several pictures of my favorite “LocEnvy” divas who are enjoying the personal and styling freedom of Sisterlocks. His only reply? “I like it. I can live with it.”

Week Two: What is slippage?

Week Two has been much like Week One, not many changes with my hair except two very subtle ones: there is a natural, healthy sheen without the use of oils, sprays, or glosses and my baby locs have volume despite the length. My natural hair color is a reddish, dark brown, and while standing in the sun or a well-illuminated spot, this is most evident to onlookers. While maintenance is just a breeze; literally, I fluff my hair with my fingers and go, this journey leads me to another question: What is slippage?

I scheduled an appointment with my consultant for Friday, August 5th so that she could take a peek at a couple of areas where I suspect slippage has occurred. I’ll admit; it’s difficult to keep my hands out of my hair. It feels so good! I hope that obsession will end soon, but I think it’s quite natural. It made me wonder if my daily touches, by myself and others, may contribute to slippage and  what, exactly, is the difference between slippage and unraveling? Considering the length of my locs, they are essentially one and the same. Unraveling occurs when your baby locs start to come undone and lose their pattern at the ends of your hair (because the ends are too immature to lock). Slippage, on the other hand, happens when the hair at the root begins to slip and lose its pattern at the base of the “lock.”

Below are some updated pictures of the back of my head. I took these photos on Thursday, August 4th. I’ll take more after my visit with my consultant.

From the photos, it’s difficult to tell where slippage may have occurred.

The photo below is a closeup of the back of my head, closest to my nape. My baby locs look like woven curls (they remind me of shiny worms) when I inspect the photos.

After my appointment on Friday, August 5th, my consultant retightened a few of my baby locs, and I was out the door within 10-15 minutes. It might be more advantageous for me to wait a month between posts so that you can see more drastic changes with my locs, but when I was searching for images and bloggers that posted weekly photos, with commentary that helped me understand the phases, I simply could not find anyone willing to be “frequently transparent” about the growth of their Sisterlocks from infancy. My blog is an effort to fill that void.

From the pictures below, you won’t be able to tell much difference from my Week One pictures, but my curl pattern seems more evident and the baby locs are thinner than they were the first week. As I touch them, I can definitely feel their thinness. This phase will subside, according to my consultant.

Most were in the very back of my head, with two or three being on the sides.

I’m acutely aware of the many textures that are evident with just one head of hair. My hair may be a different texture than yours, but the progression of growth and maturity of our locs may be similar.

When my friends, family members, or strangers tell me, “I like your hair,” I cannot help but beam the response, “Thank you! So do I! Freedom!” This past summer, I’ve taken on the “hobby” of thrifting, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. During my Saturday visit to a local store, I came across a black woman around my age, who looked to be in her late 40’s, early 50’s. She approached me and said, “I love your hair,” and began touching her own. I noticed that she had very short hair, with wide square parts, and it looked as if she had two-strand twists. After thanking her, I asked her if she was locking her hair. It was evident to me that her hair was not sisterlocked, but I did not know if she was simply styling her hair for a temporary look or committing to a lifestyle change of maintaining locs. She explained that she was a cancer survivor and that her hair had undergone many changes over the course of a year, especially in the resultant texture. She was disappointed with the look of her two-strand twists and told me that her stylist would re-do the twists in a couple of weeks. She wanted to lock her hair, but she wasn’t sure if her hair would lock. She went on to talk about the thinness of her newly textured, post-treatment hair, and that her hair used to be coarse, but would never be as full and as thick as mine. I did not know what to say to comfort her…or even that she was seeking any encouragement from me. I stood there, watching her as she reflected on the transformation that survivorship has meant for her. Finally, I told her that Sisterlocks may be a way for her to embrace her freedom from cancer and celebrate her naturalness in the process. I walked away knowing that I would think of her often and pray for her strength to live her best life, cancer-free.

My next visit will be a true followup with my consultant to ensure that my babies are progressing as they should.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy chronicling the changes, taking lots and lots of pictures, and sharing my journey with you.

Week One: Where is my umbrella!?

Week One of my Sisterlocks Journey finds me searching feverishly for a small umbrella for my work tote; a large umbrella for my car; shower caps for virtually any bathroom encounter with water; and the anxiety of, the possibility of, the mere THOUGHT of getting my hair wet has me afraid to be outside, sweating even, in the unpredictable weather of Memphis! I had become accustomed to NOT carrying an umbrella. In fact, I haven’t used one since October 2015. Luckily for me, I survived Week One without getting my hair wet, and the daily photos of my loc changes are fascinating.

