My Hair: A History

I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. I’ve always had a lot of it, and never could really be bothered with it the majority of the time. Mostly it was because I had no clue what in the world to do with it.

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This is me as a peanut. About 4, I think.

My mother and grandmother always kept it in braids and bows (twin beads and barrettes, anyone?)

When I got older, around 9-10 maybe, I decided I wanted to get a relaxer. I was tired of my mother burning my head with the hot comb to straighten it. After a warning of it would burn my scalp the first time, I then had it relaxed. It didn’t slow down on me being tenderheaded, but it helped the tangles a bit.

I kept up the relaxers for years after. My hair went from long, to short, to very long when I still lived in Texas (almost the center of my back), to this:

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It’s maybe an inch past my shoulders here.

I rarely wore it down, because it was HOT. Oh, good grief. Like the hand of Hades was sitting on my neck and wouldn’t move! I kept it up in a bun or ponytail most of the time, only wearing it down when I got it done (see pic above) or on special occasions. And I could guarantee I had a ponytail holder to yank it up as soon as the special occasion was over with. Typically, you’d see me like this:

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Yep. Typical. It’s in a bun here.

I got tired of never being able to wear it down (it did not hold a curl at all, and frizzed at the drop of a hat, or sweat.) So one day, randomly, I decided to transition my hair. It stayed in a bun for a while, until one day, I decided to braid it up after a wash. I let it out the next morning and picked it out, and came up with this:

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I threw a headband in it, and went to work. I didn’t know how to feel, honestly. I felt like the world was staring at me.

But natural hair will do that. Folks don’t know how to handle an afro, whether it’s out and free or in a puff. And I didn’t know how to handle the questions that resulted from my afro.

“Can I touch it?” What the hell am I, a puppy? For the most part I don’t mind, but the question is still odd to me. And please, for the love of fluffy kittens, ASK first. Everybody isn’t me.

“Is it real?” Yep. I wouldn’t know the first thing about picking out a good wig/weave.

“How long have you been transitioning?” At the point above, it had been maybe a few months, maybe 4.

“What do you think of it?” This I had a hard time answering, but I gave an honest answer. Self conscious. I was (and am) a big woman with big hair. You can’t be invisible like that. It’s a bold look, and you have to be prepared to rock it and be seen.

Slowly, I became more and more comfortable with my ‘fro, wearing it in a pouf some days:

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And pulling into a front bouffant other days:

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Because my hair isn’t even (back is longer than the front, left side longer than right), I rarely wear it completely out without a headband (it helps conceal the unevenness.) But hey, it’s all about pushing my boundaries, right? Who knows, maybe I’ll have a free fro come tomorrow morning. Anything’s possible.

Hair Stories

“Why Do You Put That Stuff On Your Face?” or, My History With Makeup

One day, when I was in high school, I was in the bathroom, getting ready to head to the movies with my friends. My little brother watched me put on my makeup, carefully doing my eye shadow and mascara (I hadn’t yet gotten into liner or brows.)

He looked at me and said: “Why do you put that stuff on your face? It makes you look fake.”

My response was to push him out of the bathroom and close the door.

Honestly, at the time I didn’t have much of a response outside of “I’m supposed to, right?”

My relationship with all things cosmetic started at 16, formally. Even when many young girls start to experiment with makeup, digging into their mother’s stash, I was hooked on Lip Smackers. Specifically, the Dr. Pepper kind because it left a slight red on my lips that I liked. Other than that, I couldn’t be bothered.

My mother would let me have all of the neutral colored lip gloss I wanted. I stuck with browns, mostly. I couldn’t do foundation or anything till I was older, so I was a tomboy with great manicures and lip gloss. Interesting combo, right?

When I was able to do full faced looks, I did foundation and eye shadow. Blue, mostly, because it’s my favorite color. Now, most girls my age were doing a single line of white on their lids, lining their lips with black eye pencil, and wearing clear gloss. I thought that was odd, so I did my lid with blue (lid only, no highlight under the brow) with no eye liner. I did like mascara, though. And I stuck with brown lip glosses.

I can’t say, looking back on it, I had the most savvy makeup sense. But I was supposed to wear it, right? I’m a girl!

By the time I left for college, I was still struggling to keep my skin clear, so I would do full makeup only a few times a week, sticking with a little powder and gloss the majority of the time. I kept it simple, figuring less was more.

And then? I started working, and makeup became my livelihood. And my makeup routine? Took a left!

So, I went from next to nothing to full face and loud eye shadow colors. I discovered Urban Decay and bought as much product as my small paycheck would allow me. Lips still neutral, rarely did a lip liner unless I had a bright color on (never.)

