Can I get a Claritin?

I have allergies. To all kinds of things: fruits, vegetables, animals (my cat!). I’ve learned to live with and work around my allergies. So I take meds. For years, Claritin was my savior. One tiny pill that started to work super quickly. Just that one pill, and I was good for hours and hours. I don’t know if my body changed or if my allergies changed, but Claritin stopped working for me. These days, I bounce between two new meds, making my decision based on whether the pill makes me sleepy or lets me get on with my day. The sleepy-making one works better, but I can only take it when I don’t care if I fall asleep.

I’m stalling.

This isn’t the slice I was going to write. It’s the slice I decided to write because it’s nicer. But never mind nicer. I’ll just dive in with the real slice.

I have allergic reactions to people, too. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does … whew! Don’t I wish I had a Claritin then!

I first noticed this about ten or so years ago. The project I directed meant I had to meet and sometimes work with a very powerful, famous man. Everyone who worked on the project was thrilled to have the chance to interact with this man, to get to say that they could call him by name, that they had shared a meal or a joke with him. Feh.

I could and can still easily acknowledge the incredible work he’s done. It’s extraordinary and beyond impressive. I respect him for that work, for the ways he’s been able to grow and expand it.

But the man himself? No thank you. The moment he entered a room, everything in me soured. He’d make a joke, and I’d have to choke back the bile rising in my throat.

And he knew it, too. I don’t think he would have been able to articulate what was going on with me, but he certainly knew something was off between us. I would catch him sometimes, looking at me with pure confusion. I made no sense to him. And how could I, when I wasn’t making sense to myself?

I fussed with myself, trying to puzzle out what my problem was. I talked to a friend about it, describing my responses in comparison to seemingly every other living being on the planet.

“You’re allergic to him,” she said. “On sight, everything in you — you physical self, your psyche — rejects him. Like if you ate a fig.” (I am super allergic to figs.)

That idea — that I could just have a complete, visceral rejection of another person — had never occurred to me. And, although it sounded exactly right when I heard her say it and I’ve adopted her language and have been saying it ever since, the idea troubled me. What does it mean about me that I can so completely reject a person I don’t even know?

As I said, it doesn’t happen often. I can really count on one hand the people I’ve had this response to. I’m not talking about not liking someone or being disgusted by someone. But truly feeling an instant, full-system revulsion and rejection. When I have to be near/around that person, my physical response is akin to the way magnets repel, a dramatic and natural force driving me away from that person. I’ve never figured out how to counter it, only how to live with it.

And I’m thinking about it now because I’ve just recognized that it’s happening again. I’ve been working with a group that I enjoy supporting. I’ve been working with them since mid-way through 2020, and I’m getting deeper into the work, which means I’m working more closely with a lot of the group members.

And tonight, watching playback of an instructional video several of the group members made, I recognized my response. There’s a woman in the group to whom I’ve been responding from the beginning, and it wasn’t until hearing her voice tonight that I recognized my repelling-magnet response.

And maybe it’s not something that can be helped. Maybe I’m always just going to have allergic responses to people. But I want there to be a way to solve this, to not be repelled. This woman I’m responding to seems to be a genuine, kind, caring person. If I could get over this allergy, I’m sure I’d have a lot to learn from her, that I’d enjoy being in working groups with her, might even socialize with her outside of the group.

I have no idea where to start, what parts of me I need to be investigating to figure out what’s triggering this response. This is a part of myself that I’m not happy to recognize. I want to be hopeful that calling myself out can help me find some answers. I wanted this to be my slice but then shied away from showing this decidedly less appealing side of myself and started writing about my “real” allergies instead.

But the false start works for me. Those OTC meds saved me and continue to save me. I wish there was Claritin for this reaction. And I’m joking, but I mean it, too. I have work to do to figure out what in me causes this response to other people. It would be wonderful to have some magical “Behavior Benadryl” that would let me have a normal interaction while I’m doing that work.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

CROWN in the House

A national CROWN Act passed the House this week, passed on Friday. Its name has changed slightly, acknowledging that discrimination against kinky hair and Black hairstyles isn’t limited to the workplace. The new CROWN is an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

I like the edit. It’s good to be clear about the fact that this discrimination doesn’t only happen at work. It was never only happening at work. All those stories about children being bullied and abused by their teachers, coaches, and schools make that clear. Bosses shouldn’t be able to discriminate against Black people’s hair, but neither should wrestling coaches, school principals, TSA agents …

And I need to correct my error from my last post about CROWN. I said the CROWN Act had passed in seven states and that a similar law had passed in an 8th state. That was mostly true. Illinois passed the Jett Hawkins Law, which banned discrimination against kinky hair in schools. But since the passing of Jett Hawkins, Illinois has gone on to pass the CROWN Act. In addition, I neglected to give the nod to four other states, states that added CROWN provisions to their existing anti-discrimination laws (or — in the case of Maryland — CROWN became law when Governor Hogan decided that any bill he hadn’t vetoed could just become law, and CROWN fell into that bucket with more than a dozen other bills). Twelve states. Twelve only. That’s better than seven or eight, but still a pretty small number. And this is exactly why we need a national law.

