Friday, February 27, 2009

Maybe I Am My Hair!

My grandma always said, "If you want to know a black woman, you touch her hair." She said that is where we carry everything—all our hopes, our dreams, our pain.

When India Arie's hit song "I Am Not My Hair" first came on the radio - I felt an immediate disconnect. Obviously she hadn't talked to Mama Mae! Didn't Miss Arie know that our hair defined who we are as a black woman!

Or so I had been raised to believe.

But the more I listened to it the more I began to understand what India was trying to say now when the song comes on the radio, like so many sisters I feel a sense of pride and empowerment. How freeing it is to release all that ties us into something as shallow as hair?

We have let it own us, obsess us, name us and claim us. And finally India Arie has made a declaration of liberation that we can shout, believe and bob our nappy, natural, permed, press and curled, locked, or shaved heads to.

I Am Not My Hair!

Yeah, right.

I don't mean to be anti-revolutionary. In some respects we have come a long way when it comes to our hair. Most of us realize how ignorant it sounds to categorize as good or bad. Many of us have discovered that decades of applying chemicals to it can't be a good thing. And for the most part, I think little black girls today have a healthier perception about hair and have lots more natural and healthy acceptable choices than we did when we were kids.

That being said, a lot of hang ups about hair remain in our heads put their by a number of things. Every black woman has had a defining hair experience. We've lost our hair, had horrible hair cuts, or were somehow real or imagined unairly judged by our hair.

And let's face it our days can be completely ruined if our hair ain't right.

Before Michelle Obama won the hearts of almost every sister in America, she HAD to get her hair together. It just wasn't gonna happen until those edges were straight. Condolezza Rice for many years was the most powerful female politcal figure in the country and we coulndn't get past having conversations about that hair.

I'm not going to lie, but sometimes I am my hair. Because when it looks good I feel great and when it doesn't I usually don't. Right or wrong it's important to me. And that's not really a bad thing is it? It doesn't have to be long, cause I will cut my hair in a heartbeat. It's never permed - cause a curly wild style often fits my mood. And sometimes a ponytail is simply all that's going to happen that day. But keeping it clean, healthy and looking nice is a priority.

People who help homleless women have discovered that allowing them to get their hair done is key to boosting their self esteem and their spirit. If you have a little girl, watch how her personality changes when her hair is done.

According to the story that comedian Chris Rock tells at the beginning of "Good Hair," the documentary he produced, co-wrote and narrates that premiered here this week, his young daughter Lola came inside from playing one day and asked him, "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?" That question launched Rock and director Jeff Stilson on a nearly global inquiry into the meaning and history -- not to mention the prodigious financial significance -- of hair in the African-American community.

Before we began to understand and take pride in our natural beauty, girls were teased and taunted if their hair was short, or broken off, or nappy - so much so that it literally destroyed their self worth. We have been compared to a European standard of beauty for so long, that we sometimes let our hair take on a life of its own. And sometimes we let it control our lives.

Even my niece once asked why she couldn't have inherited my type of hair instead of her mother's. It caused my pause because I remember many a time wishing I had my sister's hair - thick and determined to hold a curl while my lightweight hair would give any curling iron a run for its money.

Obviously we haven't come full circle but we're better than we once were. I don't have daughters so the only hair issue with my boys is when I can't find their brush. It leaves a lot of time to concentrate on my own hair and doing what I can to make sure it represents me the way the way I want it to. Because there have been times when a lot was going on that was out of my control and a good hair day gave me the boost I needed.

Unlike the sister in the news whose weave stopped a bullet from penetrating her scalp, I can't say my hair has ever saved my life. But it has made my day a time or two.

Sorry, India.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Work It Out!

Anyone who is a mom with two kids like I am is probably an expert at division. Everything from orange juice to gummy bears to the time spent on a good night hug has to be equal. When it isn't one of my lil soldiers will call me on it and then I've got to make it right. And so as mom I'm proficient at cutting almost anything right down the middle if necessary. As my boys get older the challenge of constant equity becomes harder to achieve. Already, just based on their personalities, their academic abilities and what it takes to bring out the best of them, I can see that at any given time one may need me more than the other one. I come from a family of two girls and my mother used to always say - I love you both just as much but I love you differently because you're two different people.

I can't imagine the difficulties of having boys and girls in the same household. But people I know with "gender mixed homes" have to deal with this early on. are the chores, the time and the love equally divided or is mom putting more responsibility on the daughters and more hugs on the sons. And is dad going easy on the girls and showing tough love to his sons? However it goes in your house you need to ask yourself how it will translate to the work place someday.

Let's start by asking ourselves how our own family dynamics growing up has had an impact on us as employees. The topic comes to mind because in many workplace settings including mine - the women are carrying a much heavier load than the men are. We work harder, longer and are willing to do almost anything asked of us.

