What Makes Good Hair?

Yesterday I attended a special screening of Chris Rock’s docu-film Good Hair, at The Ritzy cinema in Brixton, South London.  The evening also featured a should-have-been-much-longer Q&A session with Mr Rock himself.

This film is practically old news in the U.S., as it has been out since at least October 2009, but I guess we should be thankful for small mercies.  It looks at what black/African American women go through to achieve their desired hairstyles, and was prompted by Chris’ young daughter walking into the house one day and asking him, “Daddy how come I don’t have good hair?”

I really enjoyed this movie.  It is funny, entertaining and informative, and features appearances from Nia Long, Raven Symone, Salt N Pepa, Ice-T, KRS-One, Eve, Maya Angelou, Reverend Al Sharpton, Melyssa Ford, Andre Harrell and Lauren London among others.    He looks at the most popular ways in which most black women choose carry their hair, predominantly relaxed or weaved.  With relaxer we learn its scientific name – Sodium Hydroxide.  That just sounds scary.  Imagine having a conversation with your friend: “Hey, what are you up to on Saturday?”  “Oh I’m just going to the salon to put Sodium Hydroxide in my hair.”  And for those of you who don’t already know, yes it is as painful as it sounds.  We are even shown the damage that the chemicals in a relaxer do to a soda can.  After some hours the can is transparent, and after a day it is completely burnt off.  We also saw Chris visit the site of the Dudley’s – a black owned company in North Carolina who provide hair products for the black community (one of very few hair companies in America that are black owned), and we watched the process of relaxer, aka, The Creamy Crack, being made.

Chris Rock with actress Nia Long

Actress Raven Symone sporting her beloved weave

I think the saddest moments of the film are hearing that a woman once approached a hair stylist asking what relaxer she can use on her 18-month old daughter, because she doesn’t want to deal with her hair.  Chris also chats to another woman who is at a salon getting her 6 year old grand-daughter’s hair relaxed, a little girl who doesn’t enjoy having her hair relaxed, but advises Chris that his daughter should also have hers done because “you’re supposed to.”  Dear oh dear…

A young girl having hair relaxer applied

On the subject of weaves and hair extensions, Chris visits Chennai in India, one source of human hair extensions.  Women there are sacrificing their hair to their God, not knowing that it’s rather being used to make someone else rich.  We see hair being sorted, cleaned and added to wefts, ready to be shipped around the world.  To me, seeing the hair being willingly given up kind of reduced any feeling of guilt I may have as someone who wears hair extensions, but we are also told that sometimes women’s hair is ‘stolen’ while they sleep, or cut off without their knowledge while they watch a film at the cinema.  Imagine the cheek!

Throughout the film we see preparations being made for the Bonner Brothers hair show, which was basically more about ‘show’ and less about hair.

Funny moments come courtesy of the featured celebs.  Some such as:

Paul Mooney – “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If it’s nappy, they’re not happy.”

Eve (on her hair extensions) – “This hair is 100% human hair and it’s even been prayed over” (Does that make it Halal hair Eve?)

Chris:  How old were you when you first got your relaxer?

Maya Angelou: Oh god, I was about seventy.

Chris: Seventy? You went your whole life…

Maya Angelou:  Not my whole life, I’m still alive!

The Question and Answer session lasted all of about 15-20 minutes, and that’s only because some people forced their opportunity to get their question heard.  I think the organisers should have had a bit more compassion for this ‘special’ event.  Nonetheless, Chris answered with honesty, bearing in mind he’s not a hair specialist, just someone who made a film out of curiosity.  My favourite moment was when a lady at the back of the room asked why he didn’t make the film focus on the positive hairstyles, like those who ‘locs’ (natural dreadlocks) their hair, and Chris said he didn’t have any questions about that, he respects and admires those hairstyles. “It would be like making a film about someone who doesn’t drink,” he said.  Agreed!

Who remembers… Blossom!