So CROWN has taken an important step forward. Obviously, passing the House doesn’t make a bill a law. We’ve all watched Schoolhouse Rock … and the process of our annoying af legislative branch. But it’s still great that CROWN passed the House.

It didn’t pass unanimously, which should surprise no one. Nearly 200 Representatives couldn’t see their way clear to saying that it isn’t okay to discriminate against people based on the kind of hair that grows naturally from their heads. Couldn’t see how it was a good idea to vote for a bill protecting people from being discriminated against for growing their hair naturally. One hundred eighty-nine of our elected Representatives care little enough about the rights and lives of Black people in this country that they were entirely comfortable making their disregard of Black people undeniably plain by not supporting this bill. That’s some serious comfort in their prejudice, comfort in their ability to flaunt their bias and not worry that they’ll face any consequences for it.

It’s 2022. It’s 2022, and it’s still not “just hair” when it comes to Black folks’ hair. And 189 nay votes for CROWN on Friday tells me how far we are from it ever being “just hair.”


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

It’s “just hair” … unless it’s Black hair.

Hair is a forever-big-deal for Black women, whether we like it or not, whether we spend time focusing on it or not. When I made the decision to cut my hair off in 1988, hardly anyone I spoke to about my plan was in favor of it. People were super comfortable telling me what a mistake it would be, how terrible I would look. “You’ll look like a man,” I was told. “You don’t have the face for it.” “You won’t be able to comb your hair.” “What will people think of you?” “Everyone will think you’re a lesbian.” “Everyone will think you’re angry.” “Men don’t like short hair.”

Ugh. Just a full-on mess. These responses weren’t just to short hair but very specifically to short, nappy hair. I was choosing to cut off my relaxed hair and be kinky-headed on purpose, out in the world. And kinky hair was not popular. Certainly not society’s hair of choice for Black women.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. When I carried out my plan and cut my hair, people followed through on their ugliness. The older Black woman who worked reception at my night job stopped speaking to me. She literally never said a word to me for the rest of the time I worked there. A cab driver told me that, maybe if I got “fucked right,” I’d feel like a woman and start looking like one.

Yes. My short hair told that driver things he didn’t want to hear. Short hair told him I wasn’t interested in his gaze, in his male approval. And so he needed to threaten me with corrective rape to help me understand how unacceptable it was that I wasn’t presenting myself for his approval and consumption.

Because I had a short afro.

Whenever conversations come up about Black women’s hair, someone inevitably says, “But it’s just hair!”

It’s never been “just hair” for us. It if was “just hair,” enslaved women wouldn’t have been forced to hide their hair. It if was “just hair,” the US military wouldn’t have created (in twenty-fucking-fourteen) a set of guidelines for women’s hair that very explicitly outlawed hairstyles that were particular to Black women. It if was “just hair,” Black children wouldn’t have their hair hacked off by teachers, wouldn’t be expelled from school because of their hair growing in its natural form.

If it was “just hair,” we wouldn’t need the CROWN Act, the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act. A whole fucking law to tell employers they can’t discriminate against Black people — and, very specifically Black women — because of their hair. Starting in California, CROWN has become law in seven states between 2018 and 2020. And the Jett Hawkins Law in Illinois is very like CROWN.

In my state, CROWN exists as law. If it had been a law a few jobs ago, I might have had some recourse when my boss told me I didn’t seem like the right candidate for a leadership role at our agency because my hair was “too street.”

Notice I mentioned seven states and an adjacent law in Illinois. The CROWN Act isn’t national. In September of 2020 and then in March of 2021, the CROWN Act was introduced in the House and Senate. It has yet to pass.

And lest we imagine this hate-fueled crap is focused solely on women, don’t forget Nivea’s disgustingly racist ad for men’s skincare products.

There is no “just” when it comes to Black people’s hair.

There is a seriously robust natural hair movement that’s at least ten years strong. It hasn’t spelled the end of prejudice against kinky hair, but it’s connected to the passing of the CROWN Act, connected to the army’s decision to change its offensive hairstyle ban. It’s also why I wasn’t worried about cutting my hair yesterday. I knew I didn’t have to worry about how people at my job would react, wouldn’t have to worry about not finding hair care products and tools for my little afro. There will still be some negative reactions, but many fewer than there were 34 years ago. So that’s a whole lot of steps in the right direction.

