New Year's Resolutions

Instead of waiting until Thursday, I decided to start my New Year's resolutions yesterday. I figured that Monday was a better day to start new goals than Thursday. Besides, most of my goals aren't new. I've just started and quit them a few times but need to finally 'get 'er done'.

Goals for the new year:
  • Continue to grow my business (an exciting promotion is in the works)
  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Expand my social network
  • Meet my future husband (why is this so hard to say out loud?)

I've been reading up on how to effectively network, how to get past social anxiety/shyness, and the like. I've also been working on the Black Girl Tees website. Its been down for a while, but I just didn't realize how daunting a task it is to move from one hosting company to another. That's definitely a new business owner lesson learned! My goal is to have it finished by Jan 1 so that I can announce the new promotion. I doubt that I'll make it though. I still have to find a dress and shoes for New Year's Eve as well as a purple dress for a program I'm attending on Saturday.

Yesterday I started my gym regimen again. I usually build up the return to the gym as this huge thing in my mind, so that I irrationally believe that that return workout will be painful, I'm very out of shape and it'll be pretty difficult to get back into the swing of things. But it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd imagined it'd be. Also, I chose two activities for this week - First Fridays for networking, and a club I've been meaning to check out on Saturday. While I admit that nightclubs aren't the best places to go out and meet eligible men, I know I need to get out of the house before I turn into the crazy cat lady. Besides, all work and no play makes Prosechild a very dull girl.

What are your New Year's resolutions for 2009? What are your plans to accomplish these goals?

A Different Perspective

My mother is a single parent. She did an outstanding job of providing the necessities that I needed - which also means that she could not afford many luxuries. For most of my childhood, she did my press 'n curls and relaxers at home (and I probably still have the burn scars to prove it! lol). I have many memories of sleepy Saturday mornings, being perched on a chair next to the stove, wincing in fear as the hot straightening comb came closer and closer to my head.

These experiences instilled in me a willful determination to do my own hair. This also fostered a deep mistrust for hair stylists. I'm sure every black woman has had the experience of not getting the style she wanted, after giving explicit instructions on what she desired. Or, more tramatic than that, looking on in horror as her hair is being swept from the floor, after a 'trim' that was more than what she wanted. For years I have been my own 'kitchen-tician'. I don't believe in getting my hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks. If my goal is to keep hair on my head, then why am I cutting it off? I also don't get relaxers very often, typically I go 3-4 months between touch-ups. Now my hair grows quickly and its very tightly coiled, but having done my hair all of my adult life, I'm adept at taming new growth and several styles to deal with my dual hair textures.

My hair is pretty long now - well past my shoulders. I'm suffering from a sort of hair anorexia. I don't realize how long it really is, until someone else is combing it (which is rare since I don't like stylists) or until it gets caught it the straps of my tote bag or folded into my scarf. Then I am surprised that something is there, and look down with wide eyes that its my hair! In my mind my hair is still chin-length or just above my shoulders.

Lately I've been wearing my hair in a bun. And not a cute bun, either, adorned with accessories or stylishly set. I'm talking about the kind of bun where you brush your hair for a few strokes, gather it up and tuck the ends unto itself. I blamed it on the cold weather but its more the result of my laziness! Yesterday I was determined to end the lazy streak (but still not feeling it for myself), so I went to the Hair Cuttery for a wash and set.

It was actually refreshing to get a different perspective on my hair. I have the typical dry hair that black women have. So I'm not used to women of other races gushing about how beautiful my hair is, which happened yesterday. I complained to the stylist that my hair was cut in layers, but I could not get it to look full and defined when I rollerset my hair. "Your hair is not cut in layers," she said. "Look, its just an angle cut." And she was right! That was a little embarrasing that a stranger could determine things about my hair that I just knew, in all my kitchen-tician expertise.

I have long ago accepted the unique hair texture that I have, and that my hair does not turn out like the typical black woman: wraps don't look right, I don't like heat so flat ironing is out, and my hair doesn't 'lay' in the way it 'should'. So I just rollerset my hair and let it be. Both of us are happy that way. I could continue to fight my hair into submission, but what's the point? As black women have made our hair our 'crowning glory', it is definitely a mark of self-esteem and our standard of beauty as black American women to sport beautiful hair. Having to come to terms with hair that doesn't 'bounce and behave' was a hard pill to swallow. But in the end, when I took into account the individual properties of my hair, and worked with them instead of against them, I became much happier about my crowning glory and let it 'do what it do'.

