Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hair Ye! Hair Ye!

What you know about this?

"Hey, did y'all hear this story about the Surgeon General addressing your peoples at the Bronner Brothers' Hair Show? Talking about how y'all don't exercise because you don't want to mess your hair up?"

That was the question I threw out into the hair salon last week. I said it loud enough to get  the attention of everyone from the sisters under the dryers to one in the shampoo bowl right on over to the ones getting hair chemically straightened and another who was there getting a few weave tracks sewn in. And saying "y'all" was appropriate because I, an African-American woman, was addressing a salon full of other African-American women--and that is exactly who the Surgeon General meant to reach with that message.

Black women. (Which technically she should know all about seeing as she is one.)

Okay, so actually this is a rather old story in the news. That Bronner Brothers'  Hair Show, where all of this went down, was back in August of 2011. While I'm usually quite aware of a lot of current events, I admit that I didn't even hear about this whole Surgeon General thing until very recently. I was having a text exchange with my super-fit sista-friend (and former Grady chief resident) Julie J-M about a whole bunch of nothing and somehow that ended with her sharing this with me.

Here's our exchange, pretty much verbatim:

"Just gave my residents some copies of your article in the Annals. Just read it."

"Awww, thanks. Just told MY residents about the time you did one hundred push ups in a row post call. Far more interesting, you know."

"You are ridiculous. Workouts have been on hold for a few days -- trying to keep the press and curl from unfurling."

"Aaah. The plight of the black woman. Preach pastor."

"Have you blogged about that? Remember when the Surgeon General Regina Benjamin brought it up as a public health issue at the hair show last year?"

"Whaaaat?! That is SO my next post."


Julie JM with her natural hair (and the proof of the 100 push ups legend.)

After that, she sent me a link from the NY Times so that I could get the full scoop complete with the reader comments that followed.

Sister Surgeon General

So that's how I even got this on my radar. I figured the hair salon was a perfect place to bring this up--even if it was a year later.

"Yeah, girl! You just hearing about that? That lady took a lot of heat for saying that!" one of the stylists chimed in. "She was quoting studies and everything. Saying basically, y'all gone die from not wanting to sweat your hair out."

Everybody erupted in laughter.

Next came the peanut gallery--starting with the dryer ladies. One of them lifted up the hood and craned her neck over toward me. "Hold up, pump the brakes! What'd she say?"

A sister getting a relaxer worked into her hair answered before I could. "Basically, she went to the Bronner Brothers' Show and told that whole audience that part of the reason they all got big asses is 'cause they too damn worried about their hair." More laughter.

"Awww, hell naw!" Dryer-lady yelled out before pulling the hood back down.

When put that way, I guess it did sound kind of bad.

"Hold up. What the hell is the Surgeon General doing talking about people sweating out their hair? She need to be somewhere telling folks to say no to drugs or somethin'!" That statement came from somewhere in the room. Where, I do not know--which is the nature of how the beauty shop discussions eventually go.

"Well, I ain't mad at her for saying that. She kept it real, if you ask me." This one came from the shampoo bowl--I'm sure of it since the woman speaking was talking in a voice that was exaggeratedly loud to overcome the running water. "Real talk, I don't go to my boot camp on Friday since I get my hair done on Thursdays. And I pay for the full week!"

"I'm with you, girl. I skip my running club if it's drizzling outside. Forget that!"

And the amen choir went on and on. Finger snaps. High fives. All that.

Now. Let me digress for a bit just to seize this teachable moment in cultural competency.

*clearing throat*

Let's start with the Bronner Brothers' Hair Show, shall we? The Bronners are pretty much icons when it comes to black hair. It all started with the patriarch, Nathaniel Bronner, Sr. and his younger brother Arthur who started out selling hair care products in the forties, and subsequently had their very first Bronner Brothers' Hair Show in 1947 at the Butler Street YMCA--which is literally a rock's throw from Grady Hospital. (Jesse Hill Jr. Drive, the street that Grady is on, was originally called Butler Street up until 2002 or so.)

Anywho. The Bronner Brothers' Hair Shows have become the Mecca of all of those doing ethnic (read: black folks') hair. And yes. If you are wondering if this is the place where people make the multicolored helicopter hair art projects on stage, that answer is yes. However, beyond that, they also draw talented stylists from all over the world who do "regular" hairstyles, too. And so. You have to admit that it was pretty genius of Sister Surgeon General Benjamin to talk sistas, hair and health in that venue.

Mmmm hmmm.

Oh. The other cultural competency pearl is more an urban dictionary type thing. When that woman in the shampoo bowl said, "I ain't mad at her," I want to be sure that those reading that knew exactly what she meant.

*clearing throat again*

Literally, that statement could be simply a response to a real true concern that you've offended someone or gotten on their bad side.

"Josie, when you asked me if you'd gained weight I thought you wanted me to be honest. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings or if you're upset with me for saying yes."

"Oh no. I'm not mad at you at all, Marjorie. You were simply being a true friend."

That's one definition. Now. Let's get to the other definition--and proper use--of that same statement as used by 97.8% of all of the persons of color that I know. Better yet--how about something I heard in that very salon on that same day:

(While reading US magazine under the dryer. . . .)

