Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Music Malaise: The Week in Music

Out now, the unappetizing "Video Phone" by Beyonce and Lady Gaga. It'll turn your stomach so bad you'll pass on those Thanksgiving leftovers.

On Twitter (follow me!), my friend Cathy sent me the link to Beyonce and Lady Gaga's latest joint collaboration, the icky "Video Phone". Cathy wrote "I found it disturbing. Keep the younger generation in prayer." After viewing it, I could understand her concern. Not only is the song blaise (B, what's going on with you? Ever since your "B-Day", things have been sliding down hill. It's cool to have a few fun, radio friendly bland songs, but why is everything you've put out lately sound the same?), but the video tries to up the sexy, but winds up slutty. I don't like the male dancers with the camera heads (weird), but having them simulate "snapping pics" of the ladies' crotch areas is gross. And incredibly stupid. The video will unfortunately be admired most by high schoolers, and today's current group of teens do not need to be bombarded by media messages to skank it up in front of recording devices. Sexting isn't cute, and can be illegal. And we all know how well the mix of a camera and nudity turned out for Carrie Prejean.

Rihanna advertises her single "Russian Roulette" with a tat of a gun. Okay, not really. She got this earlier this year for non-promotional reasons. I think.

Another thing I didn't understand (or like) in the video was the brightly colored guns. What's that about? An homage to super soakers? At least Beyonce's and Lady Gaga's guns looked like child's play, especially compared to Rihanna's disturbing turn in "Russian Roulette." In the first single off her latest album "Rated R", Ri Ri lives up to the album's title in the video as she acts out her death- several times over. Oh how times have changed since Rihanna's mentor, Jay-Z, played out his demise in "99 Problems" five years ago and raised quite a few eyebrows. But times, they are a-changing, and the violence that caused a rapper to provide a cautionary preface in a video in '04 is overlooked in '09 when performed by a pop princess. I actually felt sadness watching the video. Why all the gun play? Why the darkness? After having such a tumultous year, why would Rihanna close it out on such a negative note? As unbelievable as it is for me to state this, here's to hoping Rihanna will "Shut Up" and again grab her "Umbrella"- ella,ella.

Not quite sure what state of mind Jay Z was in when he took this picture with the beautiful Ms. Keys.

Speaking of Jay-Z, I just wanted to quickly comment on a line from his chart-topping song "Empire State of Mind" with Alicia Keys. I've liked this song for months-it gives me the urge to jump on the PATH and take a trip to NYC. But, there is one line that irks me: "And Jesus can't save you, life starts when church ends." I do agree with that last part, that life really gets at you when you step foot out of the chapel. It's super easy to praise the Lord when the Worship Team is singing heavenly at the 11am service, but it's a lot harder to keep that praise going throughout the week when your company is facing layoffs and your marriage is crumbling. However, it's not a building we should run to for security, but God: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Psalm 91:1-2. And contrary to Jay-hovah's words, Jehovah's Son can and does save (Matthew 1:21, Acts 15:11, I Peter 3:21). So I'll end my sermon here, and request that you testify, uh er, share your opinions on songs and videos. I'm always very thankful for comments. :-)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What A Tangled Head We Weave

Is this a man-repellent? Give your opinion.

Do all guys hate weaves? I'll admit, I don't do extensions. I only have twice. Once for the prom to add more curls, and the second time while I was on vacation a month after I finished high school. I'm not anti-weave, it's just not my thing. It seems like more work (and money) then it's worth for me. I also have THICK hair, and to add to it, even for more length, is unnecessary. Plus, my husband, who for 99% of the time is not particular about my appearance, has forbid it. Seriously. He detests fake hair. And obviously, so do these guys:

So what's the verdict? Ladies? Gentlemen?

(I first saw the video on a really cool blog called Naturally Famous. Check it out.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

It’s Hard Out Here… With A Limp

This guy thinks he's got it bad? Try having a neuropathy!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have developed a neuropathy. To date, the myriad of doctors I have visited still do not have a clue as to why. They have ruled out a number of diseases, viruses and autoimmune disorders, but still, nada. So, dear readers, I ask that you keep me in prayer.