Oh my goodness, talk about a blast from the past!  Do you remember when CH4 would broadcast this show on Friday evenings at 6pm?  Yes I remember the day and time, sad I know, but I loved watching Blossom and I recorded almost all the episodes.

For those who vaguely remember this sitcom, let me refresh your memory.  Blossom Russo was a teenage girl who lived with her father and two older brothers, since her mum had walked out on them to go and live her own life.  Charming.  One brother, Tony, was a recovering druggie and alcoholic, and the other, Joey, was just… a dumb jock.  Blossom also had a best friend called Six who lived next door, and had a huge crush on Joey.  She was probably the funniest character actually.

Blossom ran for five seasons, from 1990-1995, during which we watched her deal with many of the typical issues experienced by young girls – first period, first serious boyfriend, troubled family members, being there for her friends, as well as dealing with the absence of her mother.

I think I really enjoyed the show because – apart from having a huge crush on Joey myself – there wasn’t any other show that appealed to me as a young girl growing up.  There were some things I didn’t think were realistic, for example, how Blossom wasn’t actually that attractive, and was quite up herself, but yet everybody loved her and guys still wanted her.  But I think the fact that she was my age, and I was inexperienced in the teenage things she was experiencing, made the show a sort of guide for me on the issues I could face growing up.  Though I don’t actually think she would be someone I could be friends with in real life…

In case you’re wondering, Mayim Bialik who played Blossom, graduated in 2008 with a PhD in Neuroscience, after doing mostly voiceover work when the show ended.  She is also a married mother of two sons, born in 2005 and 2008, and is involved in Conservadox Judaism.  Though she has not had a starring role in a television series, she currently has a recurring role as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory.

A Blindin’ Drinking Game

Do you remember the days when drinking games consisted of playing – for example – a board game, and every time an action of your choice happened, the ‘unfortunate’ person had to take a shot of alcohol?  Or maybe the days when we just had tequila shots with the salt and lemon, and that was enough to get us in that nice and tipsy place, and any drink after that may just have taken us that little bit further?  Well it seems those types of games are old hat, and there’s a new challenge in town that you would not believe…

…Vodka Eyeballing.  Yes, Vodka Eyeballing.  It’s exactly as it sounds.  Vodka in your eyeballs.  Apparently this is the latest craze to sweep through Britain’s universities, and is said to have started in the U.S. when barmaids performed tricks for more tips.  It consists of  pouring a shot (or bottle, your choice) of vodka into your eyes, which supposedly induces the feeling of drunkenness and provides an instant high.  Devotees who spoke to the Daily Mail claim that this is because it passes easily through the mucous membrane and enters the bloodstream directly through veins at the back of the eye.  But medical experts have not backed this theory, saying that those who participate in this practice are usually already drunk and just convincing themselves that the eyeballing is making a difference. So far reported cases have seen some young people with eyes that are constantly watering, which in turn run the risk of causing the loss of sight.

I’m not actually sure when the last time was I heard of anything so stupid.  Are students nowadays so hell-bent on having a good time, that they risk their health even further than the damage that is more-than-likely already happening to their liver?  I for one am not into self-harming in any way, and that is what this is.  This craze is another way for them to score points with their peers, showing a competitive side that probably didn’t really exist in the first place, and if we want to look deep into it, it’s rather a lack of self-esteem that would push anyone to want to partake in this nonsense.  Some of these students will now graduate with more than the grade they bargained for…

Boy Toys – To play or not to play?

On a recent night in I watched the DVD ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back.’  When I originally watched this movie back in 1998, I don’t think I was at a place to fully appreciate what the storyline was about.  It was another black film with eye-candy (though Taye Diggs doesn’t do it for me as much as Tyrese or Morris would have).  But watching it this time round made me actually think more about older women/younger men relationships.  More so, because I recently met a guy who is as hot as they come – we’ll call him The Body – but when I realized he is younger than me, I felt a little uncomfortable.