"Girrrrl, Katie Holmes dipped out on your boy, didn't she? Had herself a crib on the side with a trap door and everything. Talk about Mission Impossible!"

"Chile please. I ain't EVEN mad at Katie for doing what she had to do. Ever since he acted a clown on Oprah's couch I knew that dude wasn't right."

"Yeah, girl. He acted crazy with that dude from the Today Show, too. Matt Lauer?"

"Mmmm hmmm, that was crazy.I ain't mad at her for disassociating herself with all that craziness."

"But he was cute when he was in that movie with Cuba Gooding, Jr." 

"Oh yeah! Jerry MacGuire!"

"But you know he's short, though. Like five feet even, girl!"

"Whaaaat? She's tall! I bet she can't even wear heels with him!"

"Ugghh, now I really ain't mad at her!"

(See? Don't you now understand why I love the hair salon so much?)

Ah hem. Where was I?

Oh. Yeah. Sisters and their hair and exercise.

Let me just go right on the books and say it right now: I don't think I know a SINGLE black woman (with a kinky hair pattern and without a weave) that has not considered her coiff during exercise or inclement weather. To the point of CHANGING PLANS ALTOGETHER.

Yeah. I said it.

Case in point: Spinning. You know? The bicycling classes with the thumping music in just about every gym? Spinning is a GREAT workout. No question about it. It works the glutes, the abs, the thighs, the everything. If you do a Spin class, no doubt about it--you walk out of it feeling like you can throw a car over your head. It's that kind of workout.


The room gets really hot in Spin classes. And a hot room means a lot of hot sweat. Which means, if you're a sista, hair that is a hot mess.

See, I'm one of those rare, lucky individuals who sweats very little. And on top of that, when I DO sweat, it does not involve my scalp. Trust me--there are black women reading this right at this very moment who are narrowing their eyes in envy.

As well they should.

So me? I can go for a run. Do a step class. Do Body Pump. You name it. And at the most, I'll get a film over my face and that's about it. (There is pathology probably involved in that, but that's a whole 'nother story.) So yeah. Lucky me, I'm not the person who has to think or worry about my 'do becoming a don't when I'm exercising.


The one time that I went to a Spinning class. A friend talked me into it--swearing that it was the BEST workout and calorie burner. She swore I'd be hooked on it. And--what's even better--the class she invited me to was at 6AM which was right on par with my preference for morning exercise.

Did I mention that this friend of mine had stick straight hair that she often let air dry?

Mmmm hmmm.

So check it. Six AM. On a weekday. A day that I had to GO TO WORK afterward. I meet up with my friend and we get our spin on. And I fully agree that it was a kick ass workout, just like she said. I got so into it that I went into some kind of fitness zone where I was feeling the music deep down in my bones and loving the energy of it all. It was a GREAT workout. FANTASTIC even. I even looked over at my friend and told her so. REPEATEDLY. What an AWESOME workout this was. And she was smiling all big like the rockstar-workout pal that she was.

And all was right with the world.

That is, until I wiped my forehead and grazed the front of my hair.

What the. . . ?!?

Soaked. Soaked like somebody soaked it with a SUPER SOAKER. At 7AM.

Now. If you are a black woman or any woman with KINKY hair that you DON'T wear in an AFRO/LOC'ed/TWISTED/WEAVED/BRAIDED style. . . .you know what an absolute DEBACLE this was. A 911 debacle even.

And let me just clarify--yet again--something else. KINKY HAIR is not the same as CURLY HAIR that you blew straight or flat-ironed but that now has reverted to its natural curly pattern. When I say kinky hair pattern, I'm talking about hair that requires elbow grease, heat and/or chemical relaxers to straighten out. I am NOT talking about hair that inconveniences you just a bit because you don't prefer your bouncy curls. I'm talking the kind of hair that does not afford you a whole lot of spontaneity. And that, without a very clear plan and product line up, can make something like being super-soaked in a Spinning class or ha-ha-very-funny pushed into a swimming pool in ninth grade NOT FUNNY AT ALL.

And before anyone even decides to say it, comment it, or email it--this in NO WAY means that I have an issue with my culture or the hair God gave me and those who share it with me. I have no issue with whatever style that any person chooses for their hair, either. My choice to wear my own hair in its current closely cropped and chemically relaxed style does not, in my opinion, represent some kind of self hatred for my people, my heritage or my appearance. No, it does not.

Matter of fact, I think there are lots and lots of non-kinky-haired folks who would just LOVE to wear their hair in locs or a big woolly 'fro but who can't. So--again, this is my opinion--I see all of this as a choice and a preference.

My preference is to not have my look exchanged with that of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in just one hour. Unless, of course, The Fresh Prince Look is the one I'm going for.

So let me just tell you--that was one rough hair day. And let me also tell you that I have not done a Spinning class since.

Surely have not.

So regardless of how many folks took offense to what Dr. Surgeon General said that day--she was on to something. And if the hair salon last week served as any kind of focus group on the subject, there's a whoooooole lot of black women who ain't even mad at her for addressing the topic.

Whew. The more I type, the more I realize what an enormous topic this black women and black hair situation can be. Stay with me. .  . .this is important stuff.