By Wednesday, I experienced slight itching of my scalp, but nothing obsessive. I’ve been thinking about what it could possibly be-the only thing I can think of is dry scalp. For almost eight months, my natural hair and scalp was moistured DAILY, and my hair was used to the tejuvenative properties of Memphis water, along with hydrating creams, oils, and the occasional gel.

On Thursday, July 28, I took several photos of my hair, during a brief break at work, to include in this week’s blog entry. What is most noticeable are the little “buds” forming on the ends that look like “hair balls.” I’m sure there is a technical term for it, but through the eyes of a newbie, they look like little fur balls. 😁 The spacing seems less obvious to me, after four days. I’ve been following my consultant’s directions, namely wearing my Loc Soc while I sleep and under no circumstances getting my head wet. You may be wondering why it is important for my hair to remain dry. At this stage, my baby locs are too immature to sustain water which will cause them to unravel or increase the chances of slippage (unraveling). Indeed, the time and financial investment is just too great to be frivolous about maintenance of my baby locs.

By Friday, July 29, the itching has subsided. I was sure to use a flash to get a better look at the texture of my hair. My hair seemed a bit more “spacey” today; interesting that the flash magnifies this effect, but my hair does not look this sectioned when I look at it in the mirror. The individual locs appear to be a bit stringier today, too. See what I mean…?

On yesterday (Saturday), I was in my school building for two and a half hours trying to semi-organize my new office space, and I broke a sweat (or two) climbing two flights of stairs, no less than six times, to gather items from my old office, as well as to move a table and four chairs with the help of a parent. Afterwards, I did a lot of running around town because of my father-in-law’s retirement party, and my hair looks a bit different by late afternoon. Here are a few photos.

Week One turned out to be pretty successful, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you on next Sunday this week’s hair changes. What is perhaps the biggest success is the hair freedom…throwing away hair combs of all types, hair brushes, hair picks, shampoos and conditioners in the shower caddy, and ALL hair care products that cluttered our bathroom drawers, basin counter, and even the little spray bottle of water and avocado oil I kept in my makeup bag. This journey just got real for me.

Until next Sunday… 😘

My Sisterlocks Birthday: Install Complete!!! 

Today was a good day! 

According to my Sisterlocks® consultant, Sunday, July 24th is my Sisterlocks Birthday since my install was completed on that date. We began the installation on Saturday, July 23rd around 3:00 pm, but my emotional preparation occurred hours, weeks, months earlier. I’m so very happy that the install is finally complete, and I am looking forward to the transformation of my locks over the years. This blog post is quite special to me. It is the beginning of a personal transparency that I never believed, in a million years, I would explore. You’re going to see images of me, some quite unflattering, that I don’t usually share with virtual strangers. I fully anticipate personal growth and coming to grips with some image issues I have endured most of my adult life. I’m looking forward to coming full circle. It is a journey about me, and me alone.

The install begins with a deep cleansing. Here is the shampoo that I was asked to clean my hair and scalp with, four washes, until it was “squeaky clean.” I had trouble finding it because it was not at my frequented Walgreens on Union & Pauline on the regular shampoo aisle. In fact, I could not find ANY clarifying shampoos on that aisle. Today’s savvy hair product consumer looks for “hydrating,” “moisturizing,” or “conditioning” shampoos, which coat the hair follicles and strands. This particular clarifying shampoo was located, several aisles over, with the $1.00 finds. I was pleased that it was economical, had a nice clean fragrance, and did what it should, remove all traces of built-up product, oil, sweat, and environmental dust and dirt.

Once my hair was thoroughly shampooed, I took a few photos of my hair in its “‘fro” state; the last time I will see my natural hair “free” and without product. To be honest, it was actually the first time I had seen my hair dry and without product. Since my Big Chop last December, after a shampoo or co-wash, I immediately apply oil which springs my curls and coils to life. This state of hair being was new to me-the dry ‘fro. Despite the change, don’t I look happy?

