Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Angry Black Woman? A Question of Perspective

If you've been following me for a while (and of course if you're one of my 'flesh' friends) - you will know that I like to lark about and make fun of myself. This photo was taken the day after the wedding at Sandy Lane.  We were visiting some friends and I wanted HRH to take my photo because I was still loving the way my hair looked. Being the reluctant photographer he is, he ended up taking aaaaaaaaaaaaages to simply frame and take the shot - me being me - I started dancing and mucking about as shown in the full length image below.

I was jamming and singing "She's Royal" by Tarrus Riley (read lyrics & listen here).
I posted this pic on FB profile with the caption "Rootsy and Royal". Of the 20 comments and 'Likes', 4 were 'negative' in that they felt I looked like the 'stereotypical angry Black woman'. (See below). Two of those who 'disliked' the look were men. HRH did not comment but admitted that this was not 'a favourite'. LOL (that means he hated it).

Basically it got me thinking... about Beauty and perceptions of beauty... and of course 'stereotypes'.

Here are the comments:

"You look like one of those angry ghetto jamaican woman in this picture ha" 
 -- that was one of my nieces, who is of mixed heritage and lives in an area where people of colour are incredibly scarce. Does this have any bearing on her perceptions of beauty or do I (her aunt) just look mean and angry and ghetto in this picture.

"My dear, I kinda tend to agree wid (your niece) - like the dress, like the hair somewhat - but the look just not cutting it. Yah looking a bit like an angry barefoot rasta woman wid de pose. :P"

-- that was gentleman number 1, fair point re: the pose. Depending on your perspective, I could have pursed lips because I am singing or because I am sucking my teeth/stupsing. I could be squinting from the sun or frowning from anger. This is what made me wonder whether perceptions of Beauty come into play. If I associate this type of outfit/pose with 'anger' or 'militancy' then clearly anyone in this pose will come across as threatening. Additionally, if my hair were straight in this photo -  whether in a short bob or a ponytail or just straight down - would I still have been perceived as looking like an angry woman? Or would it have been easier to see that I was playing around?

"Bro, you have a point I'm looking for the big rocks she just threw at someone. "Get outta me face before me hafi thump yah!" Still nice dress note the matching ear rings, always had style..."

Gentleman number 2 liked the dress (and ear-rings brap!) but still found the image aggressive.

All the 'Likes' and positive comments were from women who in general liked the outfit (dress + ear rings) and/or the hair. Some even agreed that the image looked 'rootsy' or 'regal'.

So... does this mean that men (or my male friends who could be bothered to comment) don't like this type of look on females? Does this mean that men and women often have differing perceptions on what is beautiful? (With men - and some women- not really like the 'Back to Africa'/Natural look?)

I know that for me, despite being natural (on and off) for aaaaaaaaaaages and currently one year into my locking journey -  well, I never really thought about my own preferences.

It's only recently that I can say that I prefer to see women with their natural hair or rather their OWN hair... because there are some ladies who really rock a healthy head of relaxed hair.

I personally just don't like when weaves don't hang right, (or ride up in the back - you know what I mean) and I guess for them to hang right they have to be human hair - which raises all sorts of other issues.

I like braids and braided hairstyles as long as they're not too tight. I used to be indifferent to locks (of any kind) but now I really like them and love to see well cultivated or manicured locks on men and women.  I also like natural heads: curly, coily, kinky... afros, twists, cornrows, whatever. So I can see that my perceptions of beauty have changed over time as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that - I look at that picture and I see a woman in a print dress with nice earrings and a cool hairstyle getting her groove on. Someone else sees an 'angry black woman' or 'ghetto woman' or 'jamaican dub singer'.

I can appreciate both perspectives but I prefer to look at the picture and see 'rootsy royal', a Black woman, expressing herself naturally. (or Bajan Lily just mucking about barefoot in front the gates of a house).

What do you see?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The High Price of Fashion?

Today's Daily Mail (newspaper) featured this none too flattering image of British Supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Is this the price of fashion?
Is this what being one of the first Black supermodels has cost her?
Seriously, is this the price of beauty? Is this what is left after over 20 years of weaves, wigs and lace fronts? Or is she just having a bad hair day/month/year?
It could be hormonal, it could be alopecia (traction or areata)...
It could be an allergic reaction to something...