Alright. So somebody, I'm sure, is reading this and thinking, "Huh? How difficult can it be to wear a hairstyle like yours? It's a finger-snap long and brushed down onto your head!"

Well. . . .sounds like we need another teachable moment, don't we?

So here is how my hairstyle works. I go to see my stylist who cuts my hair every two weeks. My natural hair pattern is wavy-kinky and would never ever lay flat and straight to my head without getting it chemically straightened. Every few weeks, my stylist applies a chemical relaxer (what sistas refer to as "getting a perm") to the areas of new growth which, with hair this short, occurs more often than those with longer styles. But it doesn't just stop with getting my hair relaxed and cut. After that, using the right products, my stylist molds my wet hair down to my scalp with something called "wrapping foam" -- which is kind of similar in consistency to mousse. Next comes paper strips that hold down the edges and just like a cake, I'm then popped into the oven.

Or under the dryer which, at the salon I go to, feels exactly like an oven sometimes.

After that, my hair is stick straight and flattened on my skull. The next step is getting it curled. Yes--curled--with a small flat iron (the top, not the edges.) No. My hair is not wet-and-wear. No. I cannot jump into a pool on a whim and then look remotely like I prefer to look without the aforementioned process taking place.

So what happens for the rest of the week, you ask? I'll tell you (hell, I've told you this much, why not?)  Using my silkiest scarf, I tie my hair under it at night. The following morning, I take off the scarf and VOILA! My look is maintained. Pretty much until the next time I see my stylist -- or some water-- whichever comes first.

So pretty much? You spend the week or two avoiding moisture to your head. Which means, if you sweat profusely in your scalp with exercise, this moisture-avoidance thing could lead to a major discouragement against a good, hard workout.

Yeah, Dr. Surgeon General. You betta preach.

So what's a kinky-wavy or kinky-curly or straight-up kinky-haired sista to do?

Well, there are options:

One is to be a billionaire like Oprah and have a team of folks ready and willing to reverse you back to the look of your choice every single morning after you workout. There's that.

There's also the option of not being a billionaire but deciding to throw vanity to the wind and just going ahead and jacking up your anti humidity dependent hair style for the sake of your health. There's also the in-between maneuvers like scarves, pomades, other makeshift fixes to make what you just jacked up presentable until you make it back to the salon.

There's that.

Then there's what I like to call "The Beyonce Option." This is where you have all of your real hair braided underneath a long blonde hair weave. And let's be clear--I ain't EVEN mad at Beyonce and am very much a fan. But I do fully recognize that blonde curly locks are not growing out of her scalp. (But mad props to the person who makes it look that way.) So with that option, you can work out all you like and then wet your sewn in naturally straight or loosely curl patterned hair all you like.

Mmmm hmmm.

We can't forget just rolling with what the good Lawd gave you. That's rocking a short curly fro or rocking some afro puffs. Individuals with these styles can and DO pretty much have wet-and-go hair. But ask any of the sistas wearing these styles and they'll tell you that it's ALL about the right products (which I have learned are NOT cheap or easy to find.)

My younger sister JoLai is an avid worker-outer. She got tired of dealing with her hair post exercise and finally just wacked it all off into a little natural style. Which works for her since this is the style she prefers and is one that makes her life easier. Yeah. It's a bold move. And it's one that works for her.

But, see, everyone isn't JoLai. And if they were, Dr. Benjamin would not have a billion-dollar industry's hair show to address over the topic of sistas, hair, and exercise. You with me? Good.

Whew.What else?

Locs! Yes, there's locs  as another option -- or what some know of as dreadlocks. (My loc-wearing sista-friends have informed me that the term "dreadlocks" is not the preferred term, so that's the last time you'll hear it from me.) Okay. The reason I didn't include locs with the last grouping is because locs are a major commitment and they are not simply wet-and-go. Yes. They can get wet without a full on debacle a la my Fresh Prince Spinning disaster. But. Wet locs are like heavy ropes that hold onto water and moisture. And drying them takes time.

Also. The people that you see with lovely, immaculate locs see professional stylists and put lots of work into keeping them that way. Otherwise they look like a giant 'fro with pole beans popping out of it.

Which is cool -- if that's the look you're going for -- kind of like Bob Marley.

But don't get it twisted (no pun intended)-- just because locs don't involve chemicals or heat, don't you think for two seconds that the time commitment is not substantial if you want them to look nice.

This look involved a process -- and the right products.

Oh and did I mention? Change your mind about locs and you pretty much have one option: SHAVE YOUR HEAD. Because once hair "locs" there is no easy way to un-loc it. (Yes there are rare caveats but I see that like tattoo removal--difficult and rarely completely successful. Being tired of locs almost always it means going from long and luscious to teeny-weeny-afro.)

Case in point:

And this is totally fine if you are ridiculously hot like Lenny Kravitz. But not so much if you are not.

Feel me?

Wow! Aren't you learning, like, SOOOO much right now? See, I'm a teacher, y'all. You don't have to thank me--this is what I do.

Yes. There's more.

Braids. Braids! There's all kinds of braids--which also provide you some respite from hair-consideration-prison if you are of the kinky-headed persuasion. Yes. This is why me and many of the other little African-American girls at your camps growing up arrived in. . .you guessed it. . .braids. It's also why every time you see Oprah on a trip somewhere away from her dream team she suddenly has her hair braided. It's what you do when you don't want to "fool with" your hair.