Not saying it's wrong just saying that's the way it usually breaks down and trying to figure out why. What are we trying to prove? Whose acceptance are we trying to gain? Who benefits and who gets hurt? A lot I think has to do with our work ethic and that starts at home. If you're parents were hard workers and expected the most from you, whether you're male or female then more than likely you inherited some of those qualities. I know I often thank my daddy for instilling in me such a strong work ethic. He treated work like he was going to the party - don't meet them there, BEAT them there.

But what if you saw your mom and dad both work hard outside the home but also saw your mom come and work hard and take on the food preparation, laundry homework, etc? What if you never heard your mom say no? As a woman would you grow up to believe you could do it all. As a man would you grow up thinking there's nothing you couldn't expect a woman to achieve?

Let me pause and take off my superwoman cape!

I am blessed to be working in a profession that I truly love. I mean a career that I have an absolute love affair with. The upside of that is I can spend hours at the office, in the studio, at home, by the pool, in bed - almost anywhere working or thinking about work and how I can get better and make the things I am responsible for better too.

That upside can also turn quicly into a downside because for me there's no quitting time, no off button, no real clear end of the day. And even if I did want to respect the 8 hour work day - how am I supposed to tell my boss I'm "closed" for the day??? I can hear him now ... "I wish a producer would .... "

But NO downtime???? That can't be good or fair for my family and relationships. And I know that my most of my male counterparts clearly divide what's work time and what isn't...and if they're putting in extra hours they're logging them and being compensated with money, time off or something.

But me????? And by me - I mean women across the globe. Yep, I've become the momentary poster girl for working women worldwide.

So why do it? What's in it for me?

The answer to those questions come easy for me. Satisfaction, gratification, a boost to my self esteem for starters and a lot that has nothing to do with money although, like anyone I would welcome more of it.

But I'd also welcome my bosses saying, "Damn Nikki, you work your behind off and we appreciate it. It really has made a difference." LOL Wishful thinking, huh?

Well I may never hear it but I already know it's true. And if I never hear the words - even after I print this blog out for my boss and show it to him - I will keep working hard at what I love.

And also realize that the hard work I put in on the job doesn't stop there. I'm a hardworking mother, friend, daughter and lover. I don't half-step at anything I do. So while my family and friends may suffer a little because my mind is on work so much they also benefit because I give everything my all.

And while I'm still waiting for the props I deserve at work and in some other areas, (you know what I'm talking about ladies!)my boys thank me every day and that's enough for me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Color Is Your Love?

What color is your love: red hot, moody blue, envy green? Or a color that has no name yet? The color of your love, like the leaves on a tree depends on the season.

One thing for sure is that there's no wrong color as long as it looks good on you.

This comes up because Valentines weekend was rough for a lot of us especially if we were comparing our love to our friends, church members, co-workers etc.

I have many girlfriends who had flowers delivered to their office just to give the appearance of a romantic and thoughtful boyfriend or husband waiting in the wing to fulfill all of their Valentine expectations.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

Having expectations in our culture is expected. We are brought up that way. Having great expectations sounds great however when the expectation is unfulfilled, we bitch, we moan, we become disappointed. And that becomes a problem.

Unfulfilled expectations always cause problems.

For example, if I expect you to love me a certain way and your love doesn't show up that way for me, I will most likely be disappointed.

And this is on a Tuesday!

So imagine how easy it is to get caught up on the one day that we as a universe celebrates love.

For weeks leading to Valentine’s Day we are immersed in all things love. We let advertisers, acquaintances and strangers define what our love is supposed to look like. So even though you or I am content with the love we’re getting we find ourselves questioning that love or putting new and sometimes unrealistic pressure on that love, and for what? So that Hallmark, the Flower delivery industry, the candy biz and restaurant franchises can get richer.

We spend time hating on those who had picture perfect Valentine’s weekends instead of finding the goodness in what we've got at home. A good friend once said to me when I was feeling a little envious about her Valentines Day - "shall I tell you about the Valentines day that he didn't come home at all?"

That was a stark reminder that the color of love reflected in our lives today may have not been so vibrant in a different season. But it was also a hopeful reminder for me and maybe for you that the dull color of my love can and will get brighter. It would be great if me and my girls were in the same season at the same time; that our love life coincided so that we could all be red hot at the same time.

But then again maybe my friend is up when I am down so that she can help me through this time. If we were feeling our lows at the same time we wouldn't be much good to each other. Maybe God put us together so she could have compassion for me and be a living witness that things can and will get better. Lastly maybe the message here is acceptance. To accept the love we're getting, giving and making - whether it looks like someone else's or not.

If we could accept the notion that everyone is doing the best they can, regardless of whether their choices are our choices, our attitude about our relationship would improve and perhaps the relationship we have would become the relationship we enjoy being in.