I’m focused on my own reaction to my newly-minted afro more than I am to anyone else’s. And that’s exactly as it should be. So, how am I reacting? With pleasure. I got up this morning and washed my hair — needed to get the mystery products from the barbershop out and use the products I know and love. And then I dove in with a twist so I could start reacquainting myself with how to care for and style my short hair. I took out the twist before a Zoom tonight, and I’m happy with the result.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Big Chop Revelations

So. Yes. I’ve let someone cut off my hair. And yes. I’m frustrated by the result. And also yes. I can acknowledge that my hair looks fine. It even looks good. It just doesn’t look the way I thought it would.

First there was the disappointment of my temporary color not washing out, despite my use of a shampoo whose sole purpose is to fade this temporary color.

In truth, I should probably have known this wouldn’t work. My hair likes to play exactly this kind of trick on me. Years ago, when I first started using henna on my hair, my plan wasn’t to have red hair. I was going to use the henna and then follow it up with indigo, the combination of which was supposed to turn my hair black. Ha! As if. My hair took the henna enthusiastically … and then just smirked at me when I tried the indigo, laughed and said, “No chance, doll. Your sparkly grey is now sparkly red. Deal with it.” (My hair sometimes has a bad attitude.)

So maybe I should have guessed that my hair would hang onto the color I wanted it to release. I have plenty of grey, but it’s mostly at the roots, so I’ll have to wait a while for it to really show itself. (And isn’t that kind of for the best? I’ve been stressing about just how grey I’d be … and now I can ease into it gradually as my hair grows.)

My bigger disappointment is in the length. I wanted to leave the barbershop with six to eight inches of hair. That may not sound short, but kinky hair shrinks, and I have at least 50% shrinkage when my hair is left loose, so six to eight inches of hair would have coiled into itself and looked like three to four inches of hair.

Best laid plans and all that. I consulted with the barber. We talked through what I wanted. Talked it through three times. She was so clear about what I wanted. And then she cut my hair and left me with two to four inches.

Sigh.

Yes, my hair will grow. Of course. Still and all. Would it have been impossible for her to leave me the length I wanted?

Okay. But what is actually also true, is that I like this haircut. I mean, of course I like it: it’s the same cut I wore for years when I was younger. It’s the cut I’ve gotten nostalgic for when I’ve thought about cutting my hair.

I scheduled a dinner date with two dear friends for immediately after my trip to the barber. I did that because I didn’t want to rush home and hide if I didn’t like my hair, so I forced myself to have somewhere to go, to be out in public and let my hair be seen.

It was challenging at first, but then it was a hundred percent fine. I had a few moments of doing things that would have been necessary with my long hair only to be surprised to find my hair was gone. That was weird, and also funny, like when I was putting on my scarf at the end of the night and reached up to do that nape-of-the-neck sweep to get my hair out from under the scarf. Yeah. Not exactly necessary now.

When I first cut my hair back in 1988, I didn’t love it immediately. I was, in fact, extremely sad about it. I took one look in the mirror at the salon and deflated, felt I’d lost some essential part of myself. I dragged myself home to the apartment I shared with my sister. I walked in and she exclaimed over my hair, declaring that she was going to get hers cut immediately. (And she did. She still wears it short all these many years later.)

I appreciated my sister’s enthusiasm, but I wasn’t feeling my newly short hair. Not even a little. I woke up the next day … still unhappy. I woke up the next day … still unhappy. I woke up on my third full day of short hair … and I was in love.

I don’t think it will take three days for me to be happy about my hair. Because I’m not truly unhappy with it now. I’m unhappy that I didn’t get what I asked for, but my hair looks good. I’m super sleepy right now, but I’m looking forward to playing with it tomorrow, looking forward to remembering all the fun things I used to do with my hair forever-ago … and to diving into the world of YouTube tutorials and learning some new things.

So here, now, the great unveiling:

(Pretty sure that look on my face is more exhaustion than snarkiness, but I have room for both.)


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Triggered: Musing on Misophonia

My last post has me thinking a little more about misophonia. In case you missed that post and need a definition: Misophonia is a neurological disorder in which sound cues are misinterpreted within the central nervous system. The word means “the hatred of sound.” People have misophonia are triggered by specific, entirely mundane sounds, responding with irritation, rage, panic, the need to flee. People describe it as feeling as if they are being driven mad.

Me. I am “people.” I’ve been dealing with this for decades. In responding to comments on yesterday’s post, some new thoughts came up for me.