I have always had problems with guys being younger than me.  I think it’s because I have two younger brothers, and the thought that my ‘man’ could be my brother’s mate is very off-putting.  But there are plenty of women out there who don’t share my discomfort.  Demi Moore married Ashton Kutcher, where there is a 15-year age gap.  Guy Ritchie was 10 years younger than Madonna, and at the age of 50 she is currently dating a 22-year old.  Nicole Scherzinger was ‘29’ when she started dating 22-year old Lewis Hamilton in 2007.  Vivica Fox famously dated and temporarily lost her mind over 50 Cent, and even Angela Bassett’s real life husband is younger than her, though it’s not as bad as her character Stella, whose new love was 20 years old – exactly half her age.

Angela Bassett and husband Courtney B. Vance

Admittedly at six years younger than me, the gap between The Body and I is not as wide as those previously mentioned, but unfortunately that doesn’t ease my discomfort.

Kay is 30 and happily dates below her age.  “I actually prefer younger men, in all honesty.  I have no problems at all being in a relationship with a younger man.  As long as they are mature thinkers, then what the hell?!  Life is too short to be deliberating when you can be having fun.  Plus, the older you get, the more you should experiment and increase the options available to you.  It’s a sad fact, but men die before women, so if you have a younger man you’ll get to have him around for much longer!”

Thirty –year old Angel disagrees.  “It depends on the age gap, but I personally don’t think there’s anything sexy about dating a younger man.  It’s hard work moulding the ones of age, let alone trying to explain things to younger guys.  Aren’t women mentally a few years ahead of men anyway?  That just sounds like too much hard work!”

Madonna with 22 year-old toyboy Jesus Luz

This leads me to my next point – if we women are more mature than men our age, why not rather go and find someone older so that he is, at the very least, on the same level?

“Age has got nothing to do with whether a man is clued up or not,” say Eka, 32.  “It is rather his life experiences.  If a man isn’t where he needs to be spiritually, financially, emotionally or mentally then it doesn’t matter.  I’ve met guys older than me who were hopeless, and likewise with the younger.  If you’re looking, just find a man who’s decent, regardless of his age.”

In the case of The Body, communication has been made clear as to what I am looking for, but it seems he may not be quite there yet, which adds more fuel to my fire.  He just wants to have ‘fun’.  Don’t get me wrong, I want the same, but I am at a point where I want to have a different type of fun.  Does that make me boring?

Darryl, 26, has had predominantly older women relationships – some as much as eight to ten years his senior.  “The thing is to find a balance.  When dating someone younger you run the risk of them behaving like a juvenile and having no sense of priority.  But if you date someone too old, they may be at a stage where they want things that you’re not ready for, for example kids if you have none.  You know – ‘biological clock’ and all that.  Older women can teach you a lot though.”

According to the majority of men spoken to, one appeal of an older woman is the status it will bring among his peers – the bragging rites.  A younger man will appear bigger if he is known to be sleeping with an older woman, and will also become a focus of desire among her circle friends.  Another attraction is the stability it brings.  Older women have their lives sorted, know what they want and know how to get it.  There is also an element of nurture, one not too distant from that given by a mother.

My biological clock ticks, but the sound is not yet at a deafening level.  It doesn’t hurt to try new things in a relationship, whatever type of relationship it may be, so I might just go there, do that, and wear the t-shirt.  I’ll let you know if it fits.

First published in Candy Mag UK, 2009

Baby-Mother vs. Single Mother

In recent years there has been a slight pattern that reoccurs in certain relationships I have had with men, that ultimately causes me to put an end to it, because I find that the hassle simply is not worth it… and this would be their baby mothers.

Now I am not saying that the fact that these guys had children before being with me is the sole reason for our break-ups (let’s be honest, it’s also partly my fault for picking the wrong men).  But that same reason is why I often have to reluctantly give in to a situation that causes friction, because realistically which man would put his girlfriend before the mother of his child?

