My best friend in high school ended our friendship in a letter. She was a year older and in her first year of college in a different city. In the letter she listed a number of issues she had with me. Of all the words she wrote me in that two-paged front-and-back handwritten missive, I vividly remember reading: “And you’re too quiet sometimes! It’s like: talk!” The words struck me with as much force as if she’d come back to town just to punch me in my stomach.
She isn’t the last person to comment on my quietude, though thankfully others have been less hurtful about it.
Even today, nearly 20 years later, I find that sometimes when I’m with someone one on one I’m overly concerned about whether I’m talking enough to keep them entertained.
I’ve been a quieter type for as long as I can remember. As a child, some chalked it up to shyness. I assumed I must be shy since people said I was. It wasn’t until I discovered a love of performing in junior high that I realized I was far from shy.
“Oh you must be an introvert.”
Why do I have to be something? Why can’t I just be me?
You’ve probably taken one of those “are you introvert or extrovert?” quizzes. I generally fall in the center – an ambivert: not quite introverted, not quite extroverted.
Like extroverts, I often feel charged after hanging out with people whose company I enjoy. It’s being in environments I find tedious and dull that drains my energy. On the other hand, much like introverts, I tend to do my thinking internally rather than aloud to others. I form my thoughts and ideas before expressing them.
But who needs another label?
You know what sometimes happens when I tell people what I’m thinking?
One of my sisters recently told me: “Keisha, you ask these kinds of questions that my professors would ask in class that had my head hurting. They’re good questions, but it’s too early for this intellectual talk.”
I hate small talk. I love a meaty conversation and would prefer jumping into a discussion to having to answer “What do you do? How do you like it?” Gag.
That isn’t to say my brain’s always in the land of deep thoughts. Sometimes I think about things like how to incorporate “Baking soda! I got baking soda!” into regular conversation because that line cracks me up every time I hear it.
I can’t imagine what kind of writer I’d be if I didn’t spend so much time with my thoughts. I view life as a series of stories in one giant book. I weave stories in my head, the output of which you sometimes read in my blog, others I work into conversation with cinematic flair.
I spend a lot of time listening and perhaps as a byproduct, I attract talkers because they need an audience. It certainly takes the pressure off me to be a chatterbox. It’s important though to find a talker who knows when it’s their turn to listen. I find that when I do speak, people are more inclined to listen because they assume I have something to say.
There’s a less obvious way a quieter nature sometimes works in my favor. For instance, when someone incorrectly assumes that quiet equals meek and is surprised to find that I will snap back. Have you heard the phrase, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for?” Yeah.
Occasionally someone comments on my silence – usually a person I don’t know very well – trying to cajole me into conversation. It generally has the opposite effect intended; I don’t respond well to demands to speak on command.
I’ve been described as aloof. It’s not intentional, but some take it personally as though I’m quiet because I’m silently appraising them. It’s unfortunate, because unless someone is saying douchtastic things that’s not likely the case.
I can’t explain why I’m quieter than others anymore than my cat can explain why he always chooses to vomit on my rug instead of ANY other spot on the hardwood floor. I shouldn’t have to either. We people come in all kinds. There are those who can’t seem to stop talking, those who won’t waste words and others in between and that’s okay. As the saying I just made up goes: “Accept me as I am, or kick rocks.”
How about you? Do you get told you’re too quiet or too talkative?
All the chatter about the HBO documentary on the Church of Scientology, Going Clear, got me thinking about my own experiences with a similar church I’ll call the Church of OddPhilosophies. Because I would never say anything bad about the Church of Scientology.
I was once on the run from the Church of OddPhilosophies.
Ok, so things weren’t as dramatic as that, but there did exist a time when I had to avoid the COO.
Picture it: the early ’00s, Los Angeles, California. A city of towering palm trees, near constant sunshine, and an overabundance of injectable-filled faces. A twenty-something woman full of youthful energy and naiveté dreams of a brilliant acting career.
(This young woman is me, by the way).
I’d often flip through Backstage West, an entertainment newspaper, looking for classes, seminars, casting notices and odd jobs. On one such occasion I came across an ad that looked something like this:
That’s not exactly what it said, but that’s sure how I read it! Every actor knows there’s big opportunity and money in nationally broadcast commercials. SIGN ME UP!
It wasn’t until I arrived at the Famous Centre on the eastern edge of Hollywood that I realized it was part of The Church of OddPhilosophies.
I should have turned around as soon as I made the connection.
Instead, I parked and entered the estate. I’d driven by the grounds of the Famous Centre before and thought it beautiful and quintessentially old Hollywood. Now I had the chance to see the inside! Besides, I figured other churches sometimes rent out use of their space to non-religious groups as an income generator.
A cheery young blond man ushered a group of about 30 of us hopefuls into a small room with seats arranged in rows facing the speaker.
“Hi, I am Felicia Lister, Denise’s less famous and less talented sister.” What happened to Denise?! Who is Felicia?
For the next half hour, Felicia charmed and dazzled us with motivational platitudes and positive affirmations.
“Maybe your dream is to win an Oscar one day. Your dream is RIGHT WITHIN YOUR GRASP! How badly do you want it though? Do you just talk the talk or do you WALK THE WALK? Do you want success?! Are you tired of worrying about how you’re going to pay your rent?”
Yes! Tell me how!
“I’ll tell you how! Some of our students are today’s biggest stars. We can’t name names because we respect their privacy. But, you know who they are.” Felicia winked.
Most of the actors were focused on Felicia, transfixed by her promises of glory and riches.
“We can help you achieve your dreams! Our methods are highly successful. So, if you’re serious about being serious about MAKING YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE, Chad will take you into the next room to watch a short film.”
Wait – so far, no one has mentioned anything about commercials. When is that going to happen?
I didn’t get the chance to ask as we were quickly hustled into an already dark screening room with about 20 seats. Somehow we’d lost 10 of our original number, so we all fit. I was beginning to feel trapped.
They showed us a 30-minute film that was part history of the Church of OddPhilosophies, and part propaganda documentary, including a direct sell from the church founder J. Don Buzzard.
It’s still one of the scariest films I’ve seen in my entire life.
Chad blocked my attempt to exit after the film.
“We’re almost done.” His smile slowly widened and his eyes glistened, “After this we’ll talk a bit about the program and then you can go if you’re not interested in MAKING YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.”
I now understood how I people get entangled in cults. Save me.
After the film, Chad led us into yet another room. This one grander, with a vaulted ceiling and lots of glittery gold. It was when they told us that for the program to work we’d need to sign a promise to stop taking any and all mind-altering drugs like antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds and the like, that I got my ass out of there.
Holy crap. Even nutritionists tell you to talk to your doctor before stopping any medications. What the hell kinda crazy?
Oh had the tale ended there.
Unfortunately, I’d given my home phone number to the COO when I signed up for the seminar. A week later I received a call from a sugary-voiced member of the church, Mandy. Mandy wanted to know if I would like to finish my consultation and join them on the road to MAKING MY DREAMS COME TRUE.
“It’s not for me.”