So while most black women I know hold their hair routine and salon appointments as a cultural badge, I choose to lovingly care for my hair myself. That allows me to not compare myself to others and to remove myself from the unstated hair competition. Now, if I could just shorten the time it takes for me to do a perfect rollerset, I would be in hair heaven...

Goodbye, Eartha

One of our most enduring icons of black femininity has passed away today at 81. May you be at peace. You will be missed.

Merry Christmas!!

Whatever your reason for the season, I hope you spend it full of family, friends, and laughter. We have so much to be grateful for and I hope we bask in that gratitude today. Merry Christmas!

Make time for yourself in a busy season

I am still recovering from the holiday parties I attended and meeting I hosted on Sunday. Time didn't permit the opportunity for my normal Sunday beauty routine. I contented myself with doing my nails last night, as they needed some touch-up polish.

One thing I noticed when I moved to the DC area, is the frequency in which black women get their nails done. I'm sure that black women across the country get their nails done alot, but most of the women I know here - especially older women - religiously get acrylics. Especially the older women in my life. A few years ago I found myself getting into it too, but after wrecking my nail beds I weaned myself away from the habit.

What I especially enjoyed about getting my nails done was the feeling of being pampered. For 30 min to an hour, and only $20 (depending on where you go...) you get the feeling of being taken care of. And usually we are the caretakers, so its a wonderful feeling to sit back and have a beauty treat, if only for a little while. When I decided to stop getting acrylics, I knew that I'd want to carry that same pampered feeling into my beauty routine.

So for 20 minutes, I sit quietly, clear my thoughts and just take time to pamper myself. I love the way my hands look when I do my nails. They look soft, moisturized, cared for and colorful. I admit that as a native Floridian I often choose polish colors that are brighter than what most women would choose, but that's just a part of who I am. I love color, sunshine, brightness and happiness, and I incorporate that into my nail routine.

My polish of choice is Orly. I know that many women rave over OPI, but I find that their polishes are thinner and more transparent than Orly. I only apply two coats of color, to minimize thickness since I use a base and top coat, and I don't get the same color density or payoff with OPI. I also find that OPI chips and doesn't last as long. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much I like the rubberized grip on the neck of Orly polishes. I tend to buy creme colors instead of wines, berries or shimmery colors. I also notice that black women grativate toward these colors as 'safe' colors. Again, this is reminiscent of avoiding the 'jezebel' stereotype I mentioned in my makeup post. Life should be lived live and in color, and not in fear of others' perceptions.

So if your Christmas will be hectic, I suggest just taking 10-20 minutes to have quiet time for yourself to do your nails. You'll feel just a tad bit prettier, a little less stressed and your hands will thank you for the attention.

This brought tears to my eyes

This was forwarded to me in an email. I got misty-eyed reading this - the thought that this type of man is now leading our country - that really touched me and gave me even more hope for our country's future. I usually stay away from posting anything Obama (we're really getting inundated...) but I couldn't pass this up. This email also brought to mind Bush's visit to an elementary school on 9/11 and that dumb look he had on his face...

CHICAGO - President-elect Barrack Obama and his wife took their daughters to work at a food bank on the day before Thanksgiving, saying they wanted to show the girls the meaning of the holiday, especially when so many people are struggling.

Ten-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha joined their parents to shake hands and give holiday wishes to hundreds of people who had been lined up for hours at the food bank on Chicago 's south side.

Sasha wore a pink stocking hat over her pigtails and Malia had on a purple striped hat as the family handed out wrapped chickens to the needy in the chilly outdoor courtyard. Those seeking food on Wednesday at St. Columbanus also received boxes with potatoes, oranges, fresh bread, peanut butter, canned goods, oatmeal, spaghetti and coffee.

The president-elect, dressed casually in a leather jacket, black scarf and khaki pants, was in a jovial mood, calling out "happy thanksgiving" and telling everyone "you can call me Barack."