Part of me wonders whether I am being unfair in labelling some unwed mothers this way.  After all, aren’t they just single women doing right by their children by trying to have the child’s father in his or her life?  Or is the man to blame for the way he treats both parties?  As someone who is yet to have a child of my own, I am just trying to understand the behaviours displayed by some of the women who do.

When you hear the term ‘baby mother’ does it come with positive or negative denotations? Is there a lot more to being unmarried with a child that makes someone a single mother?  If you are a mother raising your child or children on your own, do your actions determine how people view you?

According to Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Baby mama’ as: the mother of a man’s child who is not his wife or (in most cases) his current or exclusive partner.”  A ‘single parent’ is defined as: “a parent who cares for one or more children without the assistance of another parent in the house.”  But nowadays it seems people have their own further definitions of what a baby mother actually is, and what separates the two types, with words like ‘lazy,’ ‘jealous,’ and ‘ghetto’ thrown into the mix.

Natalie, 29, has an eight-year-old son, and considers herself a single mother.  “If anyone called me a baby mother I would slap them.  I am a single mother.  I solely take care of my son.  I buy his clothes, feed him, take him to school, help him with his homework, provide him with a home, and generally care for his well being.  His father has absolutely no input in his life, and that has been his choice.  I’m sure that if he even dared to mention me or my son, he would say that I am his baby mother.  I have experienced what I think a baby mother is, with guys I have been out with and their exes, and that isn’t me.  Baby mothers are crazy and have no life, so they allow the father of their child to take advantage of them, and then cause drama when there’s no need.  They call other women’s phones, threatening them with violence if they don’t leave ‘their man’ alone, and some of them go as far as to try and have the guy arrested, because he won’t be with them.  I have never behaved in such a way.”

In the U.S the word ‘drama’ almost instantly follows the term ‘baby mama,’ and not just because it rhymes.  “I don’t have any kids,” says Mikki, who lives in New Jersey, “but from what I know a baby mama is a woman who has a child out of wedlock, and most of the time she thinks she is in a relationship with the man, but she isn’t.  Some baby mamas resort to using the child as a weapon to get what they want from the man, and if he is in another relationship, she may try and cause trouble which then becomes ‘baby mama drama.”

For an example of a single mother, I don’t have to look very far.  My own mother became a single mother of three when my father left during my teenage years.  Watching her work as hard as she did, and still provide my brothers and me with pocket and lunch money has made her the strongest person I know.  She could easily have done her best to cause trouble with my father and his new relationship, by demanding money and threatening to withhold any contact he had with us.  Instead she held her head high and did what she had to do for her children.

Not everyone feels the ‘baby mother’ label is all bad.  Sammy, 37, is a father of eight (with different mothers), and has experienced the stereotypical behaviours previously mentioned.  “Personally I think that title is okay, but others may not agree,” he says.  “It just means ‘the mother of a baby’.  I would call a girlfriend who has my child my ‘baby mother,’ but they usually don’t like to be addressed that way.  At the same time I do think there is a difference between a baby mother and a single mother.  A single mother is self-reliant, but a baby mother still has eyes for the father and still thinks she has a chance.  She sometimes gives in to him, whereas a single mother does not care if he’s around, she just gets on with it.”

Ladies let’s come to an agreement.  If you are currently not a woman with a child, and you should happen to find yourself in the position of unwed / unattached mother, simply do what you have to do for yourself and your child while displaying a sense of decorum.  No one is saying that single motherhood is easy, but rest assured there are enough stresses to deal with without adding the negative opinions of others to it.  Those of you who may recognise yourself as a ‘baby mother,’ stop and think about whether the jealous behaviour is really worth it.  No man deserves to be put on a pedestal if he is not putting you up there too, and if he is telling you one thing and saying something else to another woman – she is not to blame!

First published in Candy Mag UK, 2009