I don't know but it made me wonder... how many of our women are walking around hiding 'patches' and 'problem' areas under hats or hair (synthetic or human)?  There's got to be a better way... (for these models) especially if this is what they're going to end up with when it's all over. (Or maybe techniques have improved since she first started so this type of damage is unlikely now?)

If this is the true cost of 'Beauty' as defined by our western societies... I think I will stick to my own (re)definitions of Beauty...

What are your thoughts?

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sandy Lane Hair (picture heavy post)

Last weekend, HRH and I attended a mutual friend's wedding.  Apart from being overjoyed for the happy couple, I was a bit worried as to how to style my hair given that the venue was the world famous Sandy Lane Hotel (where the infamous Tiger woods was married).

After getting over myself (no one should be THAT interested in what I was wearing, they should be focused on the bride), I decided on a sideswept curly style (click on pics to enlarge).

I made four flat twists along the side and rear of my head like this:

The 'tail' of the style is pinned flat (to the right of the flat twists).

Then I corkscrewed (aka Bantu knots aka china bumps) the rest of my hair like this:
(That's one of my lock jewels you can see at the front)

I didn't corkscrew the 'tail' end of my twists, although in hindsight I probably should have. I wanted a 'straight' long tail but that would lightly rest on my shoulder, but I am sure that having it all curly would have worked just as well or better.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I woke up at 5 am to create this style, I had washed my hair the evening before but forgot to put perm rods in... since it was now dry again, I dampened my hair with water and began twisting.

About 9 hours later, I loosened the corkscrews  and redid one of the flat twists (just cos I felt it was too loose and therefore a bit 'bigger' than the others.. I like things to look uniform heheh). At that point it looked like this:

Then I unpinned the 'tail' and dropped it over my right shoulder. The curls on top were still too tight for me so I did a bit of pulling and moulding until the style held the shape I was looking for - like this:

And these ones are me larking about in the car on the way to Sandy Lane. HRH is driving (not me) but he's not allowed on my blog so he's not visible in these shots *grin* See how the 'tail' is doing all kinds of weird and annoying stuff? I think if I had curled it - maybe it would have stayed put.

(I think HRH must have said sthg to annoy me in that first shot, lol)

And this is what my hair looked like by the time we were seated at the ceremony...
and afterwards
(see how the straight tail starts to look a bit odd - at least it does to me)

The next day my hair looked more like this - but this picture is the subject of another post

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Long Lockies

Does anyone else have one or two locks that seem to grow much more than the others?

May 2009....  (bottom left, hardly noticeable)

November 2009....
(bottom left)

Feb 2010
(bottom.. right??? Where did that come from?)

May 2010....

go figure...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Hair Story: Mrs R-C

I mentioned this old friend with locks in earlier post (click here to read it) and I just wanted to post some comparison shots and wish her all the best for her delivery (which is imminent).  You're gorgeous!

We got married 6 months apart and attended eachother's weddings. My (third) child and her (first) child will be three months apart. Her husband and my brother were best friends for most of their lives - I love him as my own. Here's wishing you both all the best.

She started her lock journey at the end of 2006 (and she is Bajan heheh).




See the super growth? Let's do that again (2008 v 2009)

2010 (both pregnant lol)

and here's a shot with lots of naturals

Mrs R-C on the far left (blue), me in black on the right and my daughter in pink at the far right. Heeeey!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Take Nothing for Granted

Thomas Jefferson knew what he was saying when he said: "Never put off for tomorrow what you can do today". How many times have you said:"I'll do that tomorrow" or 'Next week', even 'Next month'...?  We take it for granted that Aunt Jill will be alive when we finally make time to visit; we operate on the premise that we will be able to do whatever it is we're planning whenever it is we're planning it for... however, we forget that we are not in control - just ask those passengers stranded due to the Icelandic ash saga.

We walk around believing we are Masters of Our Fate and Authors of Our Destinies, strutting and swaggering like we're all that.  And sometimes we are - but many times we're not. For a significant part of the time we're here on earth, we're all just playing the hand we've been dealt as best we can - while waiting for a better hand or a weaker opponent.

There are no coincidences. The M. Night Shamalayan movie 'Signs' used an alien invasion to drive home this point. The bible phrases it more along the lines of 'all things working together...' stay with me now.

