My Flowing Locks

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Mommy, mommy my hair can reach my butt!!
I was so attached
All around me girls complained that their hair wouldn’t work for them
It wouldn’t sit down
It wouldn’t grow long enough
It would not be TAMED!!!!!
But I never had that problem
Why would I want to tame something that is better unleashed?
My locks are beautiful just the way they are
My mother would wash and grease my hair and let me go
My siblings and I would use our locks to tangle each other up or play fight
My hair tells my story
You can totally notice my obsessive years when I needed to twist them every two weeks
Or the years that I was stressed and my hair thinned
It holds my strength.
The difference is clear when I have it braided in corn-rows.
Or when I have it all tied back in a sophisticated bun,
Or when I curl it just for fun,
Or when I have it all down and it is easy to confuse it with a lion’s mane
But not everyone sees this beauty
In fact they sully it with ignorance and false accusations
“How can you keep it clean?” they ask
Does your hair itch they wonder
Or more bluntly, “Eww!”
It doesn’t matter how clean my locks are or how neat they look
People will just hold onto fallacies
The logical approach is the road less taken
Of course I wash my hair
Why the hell would I keep it dirty?
It does not make sense, nor does it sound pleasant to walk around with dirty hair
If you must know:
It takes me an hour to wash my hair,
An hour to twist the roots,
And an hour to dry under high heat
To style my hair takes between thirty minutes to an hour if I choose to style it
I spray my hair with water and lavender each day to lock in the moister and for perfume
I also sleep with a satin cap to keep it soft and to keep out lent
Just in case you wanted to know.
But why must I explain myself???
This is just the way my hair works
This is the way I like it
This is what makes me happy
It may sound like a lot
Its maintenance is not simple
But I cannot put my hair in a ponytail and just go
This is my lot
And I am fine with it
In fact I love it
My hair dates back to the Kenyans during the Mau Mau rebellion
Or more recently
The Rastafarian Movement
My hair can be a political statement if it chooses
But mostly, it’s just my hair
Not looking for a battle
But ready to take a stance if it is challenged
It may come in the form of stares from an elderly woman in Brook’s Brothers
Or my cousin giving me attitude when I have to go to a special beauty salon with a locktician
But my locks are here to stay
They have been with me since I was nine years old
They serve as a pillow on planes
And as a blanket when I am cold
As a link between me and my fellow Rastafarians
Or they attract nice hellos from people who think that they are simply awesome
Or a shout of “Right On” at a Damien Marley concert
It may attract the hand of a little girl who is dying to know what they feel like
Or the sometimes gentle tug of a baby who is into grasping whatever is near
I love my locks
It puts a smile on my face just thinking of them!

La’Shaye E.


It’s Not that Simple

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Whatever you want it to be
Short /long
Curly/straight or wavy
Brunette, black, blonde, burgundy
Or grey!

However you want to wear it
Worn up, pinned down
Thrown in a ponytail
Shirley Temple Curls
Tucked behind your ear
Twists or braids
French rolled or French braided

Make it your own
You can put a flower in it
Flip it like Farah Faucet
Throw a hat on
Pippy long stocking pig-tails
Dredlocks or dreds
Relaxed or permanently curled
One long braid down your back
Highlights, streaks
Dyes and rinses
Some color on the ends

How you take care of it
Your favorite headband
Bing bongs, clips, bows and barrettes
Haircuts, dreadful scissors clippers, and trims
The perfect shampoo and conditioner made specifically for you
Gel, oil, and spray

On your head, arms, legs and lip!!
Sometimes unmanageable
Capable of having its own bad day
Blow dry/ air dry
Rollers, hot curlers and flat irons
Shedding, breakage
In the sink, clogged drains
Inescapable dust bowls and tumble weeds

Never moist enough, but sometimes just as soft as you need it to be
Keeping it in tact: wraps, scarves, and bonnets
The memories…
“In middle school it was THIS long” (pointing to some random length on your body)
Arching, tweezing, threading and wax
Time consuming, back-breaking and tiring
But personal, all your own, important to you and just how you like it.
It may just be hair, but it’s not that simple.