Once I arrived at the salon, I sat through a parting ritual which took about an hour (it seemed). My dry, clean hair was sectioned for grid patterns. I haven’t seen parts in my head since taking down my pre-Big Chop braids in December 2015. As a preventative measure, I took three regular strength Aleve with my breakfast just in case I experienced any discomfort. I will admit that pain relievers are a must have whenever I used to get my hair micro-braided. Without a doubt, they were NOT needed on Day 1 or on Day 2.

Once we began the install, my consultant, who was not feeling very well that Saturday, quickly tackled one section at a time, starting in the center of my head and moving to the back. My initial thoughts were that my hair was all over the place, and while I know there was an intricate grid pattern, I didn’t quite understand how they would end up “settled” and going in a styled direction.

Before our six hours for Day One ended, all of the back was completed. The next day, we started early and by 10 am, the first side was completed. I was excited because I could actually see the work in progress at this point.

Day Two arrived, and I was thrilled to be on my way to the salon. Here I am as I was preparing to leave my house to see my consultant and to complete my install on Sunday, July 24th.

It takes a patient and methodical professional to stay focused while locking hundreds of parted and sectioned locks. We took frequent stretch breaks, talked about my new role within the district, and of course, chatted about my Frank. 😍😘

Finally, the moment I had been awaiting arrived, and she was finished! Here are some shots of my hair before it was styled. You’ll note a few spaces, which is natural in a grid-patterned ‘do. My spaces are much more pronounced with braiding. Because my hair is pretty dense, with my baby locks, the spacing was minimal. Note the individual “‘fros” at the end of each lock. Those ends will transform over the course of the next few months, and it is where my lock will form.

Styling was an invigorating ritual of massage and manipulation of my locks. The massage felt good, and resulted in a more polished look which made me feel, not only grateful that the 11-hour install was over, but that my newfound hair freedom could begin. Here are a few photos of the final look.

My instructions were to NOT get my hair wet and to contact her if, prior to my follow-up appointment (included in my install price), I had any slippage (undone locks) around my edges which is common with short hair. At night, I should wear my “Loc Soc” or sleep on a satin pillowcase. I have two satin pillowcases, a crimson one and a cream one, that I rotate. 🐘💃🏽 Here is the “Loc Soc” brochure. I am pictured above and below wearing mine at the start of Day 2.

My husband, Frank, didn’t see my hair on Day 1 or on Day 2. He has not embraced my natural hair, so in my quest to evolve in the most positive way I know how, I donned my Loc Soc all day on my Sisterlocks birthday. Was I uncomfortable about my new look? No. Was I hiding from him? Perhaps. ☺️ I had less than 24 hours to reveal my new look, and it was for a precious few hours that it was just my own.

Interestingly, yesterday was our New Leaders official cohort photo day. I wore blue, because according to our national facilitator, Glynis, blue is a “warm color.” Here I am, in my baby Sisterlocks glory, ready to face my work day and to “go public” with my new look.

Today was a good day for one more reason. As I kissed my Frank goodbye on my way out the door, he said to me for the first time in several months, “Baby, you look good.” Validation? No. But, does it feel good? Hell, yes! 😬

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.


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!!”

Grown Folks and “Baby Hair”

I post at least five or six selfies a month on social media. Usually, I’m on my way to work, at work, on my way to a sorority function, or at a sorority function; 90% of my selfies are taken or posted before 10 am. Weird, I know. Recently, I posted the following elevator selfie on my way to work:

After posting the photo on FB, one of my best friends and fellow blogger, Mishia (Check her out at: http://dress2theninesonadime.weebly.com/), posted the following message:

By the way, “Doll” is my mother’s nickname, and from time to time (especially since I’ve big chopped), people call me “Doll Jr.”. It was Mishia’s second statement, “And you got the ‘baby hair and Afro’…” that made me think about Beyonce’s popular “Formation” lyrics and how baby hair has always been a very distinct hair “thing” that belongs to Us.

There are countless articles about how “baby hair” has somehow been assumed by mainstream European (white) fashion and media as a “new” phenomena. Check out: http://jezebel.com/the-problem-with-baby-hairs-urban-and-the-fashion-indu-1635947700 or http://www.theroot.com/blog/elle_uk_says_baby_hair_is_a_new_trend/. However, We (black women) all know that the combed, brushed, slicked, gelled, or (God forbid) saliva-licked tendrils around the edges of ANY hairdo, as a kid, is not only acceptable, but expected as the final accompaniment to styling the perfect ‘do. Somehow, the hair is not exactly pristine and properly styled if a baby hair or two is not adorning the crown of any child, ages birth to 12 years old.