First, there's cornrows. Simple, flat french braids platted flat to the scalp. Quick. Simple. And often doable at home or by your homegirl across the street.

Then there's cornrows with extensions. Synthetic hair extensions stay better than natural hair alone, so many people braid in some synthetic hair to avoid the fuzzy-wuzzy-bear head that occurs after one week of going au naturel.

Next, there's individual braids with synthetic extensions. Again. Even if you have long hair, the extensions . . .well. . .extend how long they last. And can give you more flexibility with the look of your choice. These braids can be teeny-tiny or rope thick. They can be braided all the way to the very end or just at half way with loose hair at the ends.

Oh yeah--and a lot of folks use human hair for all of these braids, too. Like retro-Beyonce here. These are especially helpful for those who want to wear their hair down and curly and who get the tiny micro braided styles. The "micros" (as folks call them for short) are also the bomb if you're trying to grown your hair out of a short style and aren't keen on a full weave. I grew my short hair--and my relaxer-- out during my pregnancy with Zachary--with the help of micros. (Only to wack it all off again.)

Me with my "micros"

Which reminds me.

The black folks will be like "whatev" but everyone else--did y'all know that there are salons that braid hair all day and that's it? Where you can just walk in and point at the wall and say, "This" and then get your hair braided all up lickety split? And I say "lickety split" because while the braiding salon part may NOT sound unusual to you, many reading this have never actually gone inside of one, let alone sat down as a client.

This is why you have me in your life. To share these things with you. Heh.

The reason they are able to do it lickety split is because as many as THREE people might be braiding your hair at once. Mmmm hmmm. So just imagine your head bobbling all over like a pinball with three women tightly plaiting your hair in different directions. As well as talking about you in a language you don't understand.

Yep. And guess what? You can drop by to have them re-do just the EDGES when they start growing out and looking crazy -- OR even pay to just have them take them out for you. And trust me, people. This I know from personal experience.

Bananas, right?

So you tell me? Are you mad at the Surgeon General for bringing this up? Hmmph. I ain't.

Oh. Shoot! I almost forgot something else. Pressed hair. There are women who have opted NOT to chemically straighten their hair who instead get it washed and blowdried into a big woolly Chaka Khan-esque blow out. Then, using a flattening iron or an old school hot comb it is beat down into silky submission--if that's the look you are going for.

So. Since I keep bringing up Oprah, let me just use her as yet another example. So Oprah wore her hair relaxed forever, as in this picture above. Going through that process I described before nearly every day. Which sounds horrific but is true. When she wasn't on a trip wearing braids, she was pretty much making certain that her stylists were always nearby in the event of a Spinning class or some other catastrophe. Then she evolved to wearing a weave. Yep. A weave. This meant that all of her REAL hair was cornrowed down and some human hair had been sewn to those braids. Yep. Oprah rolled with this for a couple of years (see below.)

fuzzy wuzzy roots are often a weave-giveaway

Then, in the final season, she suddenly emerged with a whole SLEW of hair that she let Chris Rock run his fingers through to prove on national television was "all hers."

But all the sistas were like, "Oh, okay. Her hair must've grown while she had it braided all that time with that weave."  Yep.

She also grew all of the chemically relaxed parts out, too. This means that now her stylists were straightening her hair with heat only instead of heat and chemicals. And for those who wonder what the advantage of doing one or the other is, I'll quickly tell you that unrelaxed hair is generally "healthier" appearing, softer, and silkier when worn long. But. Get caught in the kind of weather that we had last week (misty-spit-like rain) and you will be reversed 100% back from silkiness to Chaka Khan Chaka Khan. Or more like the Jackson 5, depending upon your curl pattern. Which AGAIN is only an issue if you DON'T prefer to wear your hair in a natural style. (This is where the relaxer has its advantages.)

And lastly, let me answer a question that someone else asked me recently.

"So does Halle Berry go through all of this with her short hair, too? She makes it looks so effortless!"

The answer is most likely no. For two reasons. The first being that she is a multimillionaire with stylists on-demand. Hello? The second being that Ms. Berry's hair is a combination of African-textured and Caucasian-textured. What this usually equates to is naturally curly hair that, depending upon who you ask, can be the very best of both worlds. Not better--just a little easier to move between styles with--that's all I'm saying. Hair like hers is coarse enough to wear in some popular sista-styles yet soft enough to do what most of these things without tremendous amounts of heat or chemicals. Hair like this also returns into soft curls when wet -- not puffy afro-liciousness.

And afro-liciousness is FINE with me if that's the look you intended. But when it isn't, it can be frustrating.

So let's be clear--my hair is NOT like Halle's. No, it is not.

But with the right products and the right process it sure can seem that way.

What I do know is that she definitely has to curl her hair to make it look "red carpet ready."

Believe that.

And so. What was the point of all of this? Hell if I know. I forgot that about four paragraphs ago.


You know I am all about us understanding each other. I really am. And hair is one of the biggest dichotomies ever between my culture and some others. For reals. But, see, I'm here to close that gap. At least a little bit.