If my love felt good prior to Valentines Day, why should it hurt the day of? Is it because it doesn't look like someone else's. That isn't fair to him or me.

What does your love look like? What does it feel like? If it looks good on you then maybe it's better than you thought. If it doesn't feel good right now remember that your season will change and when it does remember to remind your sisters who will going through it at that time.

And during a down season, use that extra time to take inventory of what your relationship needs are. When you know what you need, you can express those needs to your partner and be okay with allowing them to love you the way they can love you, you will see a shift in your relationship that goes far beyond what you ever could have imagined!

What color is your love: red hot, moody blue, envy green? Or a color that has no name yet?

Or maybe your love color just needs a little boost … mix it with little more hope, a lot less expectation and work it out!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Love Of Your Own

Is it Valentine’s Day already? It seems like we were just celebrating the birth of 2009 and then the birth of a new and improved nation with the Inauguration of President Barack Obama.

But here we are on February 14th and if you’re a mom or dad with young children (like me) you probably spent some time this week wading through the aisles of Target or Walmart picking out just the right Valentine’s Day cards and candy that will be handed out in school. Now, the rule is to bring a card for every student. Most teachers even send home a list of every child’s name in the class to ensure that no one is left out. Everything is fair and balanced lest some little boy or girl end up on a psychiatrist’s couch with tales of low self esteem and lack of self love.

If only real grown up love was so fair and balanced. But in a grown up love relationship, you know that you can give a lot and get nothing in return. You can give nothing and be overwhelmed by the attention and generosity of someone who won’t go away. Real grown up love comes in different shapes, colors, flavors and levels of intensity. There are no rules for real grown up love. No instructions, No guarantees. And a lot of times it leaves us feeling empty or less than worthy. And real love does not discriminate. It’s not just the regular folks that deal with issues of the heart.

In the past few weeks some high profile, grown up love got almost everyone’s attention.

Erykah Badu gave birth this month to a baby girl named Mars. It is Erykah’s third child and they each have different fathers. If Erykah was a co-worker in the mail department most people would call her ghetto. But I spoke to a woman yesterday who said it might be better for Erykah to have babies with different men that she really loves than to stay in a bad relationship with one man and have several babies. She said that maybe the children will be spared the pain of divorce or the angst of living in a house where mommy and daddy are fighting every day. Maybe Erykah’s love for children surpasses her desire to be involved in a traditional relationship with one man. Or maybe she doesn’t love herself enough to wait for the person she deserves. Who knows but it’s something to think about?

Next up: Through the miracle of medical science mixed with irresponsibility and mental illness, a woman who claimed to have big love for children gave birth to octuplets. What started out as an amazing story quickly turned into a train wreck most of us couldn’t stop watching. Through artificial insemination she’d already had six other children bringing the grand total to 14. It easy to throw out the word crazy when looking at all this woman went through to fill her home with children, but it’s deeper than that. Her mother says was a lonely child so in some twisted way may have thought that house full of children would fulfill her emptiness. And though the majority of us would not go to that extreme, I would dare say that at one time or another all of us have tried to use something to fill an empty space in our lives our are hearts…money, food, drugs, sex,

Then finally, in a matter of days Chris Brown and Rihanna went from being one of Hollywood’s hottest celebrity couples to the poster children for domestic abuse. Whether you believe the rumors or not – parents had a lot of explaining to do. Tweeners who follow them got a crash course in words like herpes and assault and battery. Conversations were had all across the country about safe sex and safer love; explaining that physical, mental or verbal abuse never add up and that abuse cancels out love in every equation.

It’s no secret that love can show up hand in hand with craziness, irresponsibility, unhealthiness, and violence. I guess it is particularly interesting that we think that love should be some great struggle. That if we fight hard enough to keep it, love will never stray.

But when you place all of your love chips on someone else - there are no guarantees. There is no guarantee that at the end of the day, after all of the work you have done, you are either going to get a partner, have a relationship, or save the relationship you are in.

The only guarantee comes when you invest the time and energy into making sure that you are a receptacle ready to give and receive love with out conditions and strings.

You cannot move toward finding and loving yourself, just for the sake of finding and loving someone else. You must do it for the sake of doing it. You must love, honor, and respect you for the sake of it - no strings or conditions attached. There should be no fine print.

It is when you are now ready to be with yourself rather than by yourself that you understand the true, full experience of love. It is then that you are ready to extend that love to someone else. It is then that you can write your own love story, instead of subscribe to someone else’s. How cool is that?

So whether today you are loving on yourself, someone else or have multiple Valentines like myself - again I say, Happy Valentine’s Day!

PS. Multiple Valentines = two little boys named Tyler and Willis. Get your mind out of the gutter! LOL