Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sticks & Stones Can Break My Bones...

...but words can never hurt me.

No...this wasn't going to be a quote from a Rhianna song - sorry to disappoint!

So, the other day, a rather nasty little blog "article" was posted on a junk science site that was claiming to have scientific proof that a particular gender within a particular ethnic group was "scientifically" proven to be considered less attractive than all the other same genders of other ethnic groups in the world. No, I'm not posting the link, because I know junk when I see it. And a scientific article claiming proof with no references to the actual study conducted, the population group queried and so forth is by no means a true scientific article, but an article meant to flame, ignite and piss people off - and all for 15 seconds of fame. The fact that it was created by someone who has a PhD and is also employed by an internationally respected university is equally unfathomable.

Plus, I know when someone's shining me on - so to speak. What scientist posts a "serious article" but fails to provide citable references?! That's rule one of writing any paper whether you're a scientist or a historian. Otherwise, I can go write a paper in the scientific community about how teddy bears are proven to weigh more than the earth...because I polled myself and I thought it sounded "cuddly" enough to believe. This article was nothing more than a grab for attention to probably fund a more ridiculous study to find even more ridiculous results. But I digress, the purpose of this post is the reactions that a lot of people had to the article and the reflection it shows on society at large.

So, on the blog that posted a link to the junk science site (out of outrage - not support) way too many people were replying with comments along the line of "my feelings were really hurt", "I cried when I read this", "this really ruined my day", and "now I'm really depressed". Trust me, I get it! The article was an overdone disrespectful rag that should never have been printed. I found it ridiculous, ignorant and all the negative adjectives that I can think to use to describe it. But ruining my day? Making me cry? Making me depressed? That would make me the EPIC FAIL - even though the author is an EPIC FAIL too.

I guess maybe I already got kicked through the school of hard knocks, but I learned a long time ago to not base my self worth on what others thought of me, but on what I believed myself to be. Seriously, kids can be mean, and I definitely got my share of being told that I wasn't pretty, etc etc. But true confidence and self assuredness comes from within - not from other people telling you what you are. In my opinion, if you're always looking for someone else to confirm that you're pretty, or smart, or whatever - then you're really doing yourself a disservice.

Eventually, in everyone's life, there comes a time where you won't be in agreement with the majority. It could be your viewpoints, it could be because you look different (which was definitely the case with me >_<) or maybe your financial situation in life changes (either up or down) and now you're different from what people consider to be the norm. Not everyone is going to always agree with you or support your choices. So, what are you going to do?! Cry about it? Throw your hands up in frustration and run back to the bed, pull the covers up and call it a day/life?

No. Words and opinions are just that, words and opinions. Only you can give them power by believing them, repeating them to yourself and thereby allowing them to affect your day. And then in that case, said author was are an idiot and less than ideal, because you believed a fool half way around the world rather than the reality that you knew to be the truth.  Maybe I sound harsh, maybe I really did get my ass kicked one too many times (metaphorically speaking) when I was growing up - but I don't wait for other people to define me. I define myself and have no problem emitting the vibe that "this is me, you don't have to like or agree with it, but you do have to respect it". And much like the post I wrote the other week when a commenter mentioned that she purposely filters herself for fear of peer reactions...the reactions to this article equally boggled my mind.

Seriously, I really don't understand how grown people can have their whole day and perspective on life altered by some moron's undocumented comments. "It's not what they call you, it's what you answer to." If you respond with depression, tears and the like to someone calling you ugly, then that means deep down, you kind of agreed with them...and now you're just hurt that someone peeled back the ridiculously thin layer of confidence that you had and exposed your fears to the world.