My mother was with us in England this last xmas. At a loss as to what to get her this time, HRH decided to pander to her shopaholicism and give her gift vouchers for one of her favourite department stores. I thought it was a cop out but she was rather pleased. Imagine my surprise when a couple of weeks later she hit the January sales and bought baby clothes not only for my son but for our then unborn child as well. If I remember correctly I actually told her off for 'wasting her money' on us when she was supposed to treat herself. Mother being mother - ignored me (as usual) and did what pleased her most. I sorted out the Young Prince's new clothes but I packed away the gift for the unborn.

During my last labour I relied heavily on hypnobirthing and spent the majority of my time in a birthing pool. I was incredibly relaxed and chilled until exhaustion and foetal distress (he was stuck) led to the delivery of the Young Prince by emergency c-section after 23 hours of hard slog.  My intention was to employ these same pain relief methods this time around as they had just a calming and centring effect on me (it was as though I was unconscious between contractions - pure bliss!) However, I could not find the birthing scripts or CD and by the time I did dig them up it was too late for them to be effective.  I was quite upset by this as I dreaded the thought of labouring without these aids.

Furthermore, HRH insisted that he would not be blowing the pool up manually this time around and promised to order an electric pump but week after week went by with him responding "not yet" to my question "have you ordered the pump yet?"

Having not long returned to work after my previous maternity leave, I  was incredibly concious of 'appearances' and the sway of the office grapevine, so my plan was to work for as long as possible. I scheduled my maternity leave to begin the weekend before my due date - after all, the Prince came right on time: why should this one be any different?

HRH vehemently disagreed with this and suggested I start my leave 6 weeks prior - especially since I was so ill (remember the hyperemesis gravidarum?) and was finding it increasingly difficult to travel into the office.  It wasn't until a fellow passenger jumped onto my bump while squeezing into the tube during rush hour one morning that I realised I needed to pack it in for the sake of our unborn.  I negotiated with my managers and agreed to start mat leave 4 weeks before my due date.  Unfortunately, problems with paperwork going missing in the post meant that I was still working as I approached 36 weeks, making it unlikely that I could take leave before 37/38 weeks.

I was on the books to have a Home Birth; however the Chief Obstetrician at the local hospital had his reservations (due to the fact that I'd had a c-section not so long ago).  It took a colossal effort, loads of research and canvassing (on my part) to persuade him and his team to allow me to proceed with my home birth. I needed one final signature on the paperwork and a plan of care from the Head Midwife - an appointment was scheduled for Friday 26th March.

A year (or so) earlier, one of my old College buddies and his wife moved into our 'neighbourhood'; the Watermans had previously lived (a zillion miles away) in Chichester. With them nearby I was better able to reach out and eventually became good friends with his wife.

I am always the last person to pack for and unpack after a trip; whereas HRH will have everything back in its place within 30 mins of returning home - I'm the one with the backpack in the corner with everything still in it except the dirty laundry.

On the 24th March I lumbered into the office as usual and faxed through a copy of the missing paperwork to HR. We agreed that maternity leave could begin from 1 April. I came home and checked my list (of things I would need should I go into hospital and things I would need for a home birth). I planned to sort it all out on Saturday when I would know one way or another if I was definitely OK to have the home birth or whether I would need a scheduled c-section.

On the morning of March 25th, 2010:

  • My sister-in-law is training to be a nurse and was on placement instead of at university. Her uniform and stethoscope would come in handy.
  • Cherie Waterman was not at College and her husband was enjoying a day off and therefore available to babysit their child - also very handy.
  • HRH had a meeting in Canary Wharf which brought him much closer to where we live than he would have been had he been travelling back from Croydon.
  • My niece had travelled down from university so I could retighten her locks - this would prove to be super handy.

I had the most uncomfortable night I'd had in ages. The Young Prince had picked up a bug from nursery and would be unable to go in, luckily my niece was around and could look after him while I worked from home. By 8 am I was logged on... but I was also feeling some pain. Since this was too early, I assumed it was false labour and carried on with work. The pain got worse. I joined my 10 am conference call but had to place myself on mute because the pains were becoming overwhelming. I explained to my manager (via prvt msg on a chat program) and logged off with a promise to keep her uptodate.  I thought I had simply been working too hard and would feel better after a lie down but it was not to be. I looked at my dates and felt a rising panic. "It's too early" I kept saying.