Chris Rock tried with his "Good Hair" movie. But he kind of showed some of the uglier sides of sisters and our hair journey. For most of us, it really isn't ugly at all. It's a way we connect. A way we find community and talk about current events. It's a place for therapy and shoulders to cry upon.

And for me? It's memories so rich and so deep that it's hard to even explain them. It's my homegirl Bernetta threading beads onto the ends with tin foil stoppers after double dutching all day. It's my T'Renee telling me to hold my head still while tackling the little bitty "kitchen" hairs in the back of my head with a sizzling hot comb. It's sitting on a stack of phonebooks while my mom rolled my hair with sponge rollers. It's having hair so long-for-a-black-woman that people always accused me of having a weave or being "mixed with something." It's deciding to shear it down to my scalp right before taking a new job at Grady Hospital.

Man. It's so, so much . . . and a lot of my hair experience tells the story of where I'm from.

And for a lot of other women it does, too.

It sure does.

So I guess that's why -- though admirable -- our U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin, has a hard row to hoe when it comes to trying to find a way to get black women to take a more. . .relaxed. . . .approach to their hair. Especially when it comes to exercise--or anything else that will undo a three hour hair-fixing process. She's got her work cut out for her.

Yeah, she does.

But we ain't even mad at her for starting somewhere. . . .

Happy Sunday--wait Monday, now.

Dang, that was a long one. Thanks for staying with it if you did. What y'all got on this?

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . I apologize in advance for putting this in your head.


  1. While we're educating, I did the BC (big chop) to get rid of my permed hair in 2003, not for any philosophical reasons, just because I was bored with my permed hair. In 2008, I started my locs. (Had to teach my mom dreadlocks was not appropriate now that both of her daughters have them!) Both styles were easier to me for working out than the perm. My hair is somewhere between curls up and looks cute when it's wet and super kinky. It plays nice while wet but if I let it dry without doing something to it? HAIRTASTROPHE!! This was pre-locs, of course. Now I run rain (not downpour, mind you b/c that's just crazypants) or shine and my hair gets over it. HALLELUJAH!! The best thing about it! But I LOVE your hair! And I've always said if (but more likely when) I ever go back to a perm, it will be to have a cute short cut. But yes, there are many, MANY people who consider their hair before their fitness. I can't get with that. I'm trying to be a centenarian!

    1. Oh shoot, Jameil! I totally forgot to mention the big relaxer chop! Yeah, this is one of the only ways to get all of the chemically treated hair out--yeah!

      So glad I won't be getting the stink eye for saying "dreadlocks" or "dreads." Ha ha haha.

  2. Jeez. As if being an African American woman isn't hard enough without all of that to deal with.
    I am sort of speechless. I mean, I knew some of this but certainly not all.
    So I have regular white-woman hair and it's "too" long for my age and I wear it up all the time and since I mostly start my day with a walk and I DO sweat, my hair is often wet all day long.
    Not kidding you. I am amazed it doesn't mildew.
    But I don't have a job I have to go to. So it doesn't matter. I wash it regularly and that is that. I haven't blown it dry since the last play I was in. No, actually, it was the play before that.
    It would just never occur to me to be that concerned with my hair.
    But I don't think I'm typical of white women. I think I'm just an old hippie.
    And for all those reasons, I don't think I have the right to comment on an entire other culture of hair styling.
    Thanks for the education, dear Doctor Sister!

    1. Sister Moon, I know you love these kinds of posts, especially since B.B. King is your honorary daddy! And I agree that there is NOTHING typical about you which I love about you!

  3. I will never complain about my hair again. I'm with Ms. Moon, an old hippie with too long hair I do nothing with, but pony tail or headband out of my face. I had a notion of the trouble moisture would cause for the sisters, but no idea of the hours and work and cost involved with the upkeep. I worked with a Caucasian woman with beautiful straight reddish blonde hair, and it was always impeccably straight and slightly curled at the ends. I asked her how she made it look so perfect every day and she said I get up at 4am to wash and blow it out every day. Every day. I don't get up at 4am unless there's a surgical procedure or an airplane to catch. For my hair? Forget about it. I both admired and pitied her. And wondered what her hair looked like naturally, she said a curly mess, but I imagined something magnificent, like the girl in the cartoon Brave. I'll never know.

    By the way, I love your sister's shorter hair. For a minute I thought that was you.

    If only I had a hair related excuse for not exercising. I'm just lazy, walking or stretching are all I'm good for, cuz I sweat buckets just sitting around with hot flashes. But it would be nice to have another reason.

    Thanks for the education. Never a dull moment at your blog!

    1. Mel. . .ha ha ha ha! I never thought about that! It is nice to have a bit of an excuse sometimes. :) I'm so impressed that any of you read this entire (LONG) post. Ha ah ha. Once I got started it was hard to stop.

      Thanks for always hanging out here! :)

    2. Are you kidding? I love hanging out here, and I'm honored to be invited to the party. Your posts don't seem so long because they're interesting and conversational.

      I hope you don't get the sweats and hot flashes, that will totally mess with your sassy/classy hairdo.