Having taught high school for over 18 years, when a child, more specifically-a young woman-enters high school, usually at the age of 13 or 14 years of age, the application of baby hairs can look a bit ridiculous, if forced, superficially created, hard-edged, or much too exaggerated. The young fashionista even may find herself the subject of childish ridicule and bullying about an outdated hairstyle. In high school, “edges on fleek” replaces the age-old term “baby hair.” As such, peer disapproval may center on the actual style, in general, rather than the application of the baby haired edges.

Technically (and biologically), when you’re no longer a baby, you really don’t have “baby hair.” A baby has “baby hair.” After a certain age, it’s difficult to distinguish what baby hair is-even if you’re 50 years old with “baby hair.” Is it a result of hair breakage along the hairline? Is it new growth along the edges from replenished follicles? Is baby hair really just a figment of our imaginations? If you must gel, brush, comb, or otherwise finesse the hair around the edges of your hairline, can you really call it “baby hair”?

If you’re grown, working a full-time job, paying rent or a mortgage, state-licensed to legally drink or drive, served in the military, or buying toilet paper for the home in which you live, more likely than not, your edges are gelled or otherwise forcibly compliant when it comes to “the look” of baby hair. Growing up, Chilli from TLC was the “Baby Hair Queen” and try as you might, Chilli’s innate hair texture lends itself to enviable baby hair, no matter the occasion:

Photo Credit: shatterproofglassdolls.com

Even some notable male R&B singers, like Ginuwine, donned ridiculously exaggerated “baby hair” gelled edges meticulously styled for his concerts and appearances. Alas, we thought Ginuwine (and his androgynous edges) was “fine as wine,” and we just wanted to ride that “Pony” with him. I miss the 90’s.

Photo Credit: madamenoire.com

It’s not uncommon to see grown folks with baby hair, and it made me think about my own daily hair routine. While I do not consciously comb down or use gel around my edges to perfect “baby hair,” I will confess to using a soft brush to smooth my TWA edges and brush down the hair just above my graying and wiry-haired temples. Any appearance of “baby hair,” is pure coincidence. Those two areas at the crown of my head are oddly shaped (see picture below), so I tend to brush my hair slightly forward in those two areas. At almost a half a century in age, baby hair isn’t exactly the look I’m going for…at all:

So, what’s your take on “baby hair” beyond 15 years of age? How old should one be when you stop creating “baby hair” or elaborately gelled and swirled edges? Does the profession matter? Is baby hair appropriate as a styling element for those who work in a conservative workplace? What if your best friend dons gelled, swirled, and glistening “baby hair” no matter where you two go; she is baby hair-ready? Do you make fun of the 40-something baby hair-ers? What if your boss has the baby hair from the 90’s and just won’t let it go?

Hard to say. It’s just grown folks and baby hair…

Andi’s Hair Journey: The Beginnings

After years of short, relaxed cuts, shoulder-length bobs, micro-braids, and even a short-lived Big Chop in 2013, I began a hair journey of mishaps, blunders, and wonders over the past 18 months.

Here I am in January 2015, fresh-faced, at my allergist’s office with a roller set:

Here I am later that same month at my sorority’s Founders Day Ecumenical Service: 

After months of personal hair care and indecision about what I wanted to do with my hair, by March 2015, my hair was relaxed, neck-length, thick, and relatively healthy. I spent about six weeks in micro braids, and I began “lightly” relaxing my hair on my own. It was presentable, but not exactly “hair-dresser straightened and styled.”  Desirous of a change and trusting my new hair stylist and colorist, I made a sudden and drastic transition during Spring Break from a very dark brown natural hair color to a lighter reddish-blond color. While I liked the initial lighter color, my hair would undergo several changes over the next year and a half.

Here I am getting color, for the first time in over 15 years (March 2015):

Color 1

Looking cute! Here is the finished result of my color treatment (March 2015):

Color 2

I took pretty good care of my tresses; almost never applying heat unless it was being professionally shampooed and conditioned, and I pin-curled or slept in magnetic or soft satin rollers to maintain a basic and conservative “style.” Eventually, the light color started to fade and dark roots grew. I was forced to make another hair decision. To color or not to color?

Color 3

Later in the summer of 2015, just before the start of a new school year, I took the color plunge once again…this time, lightening my hair considerably.

