beauty

Self-Love Saturday: My Box is Full of Color

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about the journey I'm on to make it back to my Box?

In that post, I talked about how I most of my life, what's been in that box has been dictated by other's, their needs, and how THEY wanted my box constructed. I mentioned that I'm not 100% sure what goes in my Box but I was starting to find out by streaking my way towards it....

Well, guess what? Dying my hair funky colors has helped me identify at least one thing that goes in my Box, one attribute that makes me, well, ME. If you really know me, it's probably not a huge surprise, but

COLOR...

BRIGHT...

BOLD...

BEAUTIFUL...

LOUD...

Color belongs in my life. It's at the core of what makes me A'Driane. Lots & loads of color. Gobs of it, probably so much that people would label me tacky, but I don't care anymore, I'VE GOTTA HAVE COLOR! From how I decorate my living space, to how I wear my hair, to the clothes I wear, they must have color...When it comes to fashion I'm forgoing all sorts of rules from here on out and am just wearing as many colors as possible, whatever feels and looks good. From bold eyeshadows to headbands, to scarves, to the rubber bands I place in my hair........

Or the color that adorns my fingers and Barney Rubble toes...

O

I"ve just gotta have color. From my dishes  to my couch, to my lamps to my bed sheets, my apartment is full of splashes of it. I've spent years trying to downplay and even stay away from such boldness because those around me gave me the impression that it was inappropriate for a person my age. "Living out loud" and self-expression is for teenagers & kids, not for mothers approaching their thirties.....but I'm foregoing those thoughts and ideals because they aren't mine. They aren't me. Dressing in normal colors and living in clean, modern, sophisticated living spaces might be for some people and that is totally ok. For me though?

Give me color or give me death is the motto I'm adopting.

I wasn't allowed to express myself growing up, and so I thought the need to do so through what I wore or how I styled my hair was just a phase I needed to get out my system. But the more I've been thinking about it, and about my personality, I know it's something more and I'm finally in a place of acceptance about it.

Being surrounded by and wearing bold, brightly hued, rich & warm colors is a coping strategy for me as well. It creates an environment for me and my boys that breathes health and life, creativity and  expression. I'm hoping that surrounding us with a spectrum of color blinds the dragon of BP so it stays deep in it's cave. I'm learning fast that mental illnesses like BP are genetic, and being as though schizophrenia and depression run in at least one side of my family, (and I strongly suspect BP runs on the other side) I want to give the boys as healthy of an environment as possible. One that breeds creativity, love & warmth. I want my boys to have that. I want them to look at me and always know that self-expression is okay. Living out loud is okay. Passion is okay. Creativity and thought are awesome and worth pursuing wholeheartedly. Splashing our lives with color is a way to do that.

So, on this Self-Love Saturday, I refreshed my blue & pink streaks in the ol' Afro, and even added some more. I went through my closet and tossed out every drab, grey item I could find. I promised myself that from here on out, only color goes in the closet and on my body.

We only live once y'all. We only get one shot to do this thing called life. I'm determined to live mine as wholehearted and colorful as possible, Bipolar and all :)

You & Me: Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

Handling Adversity, Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots. In the second, she placed eggs and the last one, she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What’s the point, mom?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–the boiling water–but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

“Which one are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

Think of this: Which am I?

Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like a coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level?

How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

~ Author Unknown

I found this posted on Exceptional Living's Facebook page and after the week & therapy sessions I had, I found this very appropriate to share & reflect upon today. 

So what are you? Carrot, Egg, or Coffee Bean?

I've been trying with all my might to break the cycle in my family & in my subcultures (African Amercian & Christian) and be a Coffee Bean.....more on this in the next post....

Sweatpant Crotch

Last week, I was watching this video my friend Susan  posted on her blog of her baby moving around in her belly. I know that sounds very alien-ish and icky, but it was absolutely adorable! It made my empty uterus feel the hollow yearnings of being pregnant and I started to feel the pangs of "Awwww, I miss being pre-" I hadn't even got the sentence out of my mouth before Alex let out a wail mid-sleep and my right ovary tied itself in a boy scout knot...I took that as God snapping me back to reality & I left la la land immediately!

When we chatted a couple of days later, we talked about.....SWEAT PANTS! I mean we talked about other things, but we talked at length about sweatpants. About how awesome they are...how comfortable & warm they are...how easy they are to just slide on your body-there's no tugging, inching, heaving & holding of breath to get them up & over your hips, or any of that craziness you have to go through when you want to rock a pair of jeans (let's not even MENTION skinny jeans OK?!) Try sliding a pair of jeans on over hips that have birthed children...go head. I'll wait.....

Now, when you're able to pick yourself up off the floor & catch your breath, slide them back off somehow and slide into a pair of sweatpants. See & FEEL the difference?

Now, don't get me wrong. I like fashion. I like to dress a certain way. I have style. It's a nerdy, bohemian, tomboy kind of style but it's a style...one that I'm comfortable with. I like wearing makeup, especially brightly hued eye shadows...but let's keep it real here people.

I LOVE SWEAT PANTS.