      Also I forgot to ask if you saw Willow Smith's new video, I am Me - Angella posted it a while ago. I love that song, it makes me cry, but my point is willow practically shaved her hair off, maybe she got tired of messing with it, or is doing a lot of swimming and exercising. Anyway, I think she looks fierce and proud and brave and amazing.

  4. yet another day of the synapses actually firing after reading your blog (as opposed to the mush of my brain's normal state.) Thanks for the learning. That was intriquing! oh and if you get Julie JM to start a blog, I'll let your kids come to camp Keri for a month after they leave camp papa :)

    1. Awww man. Wouldn't a blog by JJM be awesome? The text messages I receive from her alone could be their own blog. She is quite possibly one of the funniest people I know. I think it's because she's so smart. Smart people who are also funny are the best, don't you think?

  5. So I had to weigh in on this one. I am so glad that the Surgeon General said this because there is truth to her statement. We as black women cannot afford to let the hair issue keep us from working out. It is too important to our mental and physical health. So hopefully people will strike a balance between good workouts and nice looking hair (although it is very much a delimma).

    I work out 6 to 7 days a week (and Kim can vouch for this) and because it is so important to me I also go to the hair salon EVERY week to get my short do chemically straightened in the back(because by day 6 the back is starting to seriously kink). Every 4 to 5 weeks, I get a full perm. One trick I learned is to use a small dollop of molding mud on the back and the sides of my hair right BEFORE a workoout because it helps the sides and back stay straight longer--it helps the sweat roll off. I also get my hair done on Thursdays because my "big" events, or times that I will see my friends, will most likely by Thursdays through Sundays---when my hair still looks pretty fresh, despite heavy workouts. Translation, unless you are a REALLY good friend you will not see me on Wednesday nights. :)

    In any event, this was such a great blog post! Can't wait to see the responses!


    1. Sherrese!!!! You know how EXCITED I am that you chimed in!

      Y'all it is a tie between Julie J-M and Sherrese for being my two most ridiculously FIT sista-friends. I can totally attest to my favorite attorney (Sherrese) working out 7 days per week. Can I please just tell y'all that even when we took vacations together, Sherrese had already hunted down the gym and got it in before we even woke up? Hello?

      But seriously. . . I have always commended you for that, Sherrese, because I also know that you aren't one of the "wash-and-wear/naturally curly" ones but it has never stopped you from working out. I also know that you SWEAT--because I used to want to cry when you made me work out with you during my DC visits. :)

      Love and miss you. Hope the pregnancy is going well.

      (Remind me to tell y'all about how my friend Sherrese had a six pack during 90% of her pregnancy. . . LOL)

  6. Wow. What an education. I love this! (one of the many reasons I love your blog, Dr. M!) I remember in 9th grade health class, the teacher asked me how often I washed my hair (I'm white, it was long, and I actually had hair then) and I said "daily" and all of the sisters in the class were horrified. Then he asked one of the sisters how often she washer her hair, and she said "maybe once a week" and we were astonished. (Of course, now that I am in my late 40's and my hair is falling out like crazy, I don't worry about it anymore. I can be in the shower, and if my head is not constantly under the shower head, my hair will dry. In the shower.) Amazing how hair can be so different on so many people.

    1. Different is what makes us all beautiful, though, isn't it? I love to see the look on my friends' faces when I explain the whole once per week hair washing thing. Ha ha ha.

      Now my friends all understand. When I say I have to leave Grady for "my very important meeting off campus" they all know that's code for getting my hair done! :)

  7. The Surgeon General spoke nothing but the truth. Not only is exercise an issue when it comes to black women and exercising but swimming. Throw a black woman in the pool who had no intention of getting wet and watch a fight break out! lol

    I've been natural for two years now. Before going natural, I rarely excerised because I didn't want to "sweat out my perm". When I was relaxed, I wore my hair long and short. I prefer short styles on me though. Before going natural, my hair was short and I would get a perm every 6 weeks. And between weeks 4-6, I would try to stay away from rain and sweat. Now that I'm natural, I workout at least 4 days out the week. My hair is so much easier to maintain if I want to workout or swim compared to my relaxed hair. If I happen to get my natural hair blown out and straighten, I stay away from the gym. lol

    I swear everytime I see a picture of you and Halle Berry, I want my short style back! I always said if I ever relax again, it will be to rock a short style. I saw a picture of Alonzo Mourning's wife recently. She was natural for years. She use to rock a big curly fro (think Traci Ellis Ross). Beautiful. She recently cut her hair off and permed it. Now she's rocking a short style.

    We can do so much with our hair. I love it!

    1. OMG--love your hair. I think I visited your blog right after you'd gone natural. I was without a perm for over a decade and relaxed it for this short cut. I love the idea of people doing whatever they so choose with their hair! Sisters of all flavors expressing themselves in the way they see fit!

  8. Thank you for the short course in African American Hair 101. OK maybe not so short! I enjoyed the lesson nevertheless. I remember working with a young beautiful black woman who had a different hair style every day or so. I finally worked up the courage to ask her how she did this and she said, "Wigs chile, and I have a LOT of them." So that is another solution to the exercise vs hair choice. However, from my chemo patients, I know wigs are hot and itchy so perhaps that is not a great choice either. Love your hair and your sister's.