Here I am in July 2015-a blonder blond! Brows and all!

Color 4

It was a change…yes, a drastic one, and I didn’t love it or hate it. On most days, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it and there wasn’t much I could do at that point. It was simply VERY light, and I tried to camouflage it with several different styles. Once the color “calmed down” and deepened a bit (thank goodness!), I found the color more tolerable. I even experimented with different textures and curly roller sets, too.

Textures 1

Textures 2

Textures 3

So, after a few months of wearing the blondest blond (for my taste), I did what I always do when I have no idea of what I want to do with my hair…I returned to micro braids.

Hard to believe it, but underneath that dark braiding hair is a blond living and breathing! November 2015-digging the braids once again:

Braids 1


Hair Professionalism 101

I’m a certified “Googler.” No, that’s too simplified…I’m a “Professional Googler.” Yep, I use Google (and its family of user-friendly apps) more daily than any other search engine and definitely more than any other app on my laptop or phone. Interestingly, a couple of days ago, my cousin, RJ, texted me, “Google professional hair and take a look at the images. Then Google unprofessional hair.” So, using my trusty smartphone, I followed his instructions. Under “Professional Hairstyles,” I saw several images of primarily Caucasian celebrities, model-types, and one recognizable brown face, actress Zoe Saldana. Most of the images displayed conservative hairstyles, coifed on very fair-skinned adults, mostly females with shoulder-length or longer tresses. I was like, “Okay…” So, I navigated to “Unprofessional Hairstyles,” and I immediately noticed the stark difference-hair and lots of it! Black hair, super’fros, twist outs, crimped hair, textured hair…4c hair…but wait? Unprofessional? Not only did I see several hair images of African-American female or dark-skinned adults, I saw comparison screenshots of “professional vs. unprofessional hairstyles” as Google images themselves under the search results, and I am saddened.

So, right now you’re asking me, “Girl, why are YOU so surprised? You know…” You can check out both screenshot search results below.


At my age, I just can’t pretend to be naive about how people’s perceptions shape their beliefs and worldview. However, in 2016, I am shocked that these images would be so prevalent, and it makes me wonder…who in the heck compiles these images? Does Google compile them, a techie somewhere in a dark room just sitting there uploading pictures? How does a “face” or “hairstyle” become a Google image, an exemplar, a model of a search engine word or phrase? More important, how is the designation of “professional” vs. “unprofessional” assigned to a mere hairstyle…and by whom? Yes, I’m even shocked that Google didn’t assign an initial full page of scroll results with singular images of people of color, with their “unprofessional hairstyles.”

It made me wonder…if I were a Google image, would I, with my TWA, be a model of “professional” or “unprofessional” hair? We truly live in a sad world where a woman, who identifies as African-American, doesn’t have the luxury of presenting herself to the world as a “professional” because she chooses to wear her natural hair…well, naturally curly, kinky, coily, locked, wavy, frizzy, or nappy. If she does choose anything but the bone straight route, her own hair, that grows out of her head, brands her as “unprofessional.”

The pearls, yes, the pearls make me “professional.” Say what?!

Here’s a question for you: How many of us have straightened our hair to “soften” our image, appear more “put together or polished,” or allowed ourselves to be convinced that to be successful in mainstream industry, we must straighten our hair?

And here’s another question: How many of us long to wear our natural hair but fear the multi-textured reality of the hair we were born to embrace? If I can overcome that fear, so can you.

“There is a negative stigma attached to natural Black hair in the United States and frankly in most places of the world.” ~http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/natural-hair-and-professionalism/

Check out #5! She’s my undergraduate chapter Soror and a corporate executive who is wearing her natural hair beautifully and unapologetically: ~http://blackgirllonghair.com/2015/01/8-top-professionals-and-ceos-who-wear-their-natural-hair/

An example of our fears being much larger than our reality: “It was then that I realized that a lot of time we as naturals often put parameters and limitations on how we think our hair should look and be styled. I realized very quickly that I had the problem with how my hair looked thinking that it wasn’t “professional” enough, inappropriate or too “wild” for the workplace.” ~http://www.curlynikki.com/2012/10/natural-hair-in-corporate-world.html?m=1

We still have so far to go as it relates to diversity education, racial and ethnic tolerance, cultural misappropriation…and well, just acceptance of and respect for the choices of our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members, our lovers, our friends. And I ain’t even talking about hair.