I asked my niece to keep my son away because he looked super confused and frightened; and I called my birth buddies. These were people I could count on to take care of my other children or drive me to hospital or whatever.  The first 2 were at work and could only offer much needed words of comfort and encouragement. My sister-in-law was on placement at some far off hospital but spoke to her supervisor and left straight away - despite me telling her not to rush - I mean, my first labour was 29 hours, the 2nd was 23, I didn't expect this to be any faster... she came running anyway (THANK GOD TOO!).  The 4th I asked to help with my son and she offered to stay with me until HRH got home. I explained that HRH was NOT on his way because he didn't expect the baby to arrive anytime soon...

By midday I was definitely in labour, I couldn't focus enough to use any hypnobirthing techniques, so it was down to controlled breathing and talking myself down from fear and panic. I called my midwife but she couldn't come out to deliver because I didn't have the final sign offs required - she advised that I go to hospital.  Those of you who know me well know how mortified I was by this - especially since I would have to go to the nearest hospital which was the very one I had been trying to avoid.  Cherie & Brenda (sis-in-law) had arrived by then.

Since HRH wouldn't tell me where pump (which had arrived the day before) or the birth pool were (I believe his words were, "wait til I get home, I will do it"), I ran a hot bath and sat in it for pain relief.  I HATE cold water (and I really mean HATE, my showers etc are always near scalding) yet - when the contractions came the only thing that got me through was directing an icy jet of water from the shower attachment straight at my tummy or against my lower back.  Brenda almost collapsed in a fit of giggles - she says I looked like I was trying to 'wash away the pain' :)

Cherie kept insisting we 'leave NOW' - but I knew what that hospital was like and I was NOT going there any earlier than I had to. No way was I going there to wait for hours in misery and discomfort when I could stay in my own home and feel safe. Besides - I hadn't packed anything or got anything for the baby etc.

We went into military mode - these women were my left and right hands - they deserve medals. Being mothers themselves they knew what to look for and what to ask for when it came to packing the hospital bag.

There are no coincidences.

Thank God that I had left my backpack in the corner, all the toiletries were ready, they just added clothing.  We found muslin cloths in a drawer and an unopened pack of Newborn disposable diapers under the Prince's cot (There are no coincidences. I never got around to giving them away!) . It was then I realised I had nothing for the baby to wear! "It's too early - I'm not ready!" I cried in tears... but the lieutenants went on the hunt. Surely there might be something of the Prince's still around - unfortunately, I had given most of the newborn stuff away!

There are no coincidences.
Somewhere, somehow, Cherie found that unopened gift my mother had bought 3 months earlier: 3 newborn baby sleep suits. She ripped them out and Laurelle (my niece) threw them in the washing machine. I told them to wash them because we couldn't put unwashed stuff on the baby AND we weren't leaving until they were done (that means washed AND dried).

I asked Brenda to pray with me. We prayed that the baby would be ok, we prayed for peace, we prayed for a safe delivery...

Sometime after 2 p.m we left the house and headed to the hospital. We had just about everything I needed.

I'll save the delivery room drama and cockups for some other time - it's taken me long enough to write this one (and this is turning out to be loooooooooooooong as it is!).

Short story is - the little one was not getting enough oxygen, originally they thought this could have been failure  on the part of the placenta but in hindsight (after the stint in NICU) it was due to the fact her red blood cells were compromised (being destroyed by antibodies).

Approximately, 2 hours after arriving at the hospital, our little girl entered the world.

Like most people I know, I assumed that I'd have the baby and be home the next day, 48 hours max - but again this was not to be. 7 days passed before we were able to take her home. It may not seem like very long to you, but for a newborn baby & their parents it is an eternity.