Davia S.

My Hair Down There

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment


When I was eleven, I got my first pubic hair. This was more than a hair. It was a symbol of my clock beginning to tick, my womb growing and expanding in expectation of my biological destiny. This hair was… my child.
Here is an excerpt from my journal at that time:
June 21, 2001
My Viking, a braid
tumbling from within
warrior princess

explosion, Pompeii
dark ash covers everything
pregnant with lava

puberty, politics,
the bloody offensive
tides changing, no warning

*The verse is imperfect, but the sentiments are real.


•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment


I am 4 or 5 years old, staring in the bathroom mirror. In the reflection, I see Dad carefully combing my hair and cutting off the ends. It will be short again–practical for playing in the dirt outside or wrestling with my brother.

I am 7 or 8 years old, staring in the bathroom mirror. In the reflection, I see Dad carefully combing my hair and cutting off the ends. It’s longer now. Long enough to tie into pigtails, but still short enough to stay out of the way.

Middle School: I’ve started playing club soccer now. We drive hours every weekend to meet up with another team across the state. We always warm up and stretch before the game, but there is another ritual that happens before we even get in the car to go to the game; French braiding. I don’t like getting my hair yanked on, but a tight braid, close against the scalp is worth the pain. It’s all about practicality; I wouldn’t want hair getting in my face during a game.

I’m 16 years old, staring in the bathroom mirror. In the reflection I see Dad carefully combing my hair and cutting off the ends. For a brief time, I had thought I was “too old” to be getting haircuts from my dad. Everyone else was getting their hair cut and styled by a professional. I followed suit and got my hair cut in layers. How frustrating to have wisps of hair flying in my face, even when I tied it back! Bobby pins were always a possibility–but was that really practical? No, it was back to home-style haircuts. Dad knew what was sensible.

I’ve taken to braiding my hair in two long braids. It began as a pre-Cross Country race ritual, but has extended into everyday life. It makes me look several years younger than I am–not really the look I’m going for, but never a nuisance. Once in braids, it can stay there for days, like on a backpacking trip.

It’s nearly gone. My head feels off balance after cutting off 12 inches for Locks for Love. I should be filled with a feeling of doing something good, but I mostly see how I look to be about 12 years old. I hope my hair grows fast.

I am 19 years old. I’m home for the summer, working at a youth summer program. I’ve been playing Simon Says in the morning before our program starts. “Whew! It’s hot in here,” I say. “My hair is like a thick blanket. It might be too hot for summer weather.” “Can we cut it? Please, can we cut it?!!” the kids around me beg. It is only hair, I suppose. It’ll grow back eventually. Besides, when else is someone going to let them cut hair? I sit down on a stool and allow them to snip away.

It’s another day of work at the summer program. The kids are eating morning snack, and I’m telling a story about growing up in the same valley as them. One kid asks, “How old are you now?” I tell them–19–and gasps of disbelief emit from the group. “Well, how old did you think I was?” I ask. A variety of explanations are provided, but one girl announces matter-of-factly, “I thought you had to be at least older than 22 because you don’t do your hair all fancy. You know, when people get older, they don’t really care about that kind of stuff.” In her view, it’s not until after college that we stop caring about how fancy our hair is and start keeping it simple and practical.
I guess my sense of caring more about practicality rather than appearance set in early. About 19 years early. Chances are, the next time I need a haircut, I’ll find myself waiting until I go home. I will stare into the bathroom mirror. In the reflection, I will see Dad carefully combing my hair and snipping off the ends.