Which brings me to my final point...society is hypocritical at best and the reactions to this article just highlight that even more. We as a society at large (not just the gender and ethnic group that was singled out in the article) need to do better when it comes to instilling confidence, self awareness and self assuredness in our young people. At least here in the States, we run all these PSA's telling people to be themselves and not cave to peer pressure as it relates to drugs, alcohol and sex. Yet we push homogeny as hard as we can on a conscious and sub conscious level when it comes to being an active member of society, making friends and "fitting in" via media outlets (TV, magazines, music, etc).

You can't have it both ways! You can't say "think for yourself when someone tries to offer you a narcotic, alcoholic beverage or a roll in the hay" but then say "don't stand out too much so that you can make friends and fit in" on the other hand. It's a contradictory message, and if grown people are falling prey to it, how much harder would it be for youth to overcome that struggle?! In short, our general society has a lot of growing and mental reprogramming to do if we're going to eradicate ignorant views while simultaneously instilling confidence in our community.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

Is a good book...and a quick read!

But actually I felt like I was reading the literary version of Family Guy or How I Met Your Mother. You know what I mean...where the storyline randomly spirals off on a tangent that sort of has nothing to do "technically" with the main plot.

So, I had actually watched the movie many many years ago and for some reason, got into a convo about the movie with my boyfriend last week. On a whim when I was in the bookstore (which is often) I bought it (along with The Girl Who Played With Fire...I know I know, I said I wasn't sure if I was going to read it but I got an insider tip that I I bought it). It literally took me two days to read it because it's hilarious and a fast read.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is actually the first in a series of books by Douglas Adams. And it shows, since the first book literally ends abruptly. Will I read the rest? I seriously doubt it. As much as I found it hilarious, it's like "stream of consciousness" on writing. However, I might read them when taking long transcontinental or international flights. :) Seriously, after 6 doesn't matter what cabin class you take...I'm over it & just want to get back on the ground!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shea Butter Baby!

So, I'm late with this post, because I've been using shea butter for about two weeks now...but wow this stuff is the hotness. And I'm not talking about some sweetly scented concoction that you get from The Beauty Shop or Bath & Body Works. I'm talking about the 100% organic...looks like a weird mass of yellow stuff in the generic tub that you have to mix with something else in order to make it into a useful daily hair moisturizer shea butter.

So, a couple of weeks ago (maybe a month at this point) I ordered a one pound tub (calm down that's really not a lot!) of unrefined raw organic Shea butter from eBay. The joke was on me because I paid for shipping for no reason. After buying it online, I went to my local BSS of choice on 32nd street and saw it there for the same price. So, I could have bought it for $8 instead of $15 (to factor in shipping). Anyway...this stuff is awesome.

Once I created my own concoction by adding Aloe Vera gel, Amla Oil, Almond Oil and a bit of turned into an awesome creamy mixture. And literally I only used less than 1/4th of the shea butter and was able to create enough mixture to fill a separate 1lb container like the one it originally came in. There are a ton of youtube vids on making your own shea butter, and it's fairly simple to do!

With this stuff, a little goes a long way. Unlike the other moisturizers that I had been using where it always felt like I wasn't using enough...I can use a tiny bit, emulsify it (rub it between your hands to turn it into a colorless oil) and it really conditions and adds sheen! I was highly surprised. I'm finally FINALLY getting the moisture that I really more dry hair!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I Finally Finished Persuasion!

And it only took me about a year to do it!

Normally I can finish a book within a week to two weeks. Meaning that, during whatever time I'm on the train heading into and out of Manhattan (about 45 minutes each way two to three times a week) I read and any random moments that I have that aren't devoted to work I also read. So, it's a little random when it takes me longer than 2 weeks to finish a book. Persuasion was one of those books.

The funny thing is, it was written by one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen (yes I really do enjoy Jane Austen). But for some reason, Anne, Elizabeth, Captain Wentworth, Mary & Mr. Elliot were just a tad bit dry in the first 50 pages, so I set the book aside. And literally a year later, I finally finished the book. It's a quick read - roughly 270 pages total. And once I finally convinced myself to finish the book, it got pretty juicy.

Is Persuasion a book that everyone will enjoy? Yes, if you love innocent romances - no if you prefer more obvious and less wordy fare. I liked it, but even I have to admit that it isn't exactly excitement from the jump.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Conformity at What Cost?

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."- Dr. Seuss

So,  I'm a huge fan of Curly Nikki - an awesome guide for all curly headed individuals (especially naturals). But Curly Nikki also interjects posts about staying healthy, positive body image and image perception. Today there was a post (which is clickable from my post's title) talking about how black women in particular are perceived through media - especially reality TV. Traditionally, black women are cast in the angry black woman role. You know her, she's the one doing the constant side eye, neck rolling, finger wagging (and/or snapping) and ready to "throw down" at the drop of a dime. In general - usually not a great way to be characterized.

Now, this is not a post about the ills of reality TV. In my opinion, almost no one, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity or socio-economic background will walk away with a positive perception from the general public if you're on a reality show. Reality TV is about extremes, and encouraging people to behave badly just for the all mighty Neilson rating score.  My post is from reading a response of a young woman who said (and I'm paraphrasing) because of her fear of being perceived as having all the negative AA stereotypes, she basically lives her life trying to appeal to the masses. Meaning, she goes into stores and is nervous that someone is following her around - so she doesn't really bother to look through the racks unless she plans on buying something. If she's out with friends and someone laughs too loud she shushes them.

My heart goes out to this young woman because think about how much in life she might be ultimately missing out on because she's constantly concerned with how others will perceive her?!

So my question is: At what point is wanting to be liked or seeking approval interfering with your ability to be yourself? Or, more importantly, why are we focusing on what "everyone" thinks instead of the thoughts of the few who actually will have an impact. 

My explanation is below:

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of people being loud and obnoxious just for the sake of it. Nothing irks me more than being stuck on the NYC subway just after the high schools let out - and being forced to hear students (typically minorities) shrieking and hollering at each other just for the sake of hearing their own voices. That to me is extreme ignorance. No, you don't need to whisper, but you don't need to let the entire train car hear your conversation either.

My point is, there's a point where you have to just "do you" and not spend all your time trying to earn approval from people who, for the most part, won't matter. In my opinion, there are two types of people in this world:

1. Those who have stereotypes and are unwilling to change them - even if confronted with proof that their beliefs are wrong.


2. Those who have stereotypes, but when confronted with proof that those beliefs are wrong, are willing to change or at least reconsider their original beliefs.

Everyone has biases or stereotypes. It's a fact of life, we're reared listening to our parents or relatives making statements which will ultimately shape how we view the world. And it isn't until we finally get to meet people through school that we either confirm or disprove the beliefs that we've been taught. On the flip side, as a minority, I definitely had my head filled with the "you have to always be perfect, always be the best, and always be ready to defend yourself (verbally - not physically)" because as a minority - and especially an AA - people would already assume the worst of me.

Have I met people who automatically assumed I was up to no good just because of my skin tone? Sure, but nine times out of ten, those people were never in a position to threaten my hopes, dreams or goals - so there was no need for me to stress myself trying to please them. Hence, the opening quote from Dr. Seuss - who's books are actually quite profound: Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.

All the people who I wasted time as a youngster worrying about whether or not they liked me (just as a person - not even talking about romantically), or if they thought I was pretty enough or worried about whether they thought I wasn't black enough (since apparently I spoke "like a white girl") are not effecting my career and personal goals today. Yet, all the people I deal with today which is literally an international patchwork quilt - don't give a rat's ass about my background but about my ability to perform and make good on the business claims that I make.

It's nothing for me to deal with people from the US, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, China and Korea (and I'm talking about people actually from the region - not ex-pats) on literally a daily basis. And yes, these people all know that I'm a young African American woman. Never once has it prevented me from making strides professionally. But that's also the difference between the business world and the general public. In the business world, you could probably look like the frog prince (prior to getting his kiss) and people would gladly work with you if you have a strong pitch and positive success rate. And that's also the reason I don't waste my time worrying about what the guy/girl next to me on the subway thinks of me.

So, I made this uber long post to say: I don't believe in wasting time worrying about impressions that you might be creating on people who you don't even know or who will probably have no effect on your life. In my opinion, that's no way to live - and ultimately you'll end up missing out on life because you were creating a self imposed filter when it wasn't even necessary. Anyone who's going to think negatively of you just because you giggled a bit too loudly one day or dared to pull a dress off the rack to get a better look at it - aren't the kind of people that you want to be associating with anyway. I'm a big believer in people getting back what they put out. I walk in confidence, and I speak with a self-assuradness (some would say swagger). I put out a personality of "this is me - take me as I am or keep it moving". I'm positive, polite and respectful - but I will never act apologetic for being young, a woman or African American. And as a result, I almost never find myself dealing with someone who's too small minded to get past their personal opinions about me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Random Musings...The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

So, I finished reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo today and honestly, I'm on the fence about whether I want to read the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a very well written book, definitely kept me hooked and had very believable characters - but I'm not much for dark literature. I like a little mystery and intrigue - and even love a brush up with the wrong side of the law (i.e. fictional stories with mafia backdrops!) but serial killing, depraved behavior and stories that belong on Law & Order SVU aren't really my thing!

I won't get into the details of the plot, but suffice it to say, it takes murder mystery and who-done-it's to a whole new level of craziness. I took the twists and turns that author Stieg Larsson wanted the reader to take...but once it got to the nitty gritty - I was definitely an unwilling participant. But, I can tell why Larsson intended the book to be the beginning of a trilogy.

While all the other characters have traditional character arcs where the individual starts on level 1 and ultimately ends up growing as a person or learns more about themselves through the plot's struggles, the "girl" referenced in the title, Lisbeth Salander, is a character who has minimal growth and movement until the epilogue. At which point, her character which has been emotionally stunted from the jump (someone who's always getting emotionally, physically [and literally in some instances] burned by others whether it's government officials or colleagues), ends up being even more jaded after becoming disillusioned at love.

It almost forces me to believe that if I want to see Lisbeth Salander grow into a complete person rather than a relatively emotionless individual, I'm going to have to read The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest to see if Lisbeth every truly becomes emotionally whole.  The question is if I felt invested enough in part one to take that ride through books two and three to see if Lisbeth Salander ever becomes whole...we shall see!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

So...I Flatironed

Yes...I did it! And what?

I ended up going out last night so I flatironed my hair. But I also rationalized that I wanted to do a length check and it's a little hard to check the length (at least for me) when my hair is in its curly state. So, I did chop off about 4 inches, but my hair is still pretty long. Previously it was mid bust length, now it's about 2 inches below my collar bone.

Although, I jazzed up my straight hair by putting in a few tracks of Kinky Straight which is truly a perfect match to my hair when flatironed (I love length, and I missed the fact that I could have replicated this look entirely on my own - length and all before I cut my hair) and added plaits on the left side...just to create some pop. In total it took me about an hour and a half to flatiron my hair, add in the KS tracks and do the three side plaits.

Will I rock it for long? I give it 'til Tuesday and then I'll probably wash it out. Until then, I'm going to attempt to keep this look without adding any more heat to it. But, the caveat is that I went dancing last night and definitely sweat up a storm. So, my roots are a bit puffy. Thankfully, KS can get that same puffy look it all matches still! ^_^

Edit: I just noticed it but, if you look very closely at the roots on my bangs, you can see the henna hue. it's a very rich dark burgundy color. At first you think it's just the lighting (because this picture was taken with my iPhone4) but it's the actual henna deposit. Compared to the KS which is a jet black shade. The color contrast isn't noticeable in indoor light typically, but in the sun you would notice it.