Mandy protested, insistent that the COO held the keys to my future bounty, but I cut her off: “Yeah, I am not interested. Thanks, Mandy! Bye!”
In the following six months, I received monthly – sometimes bi-monthly – calls from the Church of OddPhilosophies. This, despite requesting multiple times that they remove me from their list and failing that, flat-out hanging up on them. I told my roommate to regard calls with extreme suspicion if the person on the other end asked to speak to me and sounded unnaturally happy.
It took moving to a new apartment and disconnecting my phone number to finally dodge the COO.
I haven’t heard from them since.
I still screen all my calls though. You can never be too careful.
To think, I almost didn’t write that post. However, as part of pushing through my writer’s block, I’ve realized I’ve got to stop self-censoring so much. It’s damaging to the story and to my contentedness.
I didn’t say yes immediately. I needed to confirm the legitimacy of the show and find out more about what I’d be getting into. In my research, I discovered that one of the show’s previous guests is a writer and activist I follow on Twitter, Feminista Jones, whom I respect. I figured if she did it, it was credible. I listened to a podcast of her stint on the show and got a good idea for what I might be in for with Jesse.
The producer explained that the host, Jesse, would ask me a bit about my background and then delve into questions about the thoughts expressed in my post.
I scheduled my radio début for 8:05am, April 2nd.
The morning of the show, I felt like my heart wouldn’t shut up. Boom, booom, boom at a thousand beats per minute. I forced oatmeal down my throat. It’s good for your brain, they say. I wanted all the brain boosting I could get. Family and friends sent texts of well wishes and affirmations which comforted me. Conducting the interview from the comfort of my couch helped too.
Jesse Lee Patterson is a pastor, baby boomer, and black Republican. He’s known for making controversial statements like:
“Thank God for slavery, because if not, the blacks who are here would have been stuck in Africa”1
“When black liberals say they want to have a ‘conversation’ about race, what they really mean is they want to continue blaming whitey for past racism and perceived ‘white privilege”2
“Barack Obama hates white people — especially white men. Sorry folks, but the truth will set you free!”3
So, I had my work cut out for me.
I remember only snapshots of the experience. I enjoyed the debate. I get a kick out of genuine volleying back-and-forth that doesn’t devolve into name-calling or other foolishness. Jesse did his best to contort some of my statements and paint me into corners, but I think I successfully manage to keep the conversation focused. I agreed with none of his opinions.
Halfway through the show, one of my sisters texted:
“I hate this guy.”
That was around the time Jesse asked me, “What else can white people do for black people, so that black people will finally say: ‘ok you’re not racist, you love me, you’ve given us allllll that we’ve wanted, and we appreciate it, so now we’re going to take control of our own lives’? Is there anything else that white people can do to satisfy black people?”
The discussion lasted for almost the entire hour, broken up by a few commercials. I even got to speak to some callers. One caller tried to trap me by quizzing me on the date of some vague historical event.
My mom texted: “Excuse yourself. You don’t need to be ambushed.”
Of my name, another called commented, “Huh, that’s a good one.” I’m fairly certain that wasn’t meant as a compliment. I could hear him smirking.
As the show neared its end, Jesse thanked me and asked if I would come back. We’ll see. My mom and sister are both adamant that this be a one and done.
Jesse’s approach didn’t faze me. I’ve seen enough talking head interviews and debates to have picked up a few things. Your opponent will always try to distract you with non sequiters. They will attempt to take your words and twist them into a statement so ludicrous you wonder whether your brain sent the right words to your mouth. No distractions. You just gotta stay focused on your mission!
“He’s gonna make me lose my way to Heaven; I’m so angry I’m almost cursing!” My mother didn’t like Jesse Lee Peterson one bit.
You can listen to the show below. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Like many cities in the US, San Francisco is experiencing a wave of gentrification that some residents welcome and others deride. Often central to the debate is the Mission District, an eclectic enclave whose formerly large working- and middle-class Latino population moves further south as the gentrifiers roll in by the dozens: well-paid, largely young, white, male, and employed by tech companies. Their presence brings with it priced-out renters, long waits and lines at a growing number of trendy restaurants and cafes, and a fear of cultural and historical erasure.
The Mission’s Latino and Chicano influence is visible in the bright and elaborate murals that decorate the alleys for several blocks, tucked between the streets in a less polished section of the neighborhood. Inspired by the work of Mexican artist Diego Rivera and the Chicano Mural Movement of the ’60s and 70s, some of the artwork reflects reactions to social and political changes. Other pieces illustrate life in the Mission in the midst of the City’s growing pains.
A few weeks ago, I toured the murals with my younger sister, who was visiting from Texas. We picked up a map at Precita Eyes, a community mural center and headed for Balmy Alley, which boasts one of the largest collection of murals among the alleys.
We lingered in front of this mural. Almost every inch of paint seems to hold meaning.
We spent a bit more time with this one, as well.
A few more murals that stood out to me.
This is by no means all there is to see of San Francisco street art. You could easily spend 3-4 hours touring the alleys across the city, absorbing the messages in the work. If you ever get the chance, I recommend checking them out! Keeping it real though: it’s probably better to plan your visit for the daylight hours.
What symbolism / meaning do you see in the murals?
In the past 6 months I’ve received various inquiries into the state of my womb, specifically about the fact that it’s empty.
When visiting my mom* on the East Coast recently, I reconnected with an aunt whom I haven’t seen since my kid days. I warmed to her immediately; her personality fills a room.
[*I have two moms through a remarriage (dad’s) – one on the East Coast, one in Texas (with dad).]
After exchanging pleasantries and hugs, my aunt said,
“Keisha, you don’t want no husband or children?” It didn’t seem so much a question, but more of a statement of fact. The implication being that if I hadn’t done something by now, I’m not going to.
I laughed. “I wouldn’t say that. It’s not that easy.” I explained that I hadn’t met the right person and have no interest in being a single parent by choice.
I also met a new cousin, my aunt’s tween son, whom my aunt said she calls he`r “menopause baby” because her other four children were nearly grown when she had him.
“May I ask how old you were when he was born?”
She counted silently before saying “35 or 36?”
“35 or 36?! That’s not menopause!”
She shrugged, “Yeah, I guess not. How old are you again?” She leaned back on the maroon leather couch.
Her eyebrows raised slightly; I could see her contemplating how much longer I have in Fertile-ville.
I interrupted her thoughts with, “I’m thinking of getting my eggs frozen.”
She nodded, “I’ve heard about that.”
That seemed to placate her as she turned her attention back to the movie playing the background, White Chicks.
It’s true. Several women I know aged 35+, have chosen to freeze their eggs.
Mere minutes later, my mom, whose quieter nature balances my aunt’s more boisterous one, let out:
“Do you know I am the only one of all my brothers and sisters [all 7 of them] who doesn’t have any grandchildren?”
“You should talk to your other daughter,” I teased her, referring to my younger sister.
A couple of months later, during a call with another older relative with whom I speak regularly, she commented as we were discussing her upcoming 7-th birthday, “I hope I’m around to see you have your first child.”