Crown of His Glory

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Put your fingers in it
Roll around on the tips
Of follicles that surmount
Tens and thousands
Of naysayers
Haters and anybody else who stands around
See these strands stand proud
To strong to fall down
To thick to be horizontal
So they continue to heaven bound
With kinks, curls, and waves
Fulfilling the destiny of my crown
See … I took a journey
Back to a Me that I didn’t remember and somehow just met
A Me that thinks twice before words that she’ll later regret
A Me that takes seriously the ingredients
In the sentiment
Of my self imagined presence
As I grow purposefully into
A new creature that
Values her self presently
But prepares seriously for her future
And loving Me in all of my unique beauty
And masterpieces
Fearfully made,
Yes I am a masterpiece
Sculpted from the Master’s pieces
The resolution to the thesis
The answer to the question
I’m the kindly offered suggestion
The spicy food that’s too hot that gives you indigestion
I’m that itch in your back
That you can’t seem to scratch
I’m the teleological map back to the origin of the path
I’m that girl
That silence in your room at night that fills your thoughts
I am the haves, the will-haves, the won’t haves, and have-nots
I am the epiphany, the trilogy
The notes to the symphony,
The pieces to the puzzles,
The reflection of the trinity,
Inheritance of plenty; I didn’t come into money.
But wisdom, patience, confidence and serenity
Growing from my roots as if a part of my testimony
So I am too real to be captured by what you think you see
This is my story.
See I took a journey
Back to a new Me
And I’m lovin’ these kinks
Because they changed my consciousness of myself
And every thought that I think
So for those of you who still think its “just hair”
Go back to line one. Rinse and Repeat.

A Man’s Perspective

•May 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

As a Chinese boy being raised by a conservative mother, I had two options at the barber shop: short or shorter. If I argue hard enough, I earned a third option – bald. My mother, like many Chinese mothers, views long hair on a man as a symbol of delinquency and forbade me from letting my hair grow pass my ear. As a kid, the limited hair style was of little consequence to me besides the annoyance and foolish look of a few strands of hair that persistently stand upright despite my best efforts to keep it down. In times of indolence, I would leave the house without combing my hair and sport what my friends endearingly called the Asian fro – imagine every strand of hair, without exception, extending perpendicular and perfectly straight from the scalp. As I grew older, the restrictions placed on my appearance became more significant. It became an idea that I disagreed with. If it is not right to judge a person by the color of their skin, why is it acceptable to judge a person by other aspects of their appearance? After all, I was taught from an early age to never judge a book by its cover. While long hair as a symbol of delinquency may be an Asian construct, the association of appearance and character is not. Professionalism in the US carries its own set of guidelines for the appearance of a man: groomed short hair, sport coat, solid color button down shirt, tie, well fitted pants, and shiny leather shoes. The idea that how we look is proportional to how well we perform our job seems illogical to me.

Entering Bowdoin in 2007 on the pre-med track, I decided to let my hair grow. I wanted to challenge people’s views of what an intellectual pre-professional should look like. Of course my mother disapproved of this motion so the decision to let my hair grow took on a second significance. To a lesser degree, letting my hair grow was a way for me to claim my freedom and independence from my mother; it is my hair and I should be able to do what I want with it. To which my mother retorted, “It is my money and I should be able to do what I want with it.”

I experimented with different styles of long hair, occasionally cutting my hair when my mother asked me to. Appeasing her was a desirable side effect to true intent of trying a new style of hair. The waltz of growing, experimenting, and cutting continued throughout freshman and sophomore year until I settled on my current style; two distinct locks of hair on the back of my head growing indefinitely while the rest of my hair changes in style and length. The original idea was to braid each lock, but that became too time consuming and laborious. In my experimentation of hair styles, I found many undesirable consequences of long hair that I did not consider before my decision. The time, effort and product I put into tending my hair grew as the hair itself grew. The majority of my morning is consumed by caring for my hair. Extra care is required when working in a lab with hazardous chemicals. It would please no one, if I were to contract the chemicals onto my hair and bring it with me as I leave the lab. While my hair can flow like a stream when I move against the wind, it becomes belligerent and crawls over my face if I were to go in any other direction. This unruly behavior becomes cumbersome when I am doing anything that requires my vision such as playing sports or walking. These by-products of long hair are annoying, but not impossible to deal with. So far, I have found simple solutions to the many problems concerning my hair. Waking up a few minutes earlier gives me sufficient time to prepare for the day; a hair-tie keeps my hair out of the chemicals; and a bandana or a hat keeps my hair out of my face. All of the minor annoyances are a small price to pay for the benefits of long hair; ridding me of the ridiculous Asian fro and asserting that my appearance does not determine who I am or what I am capable of accomplishing.

