One from Column A and One from Column B …

I like lists. There used to be a blog with that name years ago, and I was instantly drawn to it. I have always been a list-maker. Yes for the obvious things — groceries, daily tasks, packing for vacation. But also for just about anything else. If I have to think about something, my first move is usually to make a list … and sometimes to make two, to make the dreaded pro-and-con list.

I once made some crazy huge lists. Huge because I wrote them on giant chart paper and hung them up on my kitchen walls. This was years ago as I was prepping for my first knee surgery. I had a lot of things I needed to do to be ready for surgery, to get my house ready for me to be some degree of debilitated after surgery, to get loose ends at work tied up so I could ignore my job for weeks during the first part of my recuperation. I needed a series of lists, one for each area of work. And I needed the lists to be big and in my face, hence the chart paper. My kitchen looked pretty comical. And for a long time. The lists kept growing. I had three lists, but each list had two and then three sheets of chart paper.

It looked crazy, but it also made me happy. I could see my work laid out so clearly in front of me … even as the “work” started to look overwhelming and ridiculous.

I’ve mentioned my list love before, written about my foray into bullet journaling. I am still keeping a journal (and still using my bullet journaling as an excuse to buy way more pens and notebooks than I could ever actually need or use).

Today I started to make a list that started off so normal, so manageable … and then it went off the rails. My list has now spread across eight pages of my journal — two columns per page! I’m obviously out of control. I flipped through the pages tonight, and realized a few things (yes, I’m going to make a list!):

  • Sometimes making lists gets in the way of actually doing things.
  • I wish there was a magical tool I could be using that would let me take my crazy-long list and instantly categorize and organize it so it looks les like madness and more like a plan.
  • If I have this many things on a to-do list, what the hell am I actually doing with my time?
  • Do I really believe all the things on this monster list need to be done?
  • Is this list so long because I’ve been procrastinating … or have I been procrastinating because I have so many things to do and couldn’t figure out where to start? (In which case, my insane list will actually help me get started?)

Happily, I don’t have any chart paper these days, so my kitchen — and the rest of my house — is safe for now.

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.


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

Sense and Sensibility: Big Chop Edition

I’m taking a major step next week. I took this same step many years ago … sort of. Back in 1988 I made the decision to cut off my hair. It was a big deal then. A very big deal. I wore my hair short for several years after that. But that was forever ago. I haven’t had short hair in more than 25 years, and next week I’m cutting my hair short … not as short as I cut it in 1988, but short.

Cutting my hair in 1988 was a big deal because that was long before the natural hair movement that has been spreading for the last dozen or so years. As a Black woman, having natural hair is still a big deal, and cutting off a head full of hair is still a big deal. When my kinky coils are stretched out, my hair is anywhere from 20 to 24 inches long. I’m probably going to ask to have all but six inches cut. That will leave me with about five inches more on my head than I left in 1988, but it’s still quite short.

And the short part is exciting. I’ve been missing my tiny afro for years. I mean, I was entirely adorable with short hair:

I was also, you know, 30 years younger than I am today.

That’s the part that gives me the stomach ache. I’m getting ready to cut off my dyed hair, wash out the temporary color that’s been covering my grey, and let the world see my real hair for the first time.

I started dying my hair in my mid-40s. I got sick of it quickly, but I wasn’t ready for my grey. I started telling myself that I’d cut off my dyed hair before my 50th birthday. Yeah. That perfectly good milestone came and went. My vanity convinced me to keep dying, told me my face didn’t look like I should have grey hair. (Seriously, what the hell is that?) With my 50th birthday behind me, I started telling myself I’d cut my hair by my 55th birthday. Vanity blocked the move again.

I stopped using boxed dyes and switched to henna — it was natural, after all, surely that was better for my tresses than the chemicals I’d been using, right? But henna was still permanent dye (and red!). A couple of years ago I gave up the henna and swapped in a temporary color that matched the henna. Still, I was moving further and further past my 55th birthday, and I was still hiding my real hair.

Today, I’m in the countdown to 60. I am still just as vain as ever, but I’m also sick, sick, sick of coloring my hair. Or at least, I’m sick of coloring my hair so that it isn’t clear I’ve gone grey. I think it will be fun to play with silly colors in my grey hair — making my tips rose gold or purple, for example.

My vanity still has me worried, though. What will I look like with so much grey? Am I ready to say goodbye to people guessing my age 15-20 years younger than I am? Will seeing that I’m older than they imagined make people judge me for where I am in my life? Can I just calm down and accept that none of that matters and be comfortable moving forward as my authentic self?

I guess we’ll see, won’t we? I’m going to the barber on Saturday.

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