I know she didn’t mean for her words to sting, but they kind of did. Sometimes septuagenarians keep it a little too real. Still, I agree, if the kids are gonna happen, it’d be nice for them to meet her. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about that though.
A few weeks after, I was chatting to my Texas mom when she non sequitured:
“I miss holding a baby on my chest. I want to be a grandmother. Hold a baby for a week.”
“You have two grandchildren!” I reminded her, speaking of my niece and nephew, my oldest sister’s children.
“They are not babies anymore!” They sure aren’t. My little nephew ain’t so little anymore and he speaks with a man’s voice. He’ll be attending college soon. The last time I visited, my niece – his younger sister – asked me about my makeup and jewelry.
I suppose I should take it as a good sign that people are even asking me about my baby plans. At some point, if I still don’t have children, people will stop asking because they’ll assume I’ve moved into uterine retirement and it’s a moot point. Though, that day may not come for a while longer if the trend of women having children in their 40s and 50s continues.
I appreciate articles like this that cover an often overlooked perspective. It’s as though as women we’re supposed to feel strongly one way or the other about having kids. Like there’s no room for a less vehement conviction. I can see a future for myself with or without kids.
I think I’d like to be a mom. I know I would work hard at it. Occasionally, I’ll see a chubby-cheeked brown baby or toddler who looks like they could be mine and I think about what my children might look like. Then again, some days I really appreciate being able to sleep in and only having to deal with swatting away the cat. And quite frankly, I have personal misgivings about from time to time about bringing another human into this at times, terrible, scary world.
With each passing birthday, I wonder if that will be the year I’m suddenly going to be overcome with hormone-infused baby obsession. Where every man I approach is not just a man, but a potential co-conspirator in baby-production shenanigans. “Is it you? Are you my baby’s daddy? You smell like you’d be a good dad. Do you have parents within a two-hour radius who could help with childrearing? It takes a village, you know. How do you feel about spanking, co-sleeping and helicopter parents?” The day has yet to arrive.
That’s not to say that there aren’t women who have clearly defined views on personal motherhood. I have friends who say they knew they wanted to be a mom the instant they picked up their first babydoll. On the other hand, I know more than a few women whom are content to be awesome aunts. For them, kids are cool as long as they can be returned to sender. Then there are those who would rather kids stay the hell away from them, the creepy creatures.
Maybe one day I’ll be a mom, but it’s possible that kids of my own aren’t in my future. I know what my options are and I will do what I can to maximize them, but I’m not interested in spending too much energy stressing out about it.
A guy I once dated lectured me: “Keisha, as an intelligent, successful black woman, don’t you feel somewhat morally obligated to produce and raise the next generation’s successes? We need people like you to have children.”
As if I don’t have enough on my shoulders.
If you are a parent, did you always know you wanted to have children? If you don’t have children, do you have strong feelings one way or the other about having kids? Or are you ambivalent?
I’ve written before how I get sick of talking about racism. I just want to live my life. Wake up, do what I do and keep it moving like many other people have the privilege of doing each day. I do not have such privilege, however. Just going to the corner drugstore some days ends with me wondering when the day will come when I won’t have a clerk unsubtly follow me around the store as I shop.
Over the course of my 35+ years I’ve engaged in so many discussions about race, whether I’ve wanted to or not, I should get life experience credits toward a PhD in the subject. I voluntarily attend seminars and talks and I choose to read books on the subject. On my blog I discuss it in hopes of making continued progress, opening minds and presenting a different perspective.
Involuntarily, I’ve been dragged into race discussions with some of my fellow Americans who happen to have paler skin. I’ve fielded questions from those friends along the lines of “Why do black people ___?” as though I am a black American ambassador. I’ll never forget the time a white classmate in high school asked me, “Why do black people have the same color palms and feet bottoms as white people? Why aren’t they brown?” From her question, I extracted the subtext, “My body is normal, yours is different.” Am I responsible for the design of the human body? My birth certificate didn’t come with a guide to “understanding your black body.” How the hell should I know? I hope she attends discussions about race.
So what caused the downturn in my mood on Friday? I read a blog post on race and segregation, called Al Sharpton I Hope You See This, written by a white man, that sent my heart racing, got my hands shaking and my mind reeling with various responses to the elementary logic. This excerpt particularly troubled me:
“Segregation is real. We see it every day without realizing it.
Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? That’s odd, seems segregation and racism are very much alive and thriving. Only difference is, if white people mention it they’re racists. Interesting turn of events. So what if we had a White Entertainment Television? Let’s face it, WET sounds like a fun name for television. “
I decided to respond to the post because I noticed a few people praised the author for his observations and I couldn’t just let that mess of thinking sit there unchallenged.
Below is the exchange. It’s unedited, so please forgive my grammar imperfections, incomplete thoughts, and lack of citations.
Please share your (civil) thoughts below, I’m curious what others think.
Oh, the Talib talk was incredible, insightful and engaging. I’m glad I went and happy with the diversity of the crowd. I hope minds were opened.
“Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? ”
These institutions exist largely because black Americans were expressly excluded from these predominately (or exclusively) white institutions, not from a desire to self-segregate. In other words, segregation of black people prompted the formation of this things.
It wasn’t until the late 60s/70s that some universities even “let” black people enroll. The first black model didn’t land the cover of a fashion magazine until the mid 1960s. That was less than 60 years ago. If I pick up an Elle or a Glamour magazine for beauty and hair tips, I’d look like a clown because usually the tips given work for pale skin and straight hair that hangs down. It has to be pointed out to the editors of these magazines that part of their readership has darker skin tones and different hair textures. Even the PGA is notorious for excluded black golfers.
People like to bring up the example of “WET” or white history month a lot, but they are false comparisons. When it’s no longer a big deal that there’s a black director, a black lead in a TV show (or Asian or Latino), or a first black President, then channels like BET (which is watched also by non-black Americans), HBCUs, and history books that highlight non-white contributions to the development of America would not need to exist. It’s 2015, we have a diverse America, yet Congress is made up of mostly white males, who are incredibly over-represented.
I could spend most of the day listing all the shows, magazines, movies, books or economic realms where white Americans are represented, but for non-white Americans, the list is quite short.
None of the “black versions” of these institutions exclude anyone by race. What they do provide is an opportunity for black Americans to have a space to see themselves recognized and accepted. You’ll see non-blacks on BET, magazines marketed to black audiences that include white and Latin (and black Latin) people and white student at HBCUs. (One young white student actually wrote a great essay about how welcoming she found her fellow classmates at the HBCU she attends). Meanwhile, just last week the young white men of the SAE fraternity at OU delighted in singing about how they would never welcome a “n—.” Doesn’t exactly make a black person feel welcome.
A desire to be included as part of the fabric of America, recognized for your contributions, not devalued, not immediately thought of as suspicious or less than, in a society where you’ve been excluded and treated like the scum of America for hundreds of years, is not segregation.
No black American wakes up and says “Gee, I think I’ll start labeling myself, hyphenating my identity.” We get labeled first, treated as minorities rather than equals and then we adapt. Then we get called racist for it.