Precious Review

•January 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

by Jess W

A Movie All Feminists Should See:

The author of the award-winning 1996 novel that inspired the recent film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire can no doubt best explain the stoic, hardened look on her protagonist’s face: “I wanted to show that this girl is locked out by literacy.  She’s locked out by her physical appearance.  She’s locked out by her class, and she’s locked out by her color.” Precious is everything that Hollywood isn’t, and the film’s gritty realism constantly reminds us of her place in the food chain.  Pregnant for the second time by her father, who later dies of AIDS, and living with a jealous, chain-smoking, and violent mother, played with unrelenting violence by the comedian Mo’Nique, Precious is constantly being told that she is fat, stupid, and worthless. Without detailing the various abuses she wordlessly endures from peers and adults,  suffices to say that the narrative unfolding under the helm of director Lee Daniels cannot be described as adversity; rather, Precious has been so beaten down that she resignedly endures without surprise; it’s a matter of survival.  The fact that she never asks why, never questions her treatment, is a testament to how profoundly it has been embedded in her sense of self.

Even her name, however, (“I go by Precious,” she insists) reveals that Precious is also a figure of almost impossible longing: not just for a white boyfriend with “nice hair” and a normal life, but for color, flair, beauty of which no one can rob her.  Her fantasy life, to which she (and the film) hastily escapes during particularly scarring moments, both shows us the expanse of Precious’ imagination and how far she falls from it; one particularly devastating moment shows her reflection in the mirror as a thin, blonde white girl.  For the largely white middle class audience, who may walk away from the film feeling a nagging sense of privileged guilt about complaining over parking spaces on their way in, the mirror as a site of fantasy and deep unhappiness will ring true across the class ladder.  Much of Precious’ life is impossible to fathom, but the girl in the mirror seems to remain the universal symbol for American women of what we are not.

With an almost exclusively female cast, the profound ways that women create, love, and destroy one another becomes a central subject of the film. Daniels’ portrayal of the blossoming friendships between the girls in Precious’ G.E.D. class is nuanced and incredibly moving; their support for one another isn’t without judgment and rarely politically correct—sometimes you don’t know whether a comment will spark a laugh or a fistfight—but it is ultimately the redemptive element of the film.  This redemption avoids the exaggerated clichés of inner city black women raised up in most Hollywood films.  At the film’s close, after all, Precious is still HIV-positive, living in a half-way house, and caring for two children.

While I can’t complain about their performances, especially the rousing physical work of Mo’Nique, I was perplexed by Daniels’ choice to reach so high on the Hollywood star ladder.  Mariah Carey, Sherri Sheperd (currently on The View), and Lenny Kravitz co-star in a film that consciously defies Hollywood convention and contrivances.  It seems too appropriate when Precious tells the social worker played by Carey, “I like you, too, but you can’t handle this shit.” The true star here is newcomer Gabourey Sibide, whose impassivity betrays both the element of survival in Precious’ inhibition, and the etchings of desire constantly flashing across her eyes. While I wish this tour-de-force actress the best, I will be interested to see what kind of work she has in film after this; can a plus-size black woman carry a film that is not centered on her story of rising from the abuse and poverty of the ghetto?  Could Sibide become the kind of Hollywood ideal that she idolizes, and, should she miraculously achieve that kind of status, is it ultimately affirmative or constricting?  The film made me wonder about whether the ideal itself or the tendency to idealize (or both) is the problem for female self-image in this country, particularly as far as Hollywood is concerned.