He told reporters that he wants the girls "to learn the importance of how fortunate they are, and to make sure they're giving back."

The soon-to-be first lady said the Obamas wanted to give their children "an understanding of what giving and Thanksgiving is all about."

The Obama family's activities in the courtyard quickly drew the attention of schoolchildren whose windows overlooked the courtyard. They put up a sign against the glass that read: "We love our prez" and screamed when the president-elect waved to them.

Obama then turned to his wife and suggested they go visit the kids. Secret Service agents, looking surprised, disappeared inside the building to accommodate his request.

Minutes later, hundreds of children were brought down to the school auditorium, and Obama loped onstage as they screamed and cheered.

"I just wanted to come by and wish everybody a happy Thanksgiving," he said. He then asked the children what they would be eating for Thanksgiving dinner.

So lets recap.

He took his kids to work in the cold…?
Instead of getting someone to line up and dish the gifts? Instead of telling them 'You are kids of a VIP. Therefore there are things that you can’t do.

To show the kids that people are suffering? Yes, that people are suffering? They have to live understanding the importance of giving back to the community.

Let us learn from this great family… and for those who have children, this is a wonderful example of raising our kids.

What's really going on?

A few years ago, I was appalled to learn of the personal history of Martin Luther King Jr's children. Its hard to fill those shoes, we all know - but his children seem to experience hardship that is hard to justify. Every black family (hell, every family) has dysfunctional behavior, bickering among themselves, and disagreements, but at the end of the day you love your relatives if only for the fact that you share common ancestors. Being that their ancestor is one of the most acclaimed Civil Rights and humanitarian leaders in history, I guess I expected more from them. I was upset that one of his daughters died relatively young, and had not passed on her father's legacy by having children. I was surprised that MLK III had just gotten married and produced the first King grandchild. And I was very disappointed by the lawsuits and countersuits that they've filed against each other.

This morning, as I was reading my subscribed blogs, I came across this story:

Harry Belafonte was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and a follower of the civil rights movement but now Belafonte has come up against the King estate
over King memorabilia that he was set to auction off at Sotheby's. The
papers include a three-page handwritten draft of King's first anti-Vietnam
war speech in 1967 and notes found in his suit pocket after his 1968
assassination. Belafonte said the papers were given to him by King and his
late wife, Coretta Scott King, and that he was planning to donate the
proceeds of the sale to charity. But the King estate blocked the sale of the
papers, which were estimated to bring in up to 1.3 million dollars.

The estate believes the documents are "the property of the estate of Martin Luther King Jr" and were wrongly acquired. Belafonte withdrew the documents from auction. The Telegraph reports that the once-cordial relationship between the King family and Belafonte went wrong after the death of Mrs Scott King in 2006. Belafonte was asked to give the eulogy at her funeral but later was uninvited.

King's children have been at odds with each other over the estate's assets and have filed lawsuits against each other. In 2006, the King estate put 10,000 items from its collection up for public auction but withdrew them after a last-minute bid of 32 million dollars from the City of Atlanta to keep them at Morehouse College, King's alma mater.

This is really sad, that after the blood, sweat, tears, jail time and lives given in pursuit of their father's dream, that the King children are carrying on this way. I'm not saying that they don't have a right to protect their father's image and control his property, but they can't control everything. And the manner in which they're attempting to control these things just comes across as a greedy attempt to gain financially from their father's importance without regard for the tarnish they're bringing to the King name. King's legacy to our society is priceless and can never be bought or sold. I wish that the King children could see that.

Rest = beauty

Lately I've been feeling like I'm going going going. I went out Friday night, had to work on Saturday then went to a friend's "Martinis and Karaoke" night. I had so much fun during this weekend, so today I chilled with my homegirl and did absolutely nothing. I had never seen Moulin Rouge so she insisted that we watch it. The movie was good and right up my alley.

But I was still a little bugged at my lack of productivity. Sometimes, "resting your nerves", as granny used to say, is as good as giving yourself a beauty treatment. Every black woman I know is working with a full plate.. or two, or three. We don't take enough time to rest our bodies, our minds, our spirits. We put everyone else first and by the time we get to ourselves, there's not much left. That's why I decided to make Sundays the day for my beauty routine. So today I paused for the cause and let myself be at ease. I still didn't feel totally guitless about it. The to-do list always beckons.