Recently, someone (maybe on Twitter or Facebook, I don’t know, it’s all one big cyber social for me right now) did a status update that said “It’s hard out here for a pimp”. I immediately thought about Terrence Howard in “Hustle & Flow”, complete with the funky, dried out perm, and the Oscar winning (yeah, that still seems weird to me, too) theme “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” I then quickly thought, “What? Pimps think they have it hard? Try being me for a while!”. Upon reflection, I admit, that is one totally weird thought. But it does make some sense. Let me share with you some of my experiences:

  • While at the orthopedist’s office during my final visit in September, the doctor told me he didn’t believe any of the tests I was undergoing for my neurologist would reveal anything was physically wrong with me. “They can do a EMG, but I don’t think it will show a thing.” I sat, silently for a minute insulted. “This dude doesn’t think anything is wrong with me physically? Ok, so it’s in my head? He thinks I’m nutso?” Hurt, I responded, “Well, it seems no one can find what’s going on with me. I’ve been to so many doctors, and no one knows. I think it’s a lot of educated guessing.” Whoops. Before I could close my mouth, the orthopedist went off on a long speech about doctors not knowing everything, car mechanics and finally, closing with a lecture on why Obama’s healthcare reform will be disastrous and everyone who voted for him will have to deal with the repercussions. I sat, stunned, mouth still agape as the old man stormed (ok, he’s super old, so it was more like shuffled noisily) out of the room. See, if I were a pimp, I could’ve popped the old doc with my shiny, stud-topped cane. He would’ve checked himself quick and know not to insinuate that I’m crazy or that I have an interest in discussing politics instead of my health. But since I’m me, I just picked my jaw off the floor, grabbed my purse and limped out. Come to think of it, that cane would’ve been handy with my limp, too.

  • Pimps are always working hard to keep their pros in line. They’re always looking menacing, yelling and raising their hand as a warning… at least they do this on television and movies. When I think of pimps, it’s usually a mix of Huggy Bear, Ike Turner, Kat Williams and Snoop Dog- which is ironic, since none of those guys were/are actually pimps. But anyway, the Hollywood pimps always have a way to stay in control. Unfortunately, these tactics don’t work for me, since my fight is to stay in control of me. The neuropathy causes my legs, arms and hands to feel simultaneously weak and sore. Sometimes I feel like my lower back is on fire. Sometimes while I’m walking, one of my legs will just give out. I haven’t fallen, thank God, but I sometimes make a crazy “OH NO!” face like I’m going to, causing people to want to come rushing to my aid. Which makes me feel embarrassed. Pimps, by the way, never show they are embarassed. At least the actors who play them don’t. I, on the other hand, have the most obvious Poker Face that could make even Lady Gaga gag. I’ve tried talking to my legs (in my head, not out loud, I’m not nutso!), but they don’t seem to always want to listen. They’ll be good one day, then rebellious the next. How am I to get them in line? The pimp hand will not work in this situation. Mostly because the neuropathy has turned my hand into the limp hand. And my legs do not fear that.

  • Pimps are known for their hair. They keep their jheri curls juiced. They will work a press and curl better than your grandma. If for some reason, like having a hit out on them, they cannot make their weekly hair appointment, someone will come to them. Same with their nails, which for many Hollywood pimps, seem to be as important as their hair. I, on the other hand, am not so connected in the world of beauty. If I can’t make it to the shop because of exhaustion, no one will kindly stop by our apartment to freshen up my mani. I always feel antsy going to the shops now since my legs have a tendency to not just fall asleep, but lapse into comas when I sit for too long without being able to move once in a while. At work this isn’t a problem, I usually get up to go to the fax machine or copier throughout the day. At the shops, no such luck. Since I have no clout and do not tip with twenties, I have to wait for my hair to be washed and rolled just like everyone else. And this sometimes means hours of barely moving. My one upside here, though, is when I’m done, my hair usually has a bounce that could put a pimp’s to shame.

I could go on about how I can’t rock platforms like a 70’s retro pimp, either (especially painful since they are so in this season), but I’ll stop here. You get my point. It is far harder out here with a limp.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter?

You'd be mad, too, if you're mom was coming at you with just Pink Lotion and a comb, telling you it won't hurt- when you both know it will.

Last week, I shared how my often conflicted view of my own hair began in childhood. In talking to my sister over the years, I know it began there for her, too.

My sister Joscelyne, on the left at 10, and me at 12. Yes, it was HUGELY embarrassing that we dressed alike all the way through middle school.

While my parents strictly forbid me to get my hair relaxed, oddly, they dropped the cash for Joscelyne to get her first hit of the creamy crack at the tender age of ten. It turned out to be a huge mistake. My still tomboyish little sis rarely washed her hair and when she did, skipped the conditioner. Within six months, her hair had broken off severely, and she was shipped over to our Grandmother’s to get cornrows. And this was some years after it’s heyday in the late 70’s and 80’s, yet waaaay before Ms. Keys made the look fashionable again in 2000. Jos was miserable.