Take nothing for granted - because "nothing's ever promised tomorrow today", what you think will happen just might not.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank EVERYONE who prayed and phoned and emailed and texted words of encouragement and support during that horrendous first week when she lay in that incubator fighting for her life including N'Joi - who only knows me from cyberspace but prayed anyway.  (Ok now I'm gonna have to name everybody or get cussed out... initials then: D.R, L.S. E.M, T.C, A.C, B & SP, Big V & T, A.P, Immaculate, S.D, J&S O, K & C Waterman, Miranda, D.Barrow, Claire.S, S. Gaisie, my sisters, mum & dad and sorry if I forgot to list you but I'm tired.)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Call me BajanLily - BreadLoaf

Examining my bank statements over the past few years, I've noticed a disturbing(?) trend in my spending habits: massage treatments and spa visits are appearing on my receipts with increasing frequency!

One could speculate that one's body requires additional tuning as the miles clock up... and indeed I've had more injuries this decade than the last - but I've also had more children this decade - so is the growing need for rest and relaxation related to HRH (His Royal Highness) and his band of heirs?  Are they running me ragged? Or have I always had a consistent requirement for massage therapy before and after marriage/children - but I now have the means to have this catered to professionally?  Perhaps the bills are simply related to the fact that HRH doesn't do massages -  yes, I can see your eyes rolling - but it's true. He doesn't do that kind of physical exertion and believe me when I tell you it's best that he doesn't. I let him loose with a massager on my back during our honeymoon.

The massager looks like this :
he used it as though it were this:

...never again.

Whatever the driver, I love massages. If I could do them myself (to myself) I would have one every week - maybe even every day.

I am not talking about la-di-da-dee light touch sensual massages. Ahem. You can keep those. I'm talking about serious physio or deep tissue massage.

Throughout my teenage years and early adulthood I dislocated my knee caps regularly, then I fractured my right patella. I went on to break one of my toes - and in between there was a gamut of sprained and twisted ankles. I have fallen arches in my feet - in 2007, the severe over pronation this causes led to a trapped nerve between the 3rd and 4th toes in my right foot. As a collective, these injuries affect the way I walk. You probably wouldn't notice though because every day every muscle in my calves and thighs works overtime to compensate, adjust and correct - so that my walking appears normal but -according to my physiotherapist - I walk like a pigeon. One foot in front of the other... and the end of the day (every day) I am in agony.  Perhaps now you understand better my affinity for those massages.  After a couple weeks of this daily pain, deep tissue massage is the only remedy left to relax my tight, twisted thigh and calve muscles (and tendons)...

My youngest is 10 weeks old and it has been one big roller-coaster from her premature arrival to her recent admission to our local Children's Ward. I have been knotted up - both physically and emotionally - like a clenched fist for 10 weeks, so you can see why I was glad when I hobbled up the driveway and knocked on the door of the spa owned and run by the lady I shall call "The Hands". I must be a sucker for punishment...

It all started so benignly. A review of injuries and issues, the disrobing, the candles and the funny bland music they play in all spas... (this one started with gentle waves lapping against a shore before progressing to pan pipes or flutes or whatever it was)... warm oil applied to warm skin, a question about what type of pressure and then it started:

I almost passed out as The Hands touched my back and tried to sieve me through the massage table onto the floor.


It felt as though my spine wanted to change places with my navel, Flat Stanley had nothing on me! My shoulders were yanked from their sockets using my wrists as handles, fingers popped around their knuckles - even my skin felt as though it were being pulled from my limbs.  I was kneaded and pounded and stretched and rubbed and prodded and reminded that I was ALIVE.

And then - when I was as limber as I thought I could ever be, The Hands roasted me with hot volcanic stones. When those things landed on my back I was ready to sieve myself through the massage table unaided in an attempt to escape the heat! (Ok I am exaggerating - but only a LITTLE bit, lol)

I should have known that cooking always follows preparation - after all, how will dough become bread if it isn't baked?

However, it was at this point that the inside of my head started to look like this

and I exhaled...
I exhaled and let go of all the fear and anxiety and resentment and frustration I had pent up inside me since that rainy day in March (and some stuff that had been hanging around before then too!)

My child is alive. Some people can't say that. All three of my kids are walking this earth... still. And I am ALIVE to witness, cherish and straight up enjoy it

even if I do feel like this.

Photo Credits

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

12 Month Comparison

I think the photos speak for themselves.
31 May 2009 (Barcelona)

31 May 2010 (Barbados)

And side profiles....

May 2009
(believe when I say I was NOT feeling these Sisterlocks then at all! Blech!)

roll on May 2010

Believe people when they tell you that locking takes time and patience!


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