Before we know it, it'll be Christmas, then New Year's, then time to work on those resolutions that we hope to keep this year. Taking time for myself isn't a bad thing. The more I think of it, the more I need to work it in. I should add "resting my nerves" to the to-do list!

I hope you had a beautful day, no matter how you spent it.

Standard of Beauty Sundays

On Sunday (or any day of the week that I have free time) I usually treat myself to a mini spa day at home. I'll do my hair, nails, exfoliate, do a facial mask or play around with makeup. So starting today, I'll post my thoughts and suggestions on the standard of beauty unique to Black women. More specifically, not about what that standard is, but about ways in which we can improve our personal standard, be it by more attention to grooming, new habits and products that are generating buzz in hair, makeup and fitness circles that I frequent online. I definitely won't turn this into a beauty blog.. there are other more talented, devoted and thorough bloggers (please see my blogroll) who can provide beauty tips. I'll be presenting more of an overview to certain aspects of beauty, and how those aspects relate to black women's self-esteem and standard of beauty overall.

The first brand featured in this new aspect of Black Women and Girls is M.A.C. makeup.

M.A.C. stands for Make-up Art Cosmetics. To industry insiders, M.A.C. is the go-to brand, the highest quality, and is used by celebrity as well as every-day makeup artists alike. M.A.C. used to be one of my obsessions in grad school, but now I have less time and disposable income to invest in it. One of the reasons why black women love M.A.C. so much is that M.A.C. loves us: for the foundation alone, M.A.C. has a hue that matches almost every African-American skin tone. There are varying textures for the foundations, which allow a woman to choose the amount of coverage she can get in her daily makeup look. Don't get me wrong... Fashion Fair, Black Opal and Milani are wonderful in that they cater to black women exclusively... but if you belong to the cult of M.A.C. then you know there is no comparison in terms of quality, coverage, wearability (I find Fashion Fair to be too heavy for my oily-prone skin) or availability. Iman makeup is also wonderful, but I can't find Imani as easily as M.A.C. and there are more resources on the internet for one to become well-versed with M.A.C. products.

The reason that I advocate M.A.C. for black women is because they did not have an economic epiphany in order to include us. If I had known about M.A.C. in high school or early college (I was introduced to M.A.C. during my senior year, but didn't begin wearing it until 3 years later) I wouldn't have felt like I was playing catch-up with my beauty regimen. I am glad that there are drugstore lines such as the Queen Collection but I also feel like the brands that cater to black women now have previously left us out of the beauty loop for years. It seems that only in recent years have large cosmetic companies tried to appease the black female spender by including a few shades in each product line. But with so many shades to cover, a few shades just doesn't cut it.

Speaking of those few shades, I frequently see women who are either wearing the wrong shade of makeup or are wearing poor quality makeup. I'm not assuming that drugstore lines are always cheap; but you can definitely see the difference between a good quality eyeshadow and a cheap one. I invest in my foundations, eyeshadows and blushes, and buy my mascaras, liner pencils and some glosses from the drugstore. I don't really wear lipstick as I have a hard time finding shades that compliment my dark lips (I spent weeks looking for the perfect red lipstick.. and I'm not 100% happy with the one I finally chose). And I'm sure that other women, when confronted with this hunt for quality brands that have foundations to match African-American skin tones, either give up or settle for what's accessible and affordable.

Another aspect of black women's relationship with makeup is the age-old stereotype of being a jezebel. One of my grad school professors once commented on the fact that she never wore red lipstick or a certain style of dress because she did not want to be perceived as a jezebel. My thing is, if you will judge me based on a lipstick shade and not my character, then you are not someone worthy of my time or presence. Sistahs I urge you to not live your life based on the perceptions of others. If you act or abstain from action based on how someone at church feels about makeup (I never really understood why wearing makeup was frowned upon in church), how your significant other feels or a prohibition that exists only in your mind, then the issue that you face is much greater than which foundation most closely matches your undertones. You show these people how spiritual, queenly and worthy you are by the level of self-care you give to yourself. Makeup is only a way to enhance the beauty you already have; if someone does not agree with that, don't let their perceptions cloud up your life.

So if you're on the hunt for a great foundation, love quality makeup or are just curious about the M.A.C. experience, just stop by a counter in Nordstrom or a free-standing M.A.C. store. Also, here are some of my favorite links and videos related to M.A.C. Enjoy and stay beautiful!

Common Makeup Misconceptions and Questions by Black Women

Studio Fix Guide

Applying Eyeshadow for Beginners

Scandalous Beauty - this is the makeup artist that made the videos I posted. She's great, check her out!

Coastal Scents Online Store - inexpensive cosmetics brushes

Makeup Addict website
- amazing resource for all thing M.A.C.

M.A.C. Sistahs - a Livejournal community for women of color who use M.A.C. - another indispensable M.A.C. resource

What does it mean to settle?

I just read a thread on a discussion board, and it got me to thinking. The thread was started when someone posted this article: Marry Him: The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough. To summarize:

What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I
might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an
enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of
a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be
relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back
then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good
romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go
on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage
isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small,
mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

I really feel what the author wrote. In an age where we grew up with the fantasy of being swept away by Prince Charming, I totally understand her point. And, in a lot of ways, women in my age group have unrealistic expectations of what marriage should be and the criteria used to evaluate a man for marriage potential.

But, at the same time, I can't help but feel that the author doesn't feel our pain. For the 45% or so of black women who have never been married, we're not, for the most part, sitting around saying "Craig was a nice guy, but he doesn't like to read or travel, so I can't get with him." Most of us are hoping that, even though we gave Craig a chance, and he won't go on yearly vacay, he'll still find us worthy to marry. Is the dating world really that different for single white women? Maybe it was 10 years ago, when the author was around my age. But some of my friends of other ethnicities are facing something similar to what I'm facing. We don't have as much choice of settling for a husband, because a lot of men aren't looking for wives. Or, for that matter, serious commitment. That may be a result of growing up in the 'me' generation.. or maybe, like the author points out, we're using dating criteria to choose mates for marriage.

Now I was nodding my head and agreeing with most of the logic of the article, until I got to this part:

“By the time she turns 37,” Chris said confidently, “she’ll come back. And I’ll bet she’ll marry me then. I know she wants to have kids.” I asked Chris why he would want to be with a woman who wasn’t in love with him. Wouldn’t he be settling, too, by marrying someone who would be using him to have a family? Chris didn’t see it that way at all. “She’ll be settling,” Chris said cheerfully. “But not me. I get to marry the woman of my dreams. That’s not settling. That’s the fantasy.”

You guys know it sticks in my craw when black women are told to settle for janitors or garbagemen. While the man gets the woman of his dreams, what do we get? The author points out that the man of your dreams doesn't exist because you dreamt him up; but is it really too much to ask, to hope for a man who intellectually stimulates you? I too think passion is overrated and even leads to bad relationship decisions. But what about standing up for what you want? Granted, those wants have to be realistic.. we all aren't going to meet Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome who drives a BMW and can bring you to the height of ecstacy. But why settle for someone you're not attracted to, not on the same socioeconomic level, not much in common with?

The author justifies her stance on settling:

This doesn’t undermine my case for settling. Instead, it supports my argument to do it young, when settling involves constructing a family environment with a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger—as opposed to doing it older, when settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods.

And this I definitely agree with. But I guess I need to really think about what it means to settle. To me, settling is being with someone who doesn't treat you well simply because you've already been together a long time. Or, settling is choosing someone simply to not be alone - regardless of how you actually feel about that person, and the assets (or lack thereof) that he brings to the table. I guess I feel so strongly against settling because my parents' marriage was one of convenience and they had very little in common, in terms of goals, outlook on life, and temperament. But at the same time, I have no illusions of a grand romantic adventure. I simply seek a partner who has the same vision for economic stability that I do, who is honest and family-oriented. Maybe I'm just at that age where I'm not ready to settle (per the author's definition), but I can't do it. And, ironically, neither can she.