My crazy little niece, Sophia, posed like she's going to knock me out. She already tries to knock out her 7 year old brother. I think by the time she turns sweet 16, she'll be a real knock out ;-)

When it comes to her one year old daughter, Sophia Grace Marie, she’s going to try hard not to pass that misery on. Misery doesn’t always love company, but sometimes Jos has to watch her words when handling Sophie’s reddish brown, curly ‘fro. “Her hair just looks crazy sometimes! Just sticking up all over her head. And she doesn’t even want to keep barrettes or bands in it. She looks wild,” Jos told me in that exasperated tone shared by many other mothers over time. Funny that our Mom said the same thing about her a couple of decades ago.

One thing Jos won’t be doing to control her baby’s bushy hair: chemicals. And she’s not the only one. Dina, an administrative assistant, and mother of two, told me the same thing. “ No, I would not allow my daughter to relax her hair” she shared, regretting getting her own done as a girl. “I got my first relaxer at age 11. I begged for it. I just started doing my own hair and could not make it do what I wanted. I have very wavy hair and it only wants to go in the direction of the waves.” Unlike my sister, Dina didn’t experience any breakage when her hair was relaxed. She still skips the kiddie perms for her daughter, Aysha, though, and has found a way to make natural work: “I blow dry her hair when I wash it because it is very thick and takes a very, very long time to dry on its own. I use the flat iron on her hair to straighten and curl it for special occasions, such as pictures, Easter and Christmas.”

Dawn with her beautiful daughter Madison, who is also her mini-me. Kudos to Dawn for being the only mom I spoke to who wanted to forward me a picture, lol.

Dawn, mother to nineteen month-old Madison, loves to switch up her look. She prefers wigs, which give her versatility, and allows her own hair to remain chemical-free. As a kid though, she pleaded for a relaxer, despite her mom’s warnings. “My mother was like “NO!” she recalled, “and I think I mainly wanted one because when she did my hair it hurt soooo bad.” If that wasn’t bad enough, Dawn dealt with the flat iron’s menacing forerunner: the hot comb. She remembers it all like it was yesterday: “The hot comb burning me… the tugging and pulling, I had long thick hair…”. Oh, girl, I know the pain. And like you, I grew tired of having my scalp burned by the hot comb. And like you, I traded the burn of heat for the burn of chemicals. But this isn’t my story, so back to Dawn: after relaxing her hair, it “was damaged pretty bad and it was noticeable to ME.” So Dawn kissed Cream of un-Nature goodbye and went back to her roots, growing out the perm. Now when she wants it straight, she gets her long curls roller set, blown out and flat ironed at a Dominican beauty shop. As for Ms. Madi, she keeps it simple. “Being three, four, five or whatever, she is not going to have micro braids or weave- not even a doobie. Maybe when she gets 16 we can talk about it. I think putting all that in her hair so young will damage it and also make [her] look older.” Dawn wants to instill self-pride in her daughter, to love who she is. “She needs to accept her own identity… her hair is not like Caucasian hair.” And that’s okay.

My former neighbor, Monique, mom to four kids, is also trying to instill in her daughter, ten year old Aliyah, self-pride. She’s also trying to deal with her daughter’s long and extremely thick, wavy hair. She’s “debating on a relaxer for Aliyah. She has so-called good hair, but her hair is so thick it hurts when I do her hair. Her whole scalp is sore for days.” She doesn’t like using heat to straighten either: “I do not like them at all. No matter what, that heat has to destroy your hair, especially with abuse,” she explains. When she was a couple of years older than Aliyah is now, she cajoled her parents into allowing her to relax her hair, and experienced damage as a result. She still relaxes her hair, taking time to use special protein conditioners (she also uses them on Aliyah’s hair).

I asked Relona, a mom who balances full-time work with college classes, about perming her daughter's hair. She answered with a simple and resolute “No.” Like the last two ladies, she has relaxed her hair and experienced damage. So what’s the moral? Do as I say, not as I do (Sorry moms, that’s what you’re saying- but it’s OK, we just pass on what our moms taught us). But there’s another lesson here- that maybe, just maybe, relaxers, hot combs, weaves and wigs aside, it might just be best… to keep it natural.

In the next installment of Hair Stories, we look at some of the ladies who do.

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