    1. Hey Mary Alice! So here's something funny -- in college a friend had this super cute wig that I wore a few times for kicks. It was really fun but quite hot and itchy for sure! But . . . all of this depends on how much we are willing to suffer for a certain look. Kind of like wearing high heels, right? I love me some heels and will suffer in them (depending upon the event. . . .)

    2. I call those kind of shoes, "sit down shoes" because although you CAN walk somewhere in them, you don't WANT to and they look just as cute when you are sitting down.

  9. Awww, thanks for the shout out! When I had my hair pressed I would get it done on a Thursday, work out on Friday & sweat out my roots. I had different ways of keeping it from getting super puffy, but it was never the same after that first good sweat. Once I turned 40 I didn't want to waste my money or my time (not to mention Dez's time pressing my hair!) When I told Dez I was going "all the way" natural, she understood. It's money out of her pocket, but she's okay with it, because she's known me & my hair for 15 years.

    Sidebar: When T'Renee passed away I didn't really cry. I had watched her get sick & weak, and when she finally passed I knew she was at peace. I guess I had cried so much those last few weeks that I had gotten it all out. Maybe 2 or 3 weeks later I was at the beauty shop for my normal appointment. Wash, conditioner, blow dry, press... I had my head down, eyes closed as Dez pressed the back of my hair. Nothing new. As she went on I started feeling pressure in my chest... My eyes welled up with tears, and finally I said, "Wait, wait. Stop!" and proceeded to cry uncontrollably. Dez was scared, of course, and said "What's wrong, JoJo? What's wrong!?!?" I couldn't talk, so Dez just hugged me & let me cry. Within minutes the whole shop (stylists & patrons) was standing around Dez's chair crying, hugging & praying. I was finally able to tell them that my aunt had recently passed away. While Dez was pressing my hair, all I could think about was T'Renee standing behind me pressing my hair like when we were kids. One of the ladies led us all in a prayer, everybody hugged me & the shop went back to business. Moments like that are why I LOVE the beauty shop, and even though I'm natural now, I still go in every 2-3 weeks for a shampoo, because they are like a another family to me.

    You KNOW I love this post!!

    1. JoLai! What a perfect story to punctuate why we love being in the beauty shop so much! We had so many memories tied to T'Renee straightening our hair as children and I can totally see how the memories all came flooding back to you in Dez's chair that day. I love the image of everyone praying over you and supporting you. That is exactly what I would expect to happen at Sakinah's salon. She has wiped many a tear, that's for sure.

      Love you mucho!

  10. You have perfectly summed up the quandry that so many of us as Black women face. I am one of the unfortunates who sweats in my head , and I absolutely love spin class!
    My hair day is saturday afternoon after working out-so I can at minimum look my best that night-the aforementioned spin class is, sadly , on Monday. Hah! Great post!

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

    1. Confession:

      I labored with Isaiah with my satin scarf on my head and a satin pillow case. Mmmm hmmm. Sure did. Sssshhhhh. Don't tell nobody that!

      (The Surgeon Gen would be proud of you for sticking with the spin class. I'm cool on it.)

    2. Now just! regarding the satin pillow case in the labor and delivery suite! I take care of a LOT of pregnant women and not one-not.a.single.partuient. has ever been so ingenious. I LOVE that! You are truly a girl after my own heart...heh!


  11. You know, I thought by being a guy, I could get out of dealing with hair. Just shave it off and I'm good-to-go! But no, I was blessed with a daughter and all the work is on me. But as you have seen in my last post, her hair is braided so I got out of at least 6 weeks of major hair duty. And let me tell you something, it feels so good!

    1. Mark, I LOVED the hair post of your sweet-girl getting her hair braided! I love that you were there taking her picture and how you captured it. I never thought there could be that much love in getting your hair braided but you have proven this to be so! The question is. . . how many pairs of hands were braiding her hair? In Atlanta two braiders could knock that out in an hour--no joke. :)

  12. Loved this blog. I think all of us black girls have some sort of hairstory. I feel that the issue of hair and exercise is a by-product of deeper issues. I remember getting press and curls for a long time until like 9th grade when I begged my mom to allow me to get a perm. But it was for all the wrong reasons. I felt like my hair was "bad." i kept getting perms from then until 2006 when I did the big chop. I feel like I have reconnected with myself and have learned to love all of me. So if I said I want a perm b/c I want another option or just a style preference I'll mean it. And will not be for assimilation purposes. But....I dont think I'll ever get a perm again!! Lol. So to me the issue stems from long-standing messages of not looking like the majority whether our hair is styled or looking the way we want or not b/c we all have bad hair days. Thanks for the blog. I love the discussion.

    1. I was careful to make certain that no one thinks that this means kinky hair is "bad" hair. We all agree that it's just WORK. Ha ha ha. And yes, I think the best message we can put forth is to have open dialogue about all the different versions of beauty. I think this open-book discussion is the kind we should always be having with sisters of all flavors. Thanks for chiming in, my friend! :)

  13. I loved this post. I compliment the black girls I work with all the time their pretty do's--really fancy braided styles that they seem to change all the time. I laugh at myself and tell them that THEY can change their pretty hair, but me, the white girl, is stuck with this short and stick straight stuff that does NOTHING. *sob*. Lucky girls!