And now? I am a manager, and I do makeup consultations all the time. I tell my clients that I am the laziest makeup artist I know, because my face routine is so low key. These days, foundation, powder (if I remember), liquid liner, brows, and mascara. Lip balm if I have it on me, bright lipstick if I find it in my bag. I do the extravagant eyes when I am headed to see my bosses or training.

With all this history, I still find it hard to answer why I put this stuff on my face.

The honest answer? I love the idea of what makeup can do. It can build someone’s confidence, change an outlook, or give another means of self expression. I tell people that anyone can learn how to do makeup; while many of my coworkers have been formally trained, I have no training outside of getting to work and realizing my look is NOT the best. Makeup isn’t an exact science, and it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be an obligation either. It should be fun, a means to express yourself in yet another way, to add to one’s uniqueness. And that’s pretty awesome.

Also? I love showing off some of the looks I come up with now, too. For fun: me in an awesome dark lipstick (Cargo Cosmetics Bordeaux), wearing my dearly departed specs:

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This is how you’ll see me at work, most of the time.

But off the clock? Naked face and lip balm. Old habits, you understand. ūüôā

Makeup Looks Stories

The Evolution Begins: Crawl Before You Walk

Part One of this series is here.

My mother got engaged and married before I finished my freshman year. We were moving to Miami that summer, a world away from my home state of Louisiana.

Before we moved, my stepfather (“Pops” hereafter) got me a pair of beautiful black heels for my 15th birthday.

He got me a name plate necklace and bracelet too, because I saw his and thought it was so pretty.

But those heels? Oh, oh, my. High heeled, open toed, and the heels had these swirly embellishments on them. Now, Pops was well aware that I didn’t do dressy clothes often outside of church, but he figured that was where I’d wear them.

Nope.

Wore them to school with a pair of hip huggers I’d gotten for Christmas that year. The jeans had swirly black embellishments to go with the design on the shoe, and I had a nice black top to put with it.

Walking into the gym that morning, I heard a couple of whispers. I realized folks didn’t quite know what to say to me. I’d gone from demi-feminine to ultra-feminine in one day, and now I fit in.¬†Kinda. Or maybe it was that I not only looked more like everyone else, but that I was even¬†capable of pulling it off. It wasn’t a complete switch.¬†I incorporated it into my “tomboy glam” repertoire: some days sweats, some days heels, and every day, at least to me, I felt I looked great. Until…

I started getting the backhanded compliments: “Wow, your outfit is so cute! You really¬†aren’t¬†a boy!” The ultimate one? “You can really dress. If you lost some weight, you would be perfect!” And although it hurt me, I didn’t drop the new look.

Yet all I could think was: really!? I don’t win here, do I? Of course I didn’t. But I was still too young to get that it wasn’t a matter of impressing everyone else, it was a matter of embracing myself as I was. Of course, I dieted and wanted to be pretty (cause you can’t be fat and pretty, don’tcha know), but I never really got that there is so much more to beauty than the outside. Your outfit is only a part of you, and it isn’t even the important part.

It took me changing states to change my perspective…

To Be Continued.

Stories

The Evolution Begins

I had blending in down to an art. I was the smart kid, pretty quiet but caustic when pushed too hard.

I was remembered before the big exam and forgotten shortly thereafter.

In middle school, I wore a uniform, and on rare occasions we were allowed to wear dressy clothes to school.

I was reminded, with an accompanying eye roll, that “dressing up” did not equal pants. I wasn’t really a dress or skirt kind of girl, outside of church. But, I complied, if only to fit in for a day.

First day of high school, I was proud of myself. I’d had a babysitting job all summer, and I could buy all of the clothes I wanted. My big purchase was a pair of Nikes. They looked like they had swirls all over them in a gradated blue that made me immensely happy.

I bought matching sweats and tees to wear with these sneakers, along with earrings and nail polish. Not totally tomboy, not totally girlie.

I loved it. Naturally, the first day of school I set off a bit of confusion for my classmates. “Why is she dressed like a boy?” “But if she’s trying to dress like a boy, why is she wearing earrings and nail polish?”

It was confusing for them, but not for me. I liked my style. I stood out a bit, but I was okay with it. I felt foxy. I could be fierce in my sweats and sneakers, honey! Couldn’t tell me nothing.

At least, that’s how I looked on the outside. I tried to keep my head high when the kids sneered at me. At my attitude, my supposed confidence. Daring to be happy.

And when I got “unruly”, you know, thinking I had some rights to live happily, I was reminded: “Yeah, you can dress, but you’re still fat.” “Don’t smile. Your teeth look a mess.” “Why you got so many bumps on your face?”

I did my best to keep my head high. My mother was a constant support, but it’s hard to hear a lone cheer amid a chorus of negativity.

And then, something happened to change my mindset…

To be continued.

Stories Uncategorized