Lastly, we hold no meeting of American blacks. So no one elected Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as king of the black people. I wish the media would stop running to them every time they want a black spokespiece. Most of us don’t care. It’s so 1985.”
I do agree that there was a movement to incorporate black people into these institutions. It was called desegregation.
However, the very act of having institutions such as these that excluded individuals based on color was the very point in desegregation. Integrating society was the reason for it. And society has since integrated. Yet we still have forced segregation.
There were schools and other institutions in which blacks weren’t permitted. A movement was led to end that. So why do we still enforce segregation if it was made illegal? So in the 60’s it was wrong but now that “color exclusive” things exist in the favor of blacks it’s ok?
There is no forced segregation. Comparing the legal, government condoned exclusion of an entire “race” of people from opportunities to forge a livelihood to the creation of a school to educate those segregated people is a not valid comparison.
If a white person isn’t on BET (which is not the case), a white person can check one of at least 30 other channels to find a variety of white people to watch. That’s not exclusion.
Perhaps it’s not that white people are excluded from these forums, but rather that they choose not to include themselves. White students are welcome to attend largely black colleges. They choose not to. It’s like the term “white flight.” Black people do not necessarily choose to live in all black neighborhoods. The term “white flight” exists because once black people moved in, the white people left.
No one has banned white people from anywhere. No white person is in danger of facing meaningful, systematic discrimination from a black american.
Desegregation is a long term process. Surely you’re not saying the day a law passed that everything became okay? Not in a country where it took some states decades acknowledge that slavery was illegal. In a country where people enacted laws via loopholes to ban black people from living, working and exiting in certain areas? Some of those states didn’t remove those laws from the books until decades after the Jim Crow era. These things didn’t occur hundreds of years ago. People alive today are still living with the affect effects.
Everyday, I exist in a world that is largely white. I’m surrounded by white people. It’s unavoidable. Once, I invited a white friend to a largely black church (mind you, white people were welcome, just chose to attend the largely white church instead), my white friend said to me with no irony, “It’s so weird to be the only white person in the room.” “Welcome to my everyday,” I told her.
She said it made her uncomfortable. Had never thought about what it might feel like to live that way everyday.
I think instead of placing the blame on black people for creating opportunity in the absence of inclusion, ask why people feel these institutions still have a place in the world. I’d ask why polls show that white Americans think we talk about race in this country too much, but black Americans think the complete opposite. And it seems that white people expect that to be the end of the conversation. Are we once again being told by white people what we should and should not be doing?
Ok. So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is. Which is the point. We passed laws to prevent segregation. Now it’s ok so long as it’s “condoned”. A fight was made for “equal treatment” so long as it means “preferential treatment” as well. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood. I’m literally the only white family within several square miles. I don’t feel out of place. I deliberately bought that house. As such, however, I’m a “minority” in my neighborhood. I don’t expect special reliefs or organizations as a result. Nor do I get offended if someone uses a word around me that’s only “ok” for other white people to use. I honored the laws regarding equality. So what’s equal about “color exclusive” organizations?
“So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is. ”
Never did I say this. If that’s what you’ve extrapolated, then you’ve misunderstood what I’ve stated several different ways and provided examples for which did not get addressed in your reply.
I’ve stated multiple times that I don’t believe what you’re pointing to is segregation. Segregation does not exist when people aren’t excluded. You keep saying “color exclusive” as I provide examples that no white people are being excluded. No white people are banned from BET. No white people are banned from being spoken about during Black History Month. No white people are banned from enrolling at historically black colleges. No white people are banned from being in magazines that target black audiences. Where is this exclusion you’re insistent exists for white people?
If white people choose to exclude themselves from environments that aren’t predominately white, that is a separate situation. YOU may live in a majority black neighborhood, but you are in the minority of white Americans, who largely CHOOSE to live in the same enclaves.
Most white Americans only have white friends. Few question this. However, when a group of black people get together, it’s assumed they’re segregating themselves, DESPITE the fact that black Americans are have more white friends than whites have black friends (or friends of any other ethnicity for that matter).
If white people want to say the “n-word’ they can. They invented it for use against black people. That’s kind of why it’s offensive to begin with. No one is banning any white person from saying it. There are now just greater social consequences when one chooses to do so.
The additional points that you’ve added, I never stated. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming all black people are looking for handouts. We fall all across the economic strata. We just want the road to opportunity to not be paved with bombs, traps and ditches.
Have a blessed day!
I believe he replied, but I didn’t read it because I decided it was bad for my health.
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Years ago, I volunteered on the entertainment sub-committee for my job’s annual summer party. One of my tasks involved coming up with giveaway prize ideas: a few high-value “grand” prizes, and enough door prizes so that almost everyone left a winner.
Before purchasing the prizes, my committee shared our ideas with the larger planning group. The list included gift cards from Target as a few of the door prizes.
One of the alcohol sub-committee members wrinkled her face at the mention of Target.
“Target? Ha! Does anyone shop at Target? Do you think anyone’s gonna want that? I don’t even know where a Target is!”
Everyone fell silent. Even the crickets in the potted plants went mute.
Does anyone shop at Target? Is she for real? It’s only one of the most popular superstores in the country. Where she been?
Around the conference table, people hid grins and stifled chuckles as Mrs. “I don’t even know where a Target is” scanned the room looking for validation and found none.
Finally someone piped up:
“Uh, yeah. I shop at Target. I love Tar-zhay! Who doesn’t?”
A woman from the food committee added, “I go to Target for ONE THING and I always leave with 10 other things I’m not even sure I need. They just have good stuff!”
It’s relevant to mention that Mrs. No-Target lives in a posh area of Los Angeles, near the beach in a spectacular home with a long winding driveway. L.A. has no fewer than 10 Targets. They are kind of hard to miss. Maybe she never has to leave her compound. Perhaps she has staff who take care of menial duties like shopping at discount stores. Is that what it’s like to have serious money? You don’t have to bother with knowledge of plebeian shopping centers?
It reminded me of Oprah, when she taped a camping episode of her show, and her amazement at discovering the existence of REI. She couldn’t believe an entire store dedicated to recreational equipment and sporting goods existed. I love Oprah, it’s an REI, not a cat café.
In the end, we gave away several Target gift cards at the party. The recipients loved them! One even did a little jig. At least that’s how I choose to remember it. Take that, Mrs. No-Target!
As a thank you to all of my readers – the loyalists, the newbies and everyone in between – I have partnered with several other bloggers to offer you the opportunity to enter to win a Target gift card of your very own! Thank you for your comments, encouragement and kind words, readers!
I’ve struggled with a major case of writer’s block for several months now. Whatever past invisible force moved me to put fingers to keypad appears to have gone on a vacation. In my quest to bring it back from the beach or whatever safari it’s on, I’ve read several posts by other bloggers and writers who struggle with the same blockage. More than a few are adamant that there’s “no such thing as writer’s block.”
If that’s the case, then why is it that each post I crank out lately seems to take me eons to produce? Sometimes I’ll write one sentence, proclaim it “garbage” or not something I can create a post around and there it sits, another unfinished draft.
I understand that writer’s block isn’t just about the seeming inability to write or lacking ideas. There are often underlying reasons for why the words won’t come out.
I believe the problem began once I transitioned from blogging as a hobby to blogging for income.
I resisted monetizing my blog for the longest time despite the fact that several people encouraged me to do so:
“Your blog is great, you should try to make money from it. More people should read what you write!”
“You’re a great writer; you could write a book!”
I demurred for nearly two years, explaining that I enjoy writing as a hobby and don’t want to ruin the fun of it by adding monetary pressure to the mix.
It’s a legitimate concern for me. Back when I was pursuing an acting career, I took classes on different types of method acting, on succeeding in commercial auditions and learning to cold read, among others. It seemed as though the more I learned about the business side of acting and the more I deconstructed acting into a series of methods and it became more about mechanics than the joy of performing, the less pleasurable I found it. Acting used to make me feel alive. I loved losing myself in a character and fed off the energy of delighted audiences. The contentment and sense of liberation I once derived from entertaining, dissipated until I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Once you no longer enjoy acting, putting up with the business of Hollywood shenanigans hardly seems worth it.
Last summer, after getting laid off from my job at Fancy Startup from hell, I knew I had to make a change. I’d spent years agonizing over what my “passion” is. What could I do that’s truly enjoyable, will generate enough income for me to live on (including travel) and not require me to work in the confines of an office – which I’ve never liked – living for the weekend, serving as a lackey to other people’s whims, goals, values and deadlines, along with the accompanying stress, all to make some rich guy richer. One day the proverbial lightbulb appeared and I thought, “Duh, Keisha. Your blog! You do it for free and you love it, why not turn it into something?” Work for myself, you say, self? Yes! Sign me up!
Things went swimmingly until I began to care more about things like traffic stats, comments, social media following and writing the best headlines to get attention. Everything I read and researched in an attempt to help my new business grow, seemed to make me feel more inadequate as a blogger and writer. Am I actually going to make it at this?
Now when I think of what to write, these are some of the thoughts that cycle through my head:
“But, how will I write an intro that hooks readers?”
“Is anyone going to care about this?”
“What is my point? People come to my blog for thought-provoking reads; this post has no point. It’s fluffy.”
“That’s not funny enough. People expect me to be funny.”
“This would make for an excellent blog post, but x person and y person might be offended that I chose to write about this and not that.”
“Passive voice is bad. I have to reconstruct that sentence. Argh!”
“If you want blogging success, you have to write x number of posts a week.”
Each of these notions fill me with apprehension and dampen my desire to write.
It doesn’t help that I’m an overachiever with high standards for work quality.
I want my writing mojo back! Come back my friend! Return to me!
Do you believe in writer’s block? Have you experienced writer’s block; if so, how have you worked through it?
I met a guy at summer camp during the break between my freshman and sophomore year of high school. His name – I won’t tell you – but, I’ll say that he’s named after an American city. Ok, fine, let’s call him Trenton, just because. I even remember his last name, which isn’t a common one. I couldn’t tell you the name of my first grade teacher, but I remember his name.
His older sister, a pretty and vivacious soon-to-be junior, was the popular girl at camp. She held court in our room some nights, sharing her glorious makeup and beauty tips as we gossiped about the male campers we thought were cute.
I didn’t tell her I had a ginormous crush on her younger brother. What if she told him?! I’d be mortified. I think she figured it out though. I always grew quieter and bashful when he was in range.
They say girls love bad boys. I’ve never been the type. Ok fine, there was one guy in 7th grade who wore a leather jacket, Drakkar Noir cologne by the buckets, a silver chain around his neck, plain white T’s, Docs and only seemed mildly interested in paying attention in class. He always smiled at me flirtatiously. He turned out to be a big softie.
Trenton was a genuine nice guy with a warm smile and dimples that made my heart pound furiously. I live for dimples. If I could get dimple implants, I would (then again, voluntary surgery? Maybe not). One of our camp enrichment activities included sharing our deep inner teen thoughts as we formed friendships around a campfire, underneath the bright stars, on balmy southwest Texas nights, to the soundtrack of an acoustic guitar.
Trenton always had words of encouragement at the ready. I felt good around him and it wasn’t just that my head floated up into the clouds whenever I got within five feet of him. We each got assigned work duty at camp in exchange for free room and board. Each night we rotated through camp chores, some easier and more pleasant than others. On my night to clean up after dinner – one of the more tedious and extended tasks – he stayed after to help us out. It wasn’t even his night! Swoon.
We bonded over our love of the Pearl Jam Ten CD. It was the height of the grunge era and though I didn’t fit the profile of a typical grunge rock fan, the music spoke to my teenage angst. I nearly melted when he told me his favorite track: “Black.” That’s my favorite song on the CD too! We are so meant to be together! We listened to the track on a Discman (Hahahaha, I’m old). My heart threatened burst from happiness.
To this day, whenever I hear that song, I think of him sometimes, and I feel that happiness again for a moment.
Nothing ever happened with us; I’m not sure why. Maybe he was just as shy. Maybe I mistook his kindness and focused conversation for interest when it was nothing more than a guy being friendly. Who knows?
We fell out of touch after we left camp for home. These were the days before email, texting and Facebooking, so it was easier to lose contact with people.
I returned to the same camp the next summer, hoping he’d be there, but neither he nor his sister were at the session.
I never saw him again.
Everyone once in a while I think about him and wonder how he’s doing. I’ve Googled him, but had no luck. I imagine he’s married. I bet he has a beautiful wife and two perfect little children in a sprawling house with a Labrador retriever and a Siamese cat.
What if we’d been something though?
Is there anyone from your past you wonder about?
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On Sunday, after the Academy Awards, Giuliana Rancic, co-host of E!’s Fashion Police, made a few contentious comments in reference to the locs worn at the ceremony by 18-year old actress/singer Zendaya.
In a previous post, I touched on the complicated relationship many black women have with their hair. I shared that in the present day black women have faced reprimands and job dismissals for daring to wear their hair in natural styles. Giuliana’s language touched a sensitive nerve in many, including Zendaya who responded in an eloquently worded message posted on Instagram.
This whole Zendaya/ @GiulianaRancic drama is bull. If you don’t have thick enough skin to take some badmouthing, don’t try and be different. — Lizz Hartman (@lizzhartman) February 24, 2015
These are the fiery retorts that almost inevitably materialize when someone objects to language steeped in ignorance, bigotry, prejudice, racism, sexism or many other -isms.
A quick scan of user photos when I searched Twitter for “Zendaya, sensitive” showed that many of the people instructing Zendaya to “stop crying” aren’t the ones likely to be impacted by negative hair stereotypes. Yet, they think they’re qualified to tell Zendaya how to feel and respond. They haven’t lived her life, but they have all kinds of opinions about it.
Who is anyone else to decide how another person should feel and react to their environment? Who are any of us to tell someone else they are being too sensitive? Why is it often that the folks not directly affected have the most to say about others’ sensitivities?
Giuliana issued a sincere and adult public apology to Zendaya, the type of which we rarely see when a celebrity atones for a public snafu. She accepted responsibility for her words. She referenced listening and learning why her comment offended instead of focusing on her intent and defending herself.
Instead of deriding other people for being too sensitive, we should ask ourselves whether we’re being sensitive enough.
As someone who’s had a lifetime of people telling me that my own feelings and experiences are invalid because they don’t match the narrative of the dominant culture or viewpoint, my skin is pretty damn thick. If it wasn’t I wouldn’t last very long in this America where I am at a disadvantage from the jump just by being in the body of a black woman. A society that tells me that my gender is weaker, too emotional; my hair too nappy, my skin too dark, nose too wide, intelligence limited. To withstand years upon years of ignorance directed my way or anyone else who shares the designation “female” or “black.” A society that tells me I have to act, speak or dress a certain manner just to be respected. If I’m offended by someone coming at me with ignorant nonsense, it’s not because I’m weak. The “strong black woman” stereotype didn’t come from nowhere.
We have to get better at practicing empathy. We have to become comfortable with the idea that we may not always be qualified to speak intelligently on a subject. It’s okay sometimes to stop talking and typing and just listen. To dig deeper and THINK about why someone might be offended. We shouldn’t dismiss other people’s emotions and thoughts as less valid than our own. None of us is better than the other, even those born into royalty, wealth or the dominant ethnic group or gender.
Just because you’re not offended, doesn’t mean another person isn’t and doesn’t have the right to be. Not a one of us is the center of the universe.
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
The server threw me a questioning look as he observed my half-full plate.
“Was everything okay with your meal, miss?”
“Yes, it’s fine. I’ll just take a box please.”
“Oh, you can eat more than that! You barely touched it!”
I glanced down at my plate, then my stomach. I’d stuffed all that would fit in the compartment.
“Hahaha, no really you can take it,” I said, pushing the plate further away from me.
“Okay,” he relented, his tone skeptical as he reviewed the remains of my dish.
Surely he didn’t expect me to eat that whole gargantuan plate of food!
Unless it’s at a place of fine dining and serious dollar-mining with portions so small you wonder if the kitchen is rationing food, I almost never finish an entire entree when I dine out. It’s not because I have birdlike eating habits.
It’s no secret that American restaurants serve gigantic plates full of enough food to feed you for multiple meals. Unfortunately, instead of eating such generous portions over the span of several meals, for many the inclination is to consume the entire dish. This is on top of whatever else they’ve eaten that day. That’s a hell of a lot of food! Restaurant serving sizes have grown many times over what they were decades ago.
Save for half-order lunch options, restaurants don’t usually serve select-a-size meal portions. I’m 5’1″ (and 3/4!); I’m a petite woman. When I order an entrée, I receive the same servings as everyone else who orders the same menu item, including say, a 6’4″ 200-lb man. Between me and a man of that height and weight, one of us requires far more daily calories to function than the other. Yet, we’re given the same amount of food. If, on a consistent basis, I ingested the same quantity of food as that man, eventually I probably wouldn’t be able to leave my home. I’d be a candidate for my own show on TLC, broadcast from my bed where I am laid up like a blown-up Tootsie Roll ready to pop.
I don’t do diets. I’ve tried my fair share of fad diets in the past: don’t eat carbs; eat more fat; drink spicy lemon water; chocolate shakes; strawberry shakes; vitamin supplements; starve and smile bitterly through your hunger pangs as delicious culinary scents waft under your nose.
None of that crap worked for me long-term, if at all.
I’ve comfortably settled upon portion control, with an emphasis on healthier options, as my choice of “diet.” It allows me to eat what I like in moderation. This way there are no happy rice grains and pasta strands high-kicking their way through my dreams taunting me, “You know you waaaaant us, you know you liiiiike us.” No staring at the clock, eagerly anticipating the time for the next meal. No deprivation. No calorie counting. No boring people with talk about my dietary habits.
I know it’s radical and revolutionary, but combined with regular exercise, this method works well for me and keeps me in good shape.
At brunch in Houston a few years ago, I ordered a side of bacon to accompany my stack of cakes.
“Do you want four slices or eight, darlin’?”
Four or EIGHT? Those are my options? I just want two slices of bacon! Two!
I opted for the four slices of bacon and pawned two off on my sister. Let’s be real: it’s not hard to get rid of bacon in our pig-lovin’ society.
The pancakes arrived, an imposing tower of spongy starch. I dug in, brushing aside my initial intimidation at the sight of the mammoth heap, slowly savoring each bite. The only way I’d inhale the whole mound is if an Amazing Race win was on the line. Thank goodness for takeout boxes.
Whether you want to blog for fun or hope to make a living from it, getting started can be overwhelming.
Perhaps you’re not even sure where to begin. Or maybe you’ve had a blog for a while, but want to propel it to the next level.
I had little idea what I was doing when I started blogging over 2 years ago (longer if you count LiveJournal; remember when that was big?). I’ve learned a lot from running this blog and even more since I transitioned to blogging for income last fall.
In this guide, I’ve compiled a list of some of the most helpful resources to make your blogging adventures less daunting and more effective.
Which blogging platform should you use? WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot? Should you self-host your blog? What should you name it? There are quite a few decision to make before you even put fingers to keys.
If you hope to attract readers, you’ll need to pay at least some attention to your blog’s looks. You’re inviting others to your personal spot on the web; you want it to look good. Visitors are more likely to stick around if a blog is easy to read and navigate.
Ultimately, the most successful bloggers will recommend you write from the heart. Some bloggers fall into a niche like cooking, crafting, mommy, dad or travel, to name a few. Blog about what you know. You are what makes your blog different from the next.
This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of The Girl Next Door is Black.
Lately, my dad is prone to falling into reflective reveries during which he shares stories from the past with a forthrightness that is surprising given how miserly he’s been with details previously. He’ll affect what my sisters and I call his “Professor [Our last name]” voice and begin his oration: “You know, Keisha, our family…”
Just last April I learned about the six brothers – including my grandfather several generations removed – who together escaped from the plantation where they were enslaved. Had they not made a run for freedom, an entire family line may never have existed! It awed me to think of the strength and fortitude these men possessed. I’m related to people like that!
Yesterday, I asked my grandmother, who is her late 70s, (she doesn’t look a day over 60 and I told her she could score herself a hot 60-year old boyfriend) about her grandmother, my great-great grandmother. I wanted to know if she could read and write.
A tweet I read a couple of weeks ago reminded me that for some black Americans, they are only the second or third generation of readers in their family! That’s incredible when you think about it. If the idea is that each generation surpasses the one before, boosted by the foundation laid by past generations, not having the basic ability to read and write puts one at an extreme disadvantage.
As it turns out, my great-great-grandmother had basic schooling and could read and write on that level. My great-grandmother also knew how to read and write and my grandmother is a retired longtime educator, so reading and writing was her bread and butter.
I’m pleased to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month with their #JourneyofYou campaign. Thanks to the family who came before me, my journey is that much less arduous. I strive to live my life in a way that honors their legacy.
How has your family helped pave the way for you? How do you honor the legacy of your ancestors? Share the #JourneyofYou in the comments. You can also visit MassMutual on Twitter or MassMutual on Facebook and share your story there using #JourneyofYou.
The beauty shop has never been a place of relaxation or pleasure for me. I associate it with chemical smells, scalp burn, lots of time spent waiting around, listening to catty gossip about the lives of strangers, and hours of sitting in the same chair forced to make conversation with someone pulling on my hair, knowing that any personal details I share might become future salon fodder.
Once, a braider yanked my hair so hard she PULLED SOME OF MY HAIR OUT OF MY SCALP! It’s been years and that hair still hasn’t grown back right.
Up until late last fall, I’ve worn my hair in some form of “protective styling” like braids or weaves. For nearly 20 years I shielded my hair from the elements, the public and myself.
I have never liked fooling with my hair. I would get my hair braided or weaved up and not have to do any heavy styling for at least six weeks. I could wake up, brush my hair or shake out my braids and be done, until I had to repeat the process. Low maintenance. Kind of. Though, not inexpensive.
I always intended to go back to natural, but …
Sometime around age 10, when my family lived in Atlanta, my mom began taking my older sister and I to the salon to have our hair relaxed and styled.
[For the uninitiated: a relaxer straightens curly hair. Commonly, black women refer to it as a “perm,” but this perm is straight, not curly. The relaxer is made up of a chemical compound which, up until recently, usually contained lye and if left on too long, basically burns the crap out of your scalp. It also typically weakens the hair leading to breakage, split ends and other hair horrors.]
I don’t remember making a conscious decision to permanently alter my hair from its naturally tightly coiled state to a bone straight texture. Hair, which now required touch ups every six to eight weeks lest the undesirable curls rise up from the roots and ruin the iron-flat look. Almost every black girl in my school had relaxed hair. The ones who didn’t, got teased and mocked.
If the fuzzy coils returned or I didn’t style my hair “right,” this group of mean black girls in school would let me know by tittering and throwing stank looks and snide comments my way as I walked by. Over the years, I’ve met more of these types – the self-appointed black hair police who insist on issuing judgmental and cruel verbal violations to those whose ‘dos don’t pass muster in their hating eyes. They definitely were not fans of “nappy” hair.
I learned that white people also had opinions on how I wear my hair. In fourth grade, it was Nick – the blonde haired, blue-eyed 10-year old print model with Tom Cruise hair whom all the girls, black and white alike, swooned over – who looked at my relaxed hair, sprayed with oil sheen to give it shine, and called me a “greasehead.” I rebutted with a passable insult and kept my face neutral, but his words infiltrated and left a bruise.
My hair was in crochet braids when I served as a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding in the early ’00s. I’d stopped relaxing my hair by then, no longer interested in the ritual of maintaining unnaturally straight hair. I recall one of my friend’s soon-to-be new family members, a white girl a few years older than me, asking “So, are you going to take out your braids for the wedding?”
Why would I take out my braids? The braids that I spent nearly 4 hours in a chair getting put in? She must be crazy. What’s wrong with wearing braids to a wedding? They’re versatile. Besides, the bride had no issue with my hair, so why should she?
When I interviewed with a staffing agency in Los Angeles, also in the early 2000s, the middle-aged white recruiter inquired, as she looked at my braids:
If a client wanted you to change your hair to look more professional, would you be open to that?
Unlike my more vulnerable fourth grade self, her words didn’t sting me the way Nick’s had; rather, her question offended me. “More professional?” Who would ask me to change my hair and why?
I emphatically said no in such a way as to shut down that line of conversation. No, I am not changing what is a perfectly normal, common and acceptable style among black women.
But, my hair does not grow like a white woman’s does. So…
Even men had an opinion about my hair.
While hanging out at a friend’s place in L.A. one afternoon, one of her guy “friends” – a late twenty-something black dude with a gut, receding hairline, bad breath and yellowing teeth – gave me this gem of unsolicited advice:
You know, if you got yourself a weave, got you some long nails and your pedicure hooked up? You’d be perfect.
So, that guy was an ass.
I did eventually get a weave, but it wasn’t his words that prompted me. I’d noticed that a lot of the black girls in L.A. wore their hair in weaves. Long, straight, flowing hair – much like the white girls. Everybody wanted that Beyoncé hair.
My middle sister installed her own weaves and taught me how to do mine, sparing me trips to the beauty salon. Notably, the type of men I attracted changed once I switched from braids to weaves.
When I moved to the Bay Area a couple of years ago, it surprised me how many black women wore their hair naturally – in puffs, spirals, coils, locs and twist-outs. No one looked at them sideways for it. Seeing these women confidently rock their beautiful, myriad curl patterns encouraged me. Even at work, in professional environments, quite a few black women wore their natural hair for all to see.
There’s no one day when I woke up and decided, “Today is the day I’m going natural!” I’d told myself and others for years, “I’m going natural one day. I am! I just, I’m waiting. I’m not ready yet.”
In the ’90s my mom traded her own relaxed hair for sisterlocks and never looked back. My youngest sister, a true millennial, was the first of all my sisters to make the transition. She did what’s known as the “big chop” and cut off her relaxed hair to start over. She rocked her cute teeny weeny afro with such confidence; it inspired me. Several of my cousins on the east coast also wear their hair natural. I definitely wouldn’t be alone when I finally made the change.
Solange Knowles famously did the big chop about five years ago. She has a gorgeous mane now.
Solange pre-big chop (2008) Source: J&R Music World, flickr.com
Solange after her “big chop” (2009) Source: imgurhd.com
Solange’s hair a few years after her big chop (2012). Source: EventPhotosNYC, flickr.com
Oddly enough, getting laid off from my job last summer helped propel me to action. The role I played at the office, both professionally and personally, was increasingly at odds with who I am, my beliefs and my values. It felt fake and I was tired of it; exhausted from not being true to myself. I just want to be myself and that includes wearing my hair in its “natural” state.
In November, I went to a salon known for their Deva Cut. My hair hadn’t seen the shears of a professional in years. When I scheduled the appointment, they advised me to set aside at least 2 1/2 hours for the cut. 2 1/2 hours? For a haircut and shampoo?! This is why I hate salons! Still, I went. If I was going to be a natural girl, I needed someone to shape my coif into something cute. Besides, women online swore by this cut and as we know, everything online is true and awesome.
I’d heard rumor of these peculiar places where women of all colors converge to beautify. Seeing it with my own eyes delighted me. Black women. White women. Latina women. Jewish women. All with curls. Curls everywhere!
I was a bit skeptical when I met my stylist. A tall, young white woman with bright tangerine hair, absent of any curl pattern, and a ’70s punk rock vibe introduced herself. She is going to help me with this hair?
I’ve walked into “white” salons before and seen the terror in the stylist’s or receptionist’s eyes as I ask, “Do you do black hair?”
“Uh…well…um, we have one girl who does that, but she works the third Friday of every fourth month.”
Or they’ll just eke out, “N-n-noooo, sorry.”
Well, whatever happened to me in the salon, my hair couldn’t possibly look more of a mess than it already did., could it? I can’t say I’d been a poster child of proper hair maintenance.
Two hours later – after pleasant conversation with Tangerine (not her real name), a very thorough dry haircut and a soothing sulfate-free shampoo and conditioning – I left the salon with expertly shaped cut and new knowledge about how best to care for my curly hair.
I used to say that taking care of my natural hair took so much effort. In reality, it was taking care of my relaxed hair that took all the time. My natural hair is the lowest fuss hairstyle I’ve worn to date.
When people ask me when I went natural, I’ll say, “November 2014.” Though truthfully, the transition itself took years. It’s a lot of mental and emotional work. You have to unlearn all the negative messages you’ve internalized about your natural hair.
You may have to re-learn how to properly take care of your own hair. I consumed a lot of information through natural hair blogs; blogs which continue to grow in popularity.
You also have to get comfortable with the fact that there will always be people who have a problem with your hair. Screw ’em. They don’t own the hair rules. If such things exist.
This is the hair that grows out of my head and there’s nothing wrong with it. I love it. It’s part of me. I am still amazed that these curls grow from my head. They are so cool. I can’t believe I ever wanted to hide them.
Me and my long weave in Seville on the Triana Bridge, Fall 2013
Me and my curls on a train in Copenhagen, 2014
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When the bellhop left the hotel room after depositing our luggage, I broke into a touchdown dance.
I dove onto the bed, a European double, spaced at least 3-feet away from a second bed. Larger beds and no tripping over luggage, boots and each other? Minimal upgrades that seemed positively luxe when compared to our accommodations in the past 15 days.
In Copenhagen and Berlin, we stayed in hostels. in small rooms reminiscent of my college dorm days. There was the budget hotel in Praguewith an Internet connection so slow it literally made me cry (I blame travel fatigue). We reveled in the amenities of the 4-star hotel we’d booked in Warsaw, the last stop on our 3-, turned 4-city, self-directed tour of European capitals. Thanks to Warsaw’s inexpensive cost, four nights at the Polonia Palace Hotel cost just a tad more than one night at the hostel inCopenhagen.
“Keisha! We have a real tub!” Z exclaimed from the bathroom. I danced some more. The queen life.
The train ride from Prague to Warsaw was a long 7.5 hours, so we took it easy that night and enjoyed dinner in our hotel’s restaurant, Strauss.
Homemade ravioli with veal and sage, in a butternut squash moose and a plum and chili confiture.
Apple strudel with roasted butte ice cream and buttermilk powder
Żywiec lager, a Polish brand
Like Prague, Warsaw has its own historic town center – the Old Town Market Place –our first sightseeing destination the next morning. Everywhere you turn in the massive square you’re treated to enchanting view after view, bordered on one side by, what else? A Royal Castle. The beautiful square had to be rebuilt in the mid-20th century after being destroyed by Germany in WWII.
We found a giant panda on skates.
Beyond the square, in Old Town, are shops, cathedrals, landmarks, schools, restaurants and a touch of merriment courtesy of the lingering holiday decorations.
These are no ordinary light displays!
And a McFit? Yes, it’s what it sounds like: a McDonald’s gym. McDonald’s.
It’s just as charming at night.
For dinner we chose Dwie, a Mediterranean fusion restaurant. “Fusion” restaurants bring out the skeptic in me, but I went for it.
Baked cod with fingerling potatoes, parsley puree and lemon verbena.
Brownie with orange marmalade and chocolate chili
In the end, the food presentation delighted me more than the actual meal. The dishes seemed to be trying too hard to be something.
The next day – a particularly chilly and dreary one – we visited the Warsaw Zoo. I love animals, but I’m not necessarily a fan of zoos. In the winter months, zoo admission is half off. The zoo is small, quite a few of the animals sheltered themselves from the cold in hidden places, and the big cats paced creepily. We left not feeling any better about zoos.
Poland is known for pierogis, the ravioli-like dumplings served boiled or fried, with a variety of fillings that may include meat, cabbage, potatoes, or even fruit. We decided on an early dinner of pierogis at Zapiecek, which at 5pm already looked filled to capacity. Luckily we quickly snagged one of the last tables and were soon rewarded with delicious, real-deal pierogis.
Vodka Hibiscus Hot Toddy
Boiled pierogis, gravy came on the side
Gravy for the pierogis
Fried pierogis with meat and cabbage, topped with gravy
While indulging in late night desserts at a restaurant with an extensive sweets selection, Smaki Warszawy, fresh fat snow flakes started falling from the sky coating the city with white powder in minutes, making it seem more romantic – for other people. We saw a couple engaged in a flirty snowball fight on the short stroll back to our hotel.
Łazienki Park, a gigantic park in the center or Warsaw, is one of the most visited spots in Warsaw. To visit the day after fresh snowfall was a treat. The park’s full name translates to “royal baths park” and fresh snow also meant all the water in the park sat frozen or empty. Similar to Central Park in New York, visitors to the park are a collection of tourists and locals, families and friends, and couples taken by the magnificent parkscape.
Within the park is a museum, a white-tablecloth restaurant, sculptures, statues, and a palace. One of the most famous statues of of Polish composer, Frédéric Chopin, resides in the park. We witnessed a young guy use his footsteps to draw a heart in the snow around the perimeter of the empty pool in front of the statue. His adoring girlfriend watched at the base of the monument.
We picked our lunch spot by default that day. As it turns out, January 6 is a holiday in Poland, Three King’s Day, and as such, nearly everything was closed. Happily, Być Może, an airy cafe with high ceilings, served up tasty sandwiches on freshly-baked bread.
Z’s sandwich: Chicken, bacon, fried egg, vegetables and mayo on freshly baked bread. The waiter called it “a challenge.”
Italian mortadella open-faced sandwich with pheasant pate, arugula and truffle olive oil
Our sightseeing adventures ended earlier than planned due to the holiday closures, which gave us more time to enjoy the comforts of our hotel and watch music videos on Eska tv, a Polish music channel. Their video lineup included the usual Top 40 suspects interspersed with local artists, like a rapper who looked and kinda sounded like a Polish Eminem. I couldn’t understand a word of what he said, but the beat and flow worked; I liked it. Notably, every commercial break contained at least one pharmaceutical commercial.
The next morning, I arose at a bleary hour, way before the birds, first to depart back to the United States. Bittersweet best describes what leaving felt like. For three weeks, Z and I were lucky enough to travel around Europe soaking in cultures, learning history, trying new foods, meeting interesting people and forming unforgettable memories. What a trip! Nevertheless, back in San Francisco awaited the comforts that only a place called “home” can provide.
I'm Keisha ("Kee-shuh", not to be confused with Ke$ha). I am a (later) thirty-something, non-mommy, non-wife, who lives in San Francisco, California New York and has lots of opinions on lots of things.