    1. My mom has really soft and fairly fine hair that frustrates her. It used to be really afro-licious but now she says it's like "cat hair." Ha ha ha. . .I guess the grass is always greener. . .

  14. Confession: I was relieved that neither of my children had an extra X chormosome for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I have a hard enough time managing my own mane (yes, I get tons of compliments on it when I actually do manage it, and it can be gorgeous, and I do enjoy my hair, but it can be a disaster on its bad days especially if any sort of humidity is involved). Trying to manage hair that is even curlier and even less heat and humidity resistant than mine would probably push me into a nervous breakdown. I have enough traumatic hair-related childhood memories of my own without having to add my kid into the mix. ;)

    As an aside: I hope our lovely Surgeon General is taking some of her own advice as I would love to see her in a smaller uniform. I mean this in the most kind and caring way, without any hint of snark or judgment, there is just nothing positive about carrying extra weight, not a single thing that I can identify.

  15. Yikes, I just realized that my comment may have come across in a way I did not intend. I did not mean to imply or even hint that I would be less than ecstatic and incredibly lucky to have daughters, or that I would love them any less, or that I would not do my best to give them the best of everything (including hair care). My own experiences growing up as a girl have been far, far, and I mean really faaaar from ideal, so the relief was a reaction to that and not because of loving little girls any less than little boys.

    1. No worries, sweet girl! I am right there with you in the GLAD I DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH PONY TAILS/PIG TAILS/ETC. in the morning club! Honey chile, please! God knew what He was doing when he gave me boys!

      My "dang" was for the Surgeon General. She's taken some heat for her weight--they've ripped her up in the media. I know for certain that weight is really, really complicated. I know that there are some women who, if they ate exactly the same food as me and had the exact same amount of physical activity as me, would still weigh thirty pounds more. This I know for sure. So. . . I don't think you were being mean at all. In fact your thought is the same as many have on the subject of her weight. But. I always keep in the back of my mind that weight can be partly from poor choices but also genetics can't be ignored. As the anomalous one in my family, I know it's more than just too many cupcakes--and even when it is, the thing driving the cupcake-eating is hella-complicated, too.

      But. As for having no hair to comb in my house on school days? I'm with you, girl. SCORE!

    2. I am sorry, as I realize I came off far more judgmental than I felt/meant. Weight is complicated. I just want all of us, including the Surgeon General, who is (and rightfully should be) a role model to many of us, not to let ourselves off the hook too fast. We all deserve better health. :)

  16. Alright I'm not even gonna pretend like I get it but let me just tell you that I definitely plan my life around my hair! I promise I'm not lying when I tell you that my hair naturally looks like this ...

    No joke... and I have paid a ton of money to have it chemically, thermally straightened regularly. Even then I still can't let it air dry. haha what a concept!
    So yeah, once I decided that I was gonna start putting my running first, I learned that a bun or a ponytail is my best friend. To make matters worse... since I grew up in an Asian-American community, all of my friends have that stick straight hair and I always felt so hideous next to them. Sad, isn't it? I have a post about this coming up soon actually.

  17. I feel like life's greatest mysteries are being opened and revealed! What fun! The hair thing is obviously fascinated - but so is the hair salon! I know you've posted on this before but I'm still amazed. I rarely get my hair done - every 6 months if I'm lucky. And when I do, there is definitely no group conversation, or group hugs, or group prayers - everyone sitting quietly making polite chitchat with her own stylist. What a different atmosphere. Your story was fun and your sister's beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Having grown up in VERY rural Ohio, my exposure to this cultural facet was nil. (Like, seriously - *I* played an African-American in our high school's production of "Big River." No joke...) Now that I'm living in Africa, I've had a hair education like you wouldn't believe! In fact, one of my favorite cross-cultural days in this country was getting my own hair 'did.' From picking out the mesh in the market, to haggling with vendors over prices, it was already an endeavor. Braiding took place chez-moi, and a village mama (complete with newborn baby strapped to her back) oversaw the effort. We cracked jokes, blared Nigerian pop music (with a little Rihanna and Michael Jackson for American representation), and baked a banana bread on my tiny cookstove. 6-8 hours later (I've got incredibly thick hair and there were breaks for lunch and nursing that baby), I looked like a less-glamorous Bo Derrick.
    While I'm sure the salon experience is certainly different in the States, it's great to see some things are similar. Stories shared, women connecting, and lessons learned. I'm gonna' miss this when I go back to the US and am no longer an obvious guest into that world...

  19. Wow - I came back to read this whole thing because I find the cultural differences in our hair fascinating. And I feel like I gift the whole lesson of it here. I am white with fine straight hair - but as my hairdresser says "a lot of it.". I am the only one in my family with straight hair. My sisters use to irin their hair. My mom gave me a perm when I was 4 as I was so jealous. As you said, the grass is always greener. I never realized how involved the care of hair for African American women is. I always wondered about the water thing. Now thanks to you, I know.

  20. Thanks so much. A really interesting post. I had no idea there was so much difference between your dark curly hair and mine! Rest assured that I will stop taking mine so much for granted (I am Caucasian) and cut back in the griping when mine goes frizzy in humidity. ;) Long time reader and admirer, thanking you for sharing your stories.


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