First is the inherent meanness of misophonia. It’s bad enough that common sounds make misophones feel as if they’re going crazy. But it also makes them feel like bad people. They must be bad if they feel such violent rage — often toward beloved family members. So you don’t just suffer from the trigger, you also question your inherent goodness as a human. And then I responded to Ramona’s comment and realized that, on top of suffering from the trigger sound, if you aren’t always able to control your response, you might lash out at the person making the sound, and that person would have no idea what they’d done or why you were acting so irrationally. Thanks, misophonia.

Misophonia was only made an officially recognized disorder in 2000 or 2001 (sources disagree). Twenty years ago! How in the world is that possible? People have surely been suffering from this for about forever. I’ve been dealing with it since I was a kid, and that was a thousand years ago, so … where was the medical profession all this time?

But it makes sense, right? It would never have occurred to me to say to anyone, “Oh, you know, when you make that sound, I want to grind you into dust.” Because who would ever say that? And because “that sound” was usually something harmless and normal like taking a breath or whispering. So being set off by a trigger sound is maddening and makes you feel like a secretly-homicidal person. Who wants to talk to the doctor about that? And as I type that, I realize that I’ve know about this for years, and I’ve never once mentioned it to my doctor!

I need to do a little research, find out how this disorder finally made its way into the light. I joked in last night’s post about misophones uniting and shouting, “We’re here! We’re here!” like in Horton Hears a Who, desperately trying to get the attention of the world’s doctors. Of course, that wouldn’t have happened, because so many of the sounds involved in that mass uprising would have triggered more than half the assembled crowd, and everyone would have fled. 🙂

Disorders are “discovered” all the time — quotation marks deployed because in most of those cases, people have been suffering for any number of decades and it just takes a while for medicine to catch up, but damn. That’s so cruel.

Lakshmi commented that living in a city must make it harder to deal with misophonia. Do you know, until I read her words, it had never once occurred to me that living in this huge, many-peopled city must absolutely have made this disorder worse for me. Just from the greater number of people I encounter in a day, the triggers would increase exponentially. And, by the same token, the fact that I’ve spent so much of the last two years alone in my house has meant that I’ve had significantly fewer run-ins with trigger sounds. How have I not seen that?

One of the articles I read about misophonia talked about ASMR helping people calm down triggered. Um … no. Not me, at any rate. That’s for certain. ASMR is a trigger. That whispery nonsense makes me want to slap the speaker. Ugh. Calming? I mean, if “calming” is another way of saying “setting me off.”

I really do feel as if I talk about misophonia a lot. I haven’t posted that much about it here, but I think I’ve posted a number of times on FB. Each time I write about it, there are many people who comment that a) they’re learning about it for the first time as they read my post, and b) that they or someone they know suffer from it. Meanwhile, all the articles say how rare misophonia is, that only 15 – 20 percent of the population deals with it. It’s unlikely that I just happen to know a huge number of that small 15 – 20 percent. I’m not buying it. What rings more true is that most people have never talked to their doctors about it. Misophonia makes us keep the suffering to ourselves, so the number of folks who have it is dramatically undercounted. I mean, I’m a total over-sharer, and we’ve already established that I’ve never mentioned this to my doctor. Definitely a serious under-counting.

Does it matter that people don’t know about misophonia? What difference would it make if more people were aware? Well, for one, more sufferers would know they aren’t evil and insane. Yes, that’s a big one. But also, people who don’t suffer from it would (maybe?) be more understanding when a misophone snaps at them to stop yawning so loud, stop shuffling their feet, stop chewing with their mouths open. Maybe. Or at least they might not take it so personally. Well, except for the open-mouthed chewing. Please take that personally. And stop. Stop right now. People, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO REASON TO CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN!!!

Ahem. <pats hair back in place>

The unfortunate truth is that there isn’t a lot anyone can do to help someone who has misophonia. I mean, I have my self-soothing tactics, and sometimes they work. Interestingly, one of the things that helps the most is recognizing what’s happening. Having the lightbulb moment of knowing that I’m responding to a trigger doesn’t erase the sound’s power … but it sort of does, too. It can make me feel less out of control. And that helps me remember to use other tools to calm myself. I can listen to music or white noise. I can walk away from the sound, from the person making the sound. I can engage the noise-maker in a different way so that they stop doing whatever it is that has me wishing an anvil would fall on their head.

There are a number of studies being conducted — there’s an International Misophonia Research Network, for example, and a Misophonia Research Fund. It’s encouraging to see that people are working to find treatment options. One interesting treatment I read about was wearing hearing aids that play a relaxing sound. There is still the DIY treatment of reducing stress and getting more sleep. That’s what I’ll be focusing on. That and remembering that throat-punching is generally frowned upon.


It’s the 15th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot