Hair Apparent?

I woke up this morning hating my hair.

That was after I stayed up until 3 AM looking at length check videos on YouTube, crying. Yes, crying.

My hair and I have had skirmishes, battles and wars over the past three decades.As I struggle with trying to be natural (meaning my hair is free of any chemically-altering product), I cannot seem to find a style or a state that both my hair and I can be happy with. I’ve always had thick hair. But I have had trouble trying to achieve a decent length. To me, length + thickness = happiness. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve done it before at least once in my life.

Until November 2009 I was on the creamy crack, getting my hair relaxed every four to six weeks. Not only was this habit expensive (as is any drug habit), it was frustrating. I have very thick, coarse, coily hair (classified as Type 4 by natural hair care experts). My hair tends to grow fast (except for when I want it to…like now), so after a month I had enough new growth to require a touch-up. Any reputable cosmetologist would advise against getting a touch-up within the four-week window. The chemicals applied to the hair and scalp are potent enough to burn and cause injury, so why anyone would subject themselves to that on a frequent basis is beyond me. I say that now because I was blind, but now I see.

Me and my long hair in May 2008.

I used to call my hairstylist du jour every month like clockwork looking for a fix. Most times, the hairstylist would oblige and give me a touch-up. Some of the slick, savvy ones would coax me into letting them do a really good press-out of my roots. But there was one who wouldn’t let me have my way: Charles.

Of all the stylists I’ve ever had in my adult life (and trust, there are many), Charles ranks up there in my Top 2. Give him a hair dryer, a paddle brush, and a flat iron and he could do anything, up to and including solving crimes, balancing budgets, and most importantly, making me look fabulous. I would call Charles every month religiously asking for a touch-up appointment, and he would remind me every time, “You don’t need a touch-up as often as you think. You can get a blow-out, but not a touch-up.” Even when I whined and told him my head hurt because of all the new growth, he stood his ground with me, “No touch-up, Kim. None.”

It took a few years for me to realize what Charles was telling me was the gospel truth. But I still couldn’t divorce myself from the notion of needing a relaxer in my hair. At the time, my hair hadn’t been in its natural state since I was in the second or third grade. I had kiddie perms when I was younger, and even yes, the dreaded Jheri Curl. It seemed that my hair behaved better when it had chemicals in it. It would lay straight or hold a curl, or on occasion, bounce and behave.

In my sophomore year of college I discovered the wonder of fake hair. For $9.99 I could get a clip-on or a drawstring ponytail, and for another $2 I could get a jar of hair gel to slick my hair back. I rocked a fake pony for most of the school year, washing and slicking it down every week. During that time I found that I didn’t need to relax my hair as much. That spring after the weather broke, I grew tired of the clip-and-go look. I relaxed and washed my hair one day only to discover that I had shoulder-length hair! You couldn’t tell me anything. That’s when I started showing off, curling it, pinning it up, trying to be cute. And my hair, like a hostage desperate to escape, broke off strand by strand and jumped ship. Pretty soon, I looked like the before picture in those Dr. Miracle ads.

Two years ago when I was planning my wedding, I wanted to have long, luscious, Rapunzel-esque hair on my big day.  As every bridezilla would do, I brought my stylist du jour, Kia, a picture of the exact updo I wanted. Kia didn’t like it. At the time I couldn’t figure you why she was so resistant. But the day before my wedding, I realized she couldn’t do an updo to save her life. She created some crazy-looking geometric sculpture that was bogged down with enough hair pins to short circuit the metal detector at the airport. At my rehearsal dinner, my little sister and maid of honor Shani, said she couldn’t take it anymore and started trying to dismantle the Leaning Tower of Weave-za. My cousin Bridget aided in this heroic effort. They knew what the hairstyle needed to look like and tried their best to restyle it. Shani got my old beautician, Dawn, on the phone at 10 p.m. that night and explained the situation. Dawn told Shani to get me to the salon at 6 a.m. the next morning to redo my hair. She created the hairstyle I envisioned without even looking at the picture in my bridezilla binder. Dawn is simply gifted. She reused tracks from the Leaning Tower of Weave-za and with a lot less bobby pins, made me look beautiful. (Dawn is my other Top 2 hairstylist).

Photo Credit: Rodney Cool, Aesthetic Life Studio

I haven’t had a touch-up since.

Since then, I’ve been terribly disappointed by the lack of hair growth when I’ve worn my hair out. I expected to have at least chin-length hair. Instead, it’s probably about the same length as it was when I stopped getting relaxers. (Before you even ask, yes, Virginia, I do trim my ends. )I had been trying to reason with my hair and take better care of it, but it chants on top of my head incessantly, “Hell no, we won’t grow!” All I want is enough hair to rock a decent-sized curly Afro, or to wear a bob if I choose to press it out or blow it out every now and then. Instead, my coarse and coily hair continues to rebel.

Fast forward to last night. I was contemplating my next hair move, and so I did what any tech-savvy black girl would do, I went to YouTube. I started searching for “length check, two years” as I felt that would give me a good gauge of where my hair could/should/would be. Big mistake! I watched video after video of natural sistahs stretching their curly tresses down to their chins, to their shoulders and backs. I started crying, “why won’t my hair grow like that?” I felt like such a failure.

The other day my hair said to me, “Girl, you gotta get these twists off of us. They’re getting on our nerves!”

That’s the first thing in a long time that we’ve agreed upon.

What Brand of Crack Are People Smoking?

I’ve tried keeping my blog on the up-and-up with perspectives on the writing life and such (the such is supposed to be my breakfast-food-loving slant, but those posts have been in the making for a while). I’m trying to keep it light and positive, motivating fellow writers and encouraging others to find and harness their creative energies.

But in the past week, my patience has been tried. Really tried. I don’t know what brand of crack some people are smoking, but some of the things people have said and done to me in recent weeks have left me very irritated.

I try to be a very giving and supportive person. If someone asks me (nicely) to do something to help them out, within reason, I’m going to do whatever I can. I’m not one to hoard information or advice; if I come across something that would be of benefit to anyone in my network, I’m more than willing to share.

But there are those who have pushed me to limits beyond what a normal person can take. If you are a rude, arrogant, impetuous, demanding, ungrateful idiot with a bloated sense of entitlement, then stop reading now unless you want to get your feelings hurt. Click another tab on the menu bar, or the big ‘X’ at the top of the screen and have a nice day.

Now that they’re gone, I can tell you how I really feel.

I got a text message the other day from a college classmate with whom I had lost touch. They live in another town, and I’ve only seen them on rare occasion since we left college. So imagine my shock and annoyance upon receiving this seemingly random text message: “I’m looking for a job in the Chicago area. If you know of any jobs or leads in the area, hit me up.” That’s a WTF moment if I’ve ever seen one. Now don’t get me wrong, in this economic climate, desperate times call for desperate measures. But that does not preclude the need for basic communication etiquette. A simple “Hello” or “Hi” prefacing the message would have, perhaps, made me more open to responding. Instead…

A day before that went down, I got a phone call from an acquaintance. “What are you doing on say, next Tuesday?” I knew this was a setup. And I knew I not to make myself available. Usually I hear from this acquaintance when they have an emergency or an alleged dire need. I would much rather the person had started off the convo stating what they needed rather than trying to work me into a corner. Instead, they’ve established a pattern with me, and thus have set themselves up. Every good and working Caller ID is a gift from the Lord.

The other day, an email showed up in my inbox. But not just any email. It was an “Urgent, Call Me ASAP” email with an all-caps subject line. Obviously the sender didn’t trust that the word ‘urgent’ would ring true enough on its own merit and thought it needed to be shouted. I figured the person didn’t have seriously urgent life-or-death news, for if they did, they would have called me. And so I responded accordingly: “When you decide to tell me what is so urgent, then call me at 777-9311.” (Just kidding about the phone number. I couldn’t resist.) The person called to ask for my urgent assistance with their latest urgent pipe dream. (I should note here this person is notorious for their get-rich-quick schemes.) Now this person wants to write a book on “successful career planning during a recession”. I know what you’re thinking: “Duh, Kim. They asked you to help because you’re a writer.” True. Also, I have a 9-to-5 job…something the pipe-dreamer seems to be allergic to. I’m still trying to figure out how or why they’d feel qualified enough to write or co-write a book about the job market.

Which leads me to the last offender. Before I get to them, let me give you a little backstory. Years ago when I was laid off and looking for work, a dear friend of mine asked me to send her my resume. I presumed she was going to forward it on to colleagues and associates. A few hours later, she emailed me back and told me she revamped my resume. Revamped wasn’t even the word. She rewrote it and redesigned it in such a way that I was rendered speechless. I was humbled and grateful; my eyes welled with tears as I called her to thank her. Not only did she give my resume a total rehaul, she took the time to explain to me what she did and why. For her time and her energy, I thought it only fair to offer her payment for what she did. She refused and said, “You can pay me back by paying it forward. Use what I just showed you to help someone else.” I’ve been rewriting others’ resumes since then.

Fast forward a few years. A former colleague was out of work and reached out to me for job leads. Of course, I took a look at her resume, rewrote it and sent her some job listings, a few of which were affiliated with my job. What she did after that left me speechless. She called not to thank me, but to ask me if I had applied for those jobs for her. She didn’t ask if I had referred her resume to a recruiter; she wanted to know if I logged into the job application system and went through the process of applying for these jobs (plural) for her. Talk about unmitigated gall! What is with wrong with people?

Now my phone’s ringing. Again. And I don’t like what I’m seeing on the Caller ID. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Ain’t Much Real With These Housewives

RHOA, we have a problem.

This is a post I’ve been wanting not to write, but I could resist the urge no longer. It goes against the very purpose of my blog, which is to be a place of inspiration for writers and breakfast food lovers. There isn’t anything writerly about reality TV. Besides, there are enough blogs out there that focus on reality TV. In any event, I’m suspending my writerly posts for this very special announcement.

I watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta on Bravo faithfully. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Until recently, I was free-flowing with my RHOA commentary on Twitter. In fact, some of my wittiest tweets were borne out of some of the more ludicrous scenes on RHOA, Celebrity Apprentice and Top Chef (pea purée, anyone?).

I’ve long subscribed to the theory that reality TV is not totally 100% real. If anything, I think it’s 10% reality and 90% ratcheted-up drama. Let’s admit it. Most moments in our everyday lives are not TV-worthy. We wake up, send children off to school, drink coffee, sit through boring meetings at work. We eat. We tweet. We watch TV, talk on the phone, watch the caller ID. We go to the bank, the cleaners, the grocery store. We drive. We walk. Laugh. Cry. Yawn. Sleep. And then we get up the next day and do it all over again. Of course, there are moments that are sprinkled in those monotony of the day that are so incredible, drama-filled, or humorous that they would make for great TV. So to think that every week for eight or twelve or however many weeks that a Housewives season lasts, that there are so many of these incredible TV-worthy moments to fill an entire season. I’m sure there is a team of producers behind-the-scenes who look at these women’s lives and ratchet up the drama enough to make us want to tune in. I mean, who really would want to see one Housewife at a social event when you could actually watch all the Housewives at the same event bickering, shouting, cursing and shoving? Stuff like that is a ratings goldmine.

Watching this week’s special RHOA episode “Law By Sheree”, I was so irritated that I was talking back to the TV. For those of you not caught up on the latest RHOA drama, housewife (rather divorcee Sheree Whitfield) recently decided to take her ex-husband – former pro-footballer Bob Whitfield – to court for failing to pay child support. Leading up to the court date, we’ve seen Sheree driving fancy cars, carrying expensive designer bags, and sporting impeccable fashions. Her children, meanwhile, are sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of their Atlanta apartment. (The apartment arrangement are temporary, I presume, as Sheree has been seen on-camera talking to her contractor about plans for her Chateau Sheree…more on that later.) I can’t help but find it interesting that Sheree, who says in the RHOA open that “I like things that are elegant and sophisticated” just like me”, would be in such a predicament.

Intrigued about the Bravo producers’ fixation on this court case drama, I did a little digging for the real deal. Perusing the ATL blogs, I found a different account. It wasn’t Sheree that took Bob to court; he took her to court! (And for the record, Sheree’s attorney of record at the time of the hearing was not the one & only Phaedra Parks.)

What the ham sammich is wrong with people?

If you watch the show closely, you cannot believe everything that you see. Most of this foolishness is staged. Orchestrated. Choreographed. If you watched Tuesday’s ep of RHOA and believed that Sheree was the innocent lamb going up against Bob, the big, bad, evil ex-husband, then you need to change the brand of crack that you’re smoking. The Atlanta blogs (written by bloggers with a different insight into the RHOA ladies’ personal lives) paint a much different picture than the one that unfolded on the screen last night. Chances are, Bob really isn’t the deadbeat that Sheree has made him out to be. But Bob as a good father wouldn’t make for good TV. There has to be drama, conflict, tension, tears. What better way to show that than through court proceedings?

Yeah, so I know what you’re saying, if you have such a problem with RHOA, then why do you watch? You have your guilty pleasures, so let me have mine, okay?

Ennnnnnnd scene…

Sweets & Tweets at the National Aquarium

Last week, I was invited to a Tweetup via Twitter by the fine folks at the National Aquarium (@NatlAquarium on Twitter). They were hosting a preview of Polar Express 4D, and had invited a group of tweeps from in and around Baltimore to the event.

I was honored and delighted to have been invited. But being that I had just had surgery, I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to the adventure.  My husband assured me as long as I took it easy, it would be fine. (He’s always right. Well, maybe almost always. But in this case, he was right.)

So Wednesday evening, we drove down to the Aquarium, and I was delighted to see downtown Baltimore spruced up for the holidays. Upon arriving at the entrance, we were greeted by Aquarium staffers and the conductor of the Polar Express!

We were directed up to the Polar Express Lounge where the air was abuzz with excited children, the aroma of fresh-baked cookies, and hot chocolate! Of the many, many times I have been to the Aquarium, I have never been there late enough to enjoy the night views of the Inner Harbor. Stunning!

And then, the pièce de résistance: the movie preview. We were ushered (mugs of hot chocolate and 3D glasses in hand) into the Aquarium’s 4D Immersion Theater for the experience. We were advised to put our mugs on the floor, because we were in for a bumpy ride. And bumpy it was. Not only that, it was cold, windy and snowy at times. It made for an incredibly rich experience.

I was delighted to meet one of my Twitter idols, @CharmCityMa, in person after the viewing. She is one of the most fabulous, wittiest mom-divas on Twitter, and the fact that she reps Charm City is an added plus!

At the end of the evening, we were delighted to catch a glimpse the Power Plant Holiday Light Show. Take a peek here:

A perfect holiday ending to a perfect holiday evening!

The Anatomy of Inspiration

This is a case of art inspiring art.

I know I’m on the tail-end of the Jay-Z/Kanye “Otis” rage. The song has been blaring through car speakers, stereo speakers and MP3 devices for the past few months. At my cousin’s wedding reception back in September, the DJ cued up “Otis” and the crowd went lost their minds.All the young people flocked to the dance floor, moving their bodies to the infectious, driving rhythm of the song. Meanwhile, the older folks sat on the sidelines listening a familiar voice from their past crooning and then being looped while Kanye and Jay-Z rapped at a rapid-fire pace.

In a case of old meets new, the younger generation got introduced to Otis Redding, the soul legend probably best known for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” who died too soon. The older generation, on the other hand, already knew of Kanye and Jay-Z, both provocative, multi-award winning artists that can be seen or heard on any channel of the TV or radio any given hour of the day.

What comes first? The inspiration or the inspiration? I’m always intrigued by what inspires artists to create their art. In music, I appreciate inventive uses of samples, and in this case, I love what Jay-Z and Kanye did with “Try A Little Tenderness.” Kanye took the driving part of the hook and let it go until Redding got into a guttural groove and then looped it. I thought it was brilliant.

There was a video clip of the audio of the song (that has since been removed from YouTube). The comments from posters were rather interesting, if you ask me. (Please note, the time stamps in the comments below probably do not match up with the video that’s posted above. But you get the gist of what they’re saying.)

  • “2:00 is where Kayne found his treasure……..he took a chunk.
  • 3:263:29 is where the magic happens…..he looped the Hell out of that!
  • Shout out to Def Jam for sending Otis peoples (sic) that Royalty Check!” – BrainFood

Art has been inspiring art for as long as man has been creating. I took a class in grad school examining the history of the short story. It was interesting to learn who inspired whom. We spent much of the semester deconstructing some of early short stories of E.T.A. Hoffman, Heinrich von Kleist, Alexander Pushkin, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant and others. We looked at the progression of the short story form and how one author was influenced by a predecessor and so on and so on. Then we were challenged to write pastiches, allowing ourselves to be inspired by one of the many classic short stories we read in class. My most successful pastiche in the class was inspired by Guy de Maupassant’s “Madame Tellier’s Establishment.” I used the framework and some techniques from de Maupassant’s work to create a story that could stand on its own. Some who have read it suggest I should enter it in a literary contest of some sort. I just might do that one of these days.

Who or what has inspired you lately?

poem: the strongest of bodies

the strongest of bodies

i am a river

always moving

ever changing

my waters flow

through dry lands

spawning new growth

Iin desolate places

i am a river

pushing onward

in my own direction

finding another part

of me in each new place

you may try to catch me,

block me, stop me

even capture just

a handful of me


you will never

be able to take

all of me

©  Kimberly Williams Shorter, 1996.