Period. Jeans are cool, but look if I happen to be in Wal-Mart or Target and I see sweats on sale for $6-8, I'm buying 10 pair easily. In different colors. I REALLY enjoy wearing male sweats because some less-than-bright crayon in the box decided women's sweats should be form-fitting. NO THEY SHOULDN'T! That defeats the purpose! Sweatpants can be sexy just as they are, IF you wear them appropriately. And I do. So does Susan. In fact, it was the video she posted that made her realize that she's been wearing them alot lately....AND LOVING IT. We also both realized that in the video was a perfectly aimed shot of her....sweatpant crotch. HAHA

From that moment an idea was born. We decided to try something.  As mothers, as women, there's this pressure to always look put together, like you can do & be all. We all know that's not the case. But I bet nearly all of our Facebook, Twitter, professionally designed blogs & About Me head shots don't give a complete picture of who we are. I'm guilty of it! I'll admit to only taking pictures when I think I look presentable. But let's be honest. I have two kids under age 5 and I'm a full-time college student. I spend the majority of my time picking cheerios up off the floor, buried in homework, and chasing after my kids. And I do it in sweats and comfortable sneakers, chucks or puma's preferably. I admire Mamas who can strut around in the latest fashions and the young girls I see coming to class looking like they H&M threw up on them. But as for this mama? I'm all about the sweats, baby, especially with fall lowering the temps & winter just around the corner!

So Susan and I are starting a revolution. All you have to do to partake is throw on your favorite pair of comfy sweats, snap a pic & post it. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it, instagram it, whatever. Just snap away and feel liberated & supported knowing there are at least 2 other women out in the world who are letting it all hang out there with you. You aren't alone. You are beautiful no matter what you wear. You are gorgeous & sexy. Own it regardless of your attire.

I've posted my #Sweatpantcrotch snaps....head over to Susan's place to view hers & read her post...then go dig in your drawer or reach up to the top of your closet shelf, grab your sweats & show them some love...they've missed you.

Let the revolution to ditch perfection & embrace acceptance begin!

A Brief Manifesto

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself" - Harvey Fierstein. Move from being a victim to a victor. Own your story and share it. Be authentic, live wholehearted. Do not allow your circumstances or pain from the past or present define you. Don't let a mood disorder define who you are. Define yourself in truth, in God's truth...come to know who He says you are and let that be the foundation upon which you build your identity, let it become the lens through which you see yourself. Your beautiful, worthy, and loved self.

I challenge you to read these words and whatever else comes to your heart in front of a mirror, looking yourself directly in the eye as you say each word. I did. Difficult but empowering to say the least....if you do it, feel free to share how you felt and the impact, if any this had on you.

Self-Love Saturday: Accepting What I See (Body Image) pt1

I have a love/hate relationship with my glasses. Things between my glasses and I have been complicated since I first started wearing them in kindergarten. See, there are pros & cons to this relationship.

The Pros : I'm a geek. A nerdy gal. I enjoy being so. I'm a writer, I create, I've grown to loving the ability to pick out a pair of specs that reflect different aspects of my personality....well at least nowadays. Back when I first started wearing them in 1989, they weren't so uh...stylish. Whose glad times have changed and so have the fashions in the eye wear department? THIS NERD.  :) But let's be real, the most important pro of all is the fact that I can FREAKIN SEE. How blind am I? Let's just say I'm grateful for the guy who has to sand down my lenses at the lab-he always does a phenomenal job and I can see all the way to Jupiter!

The Cons

My glasses are always outrageously expensive because my eyes don't like me and are shaped like grains of rice. My astigmatism in both eyes is severe and gets worse every year apparently. The other con? They let me FREAKIN SEE. Everything.

Why on earth do I count that as a con? Simple: without my glasses on, the vision I have of myself is never complete, and for someone who struggles in the self-esteem department, there's an unexpected comfort that comes from that. Not wearing my glasses allows me to not see the physical things about myself I don't like. At least not in telescopic, 3D fashion. It's like editing a photo, you know where you can use photoshop tools to blur out or cover up what you don't want seen? Not wearing my specs is like that for me.

So it goes like this. I get ready to go somewhere or just you know wash my face if I'm staying home for the day. When I'm done, I look at myself in the mirror...sometimes I may have a little (mineral) makeup, most days I don't, but I'll look and give myself an assessment. You know...how I think I look on a scale of "OMG UGH-oooooh girl, you look FIERCE!" It usually falls somewhere in the middle...most days. But then I grab my specs, look at myself again, and all I can see are all the things I don't like about myself, everything that I think is a physical imperfection glaringly staring right back at me. In plain sight. However I was initially feeling about my looks usually slides a few pegs down the scale at that point....

With my glasses I have a more realistic view of how I look....but my body image and self-esteem pretty much suck. Always has since I was a little girl. I'm sure talk therapy would reveal the root of it is steeped in daddy issues. He never validated me, he always pointed out what he thought was wrong with me physically, was always trying to change how I looked, he controlled how my hair was done & what clothes I wore. To this day I have a complex about my feet because this man took me shopping for sandals and embarrassingly laughed at me when I tried on a pair-I was 11. I thought the entire store could hear him describe my "ugly feet" that weren't "sandal feet". I've since grown to accept how my feet look, but I have insecurities about them still. Getting a pedicure is like torture, I can't take the anxiety about what Sally thinks of my toes.

But anyway, my point is this. For years, especially the past year, I've been hating the way I

look. I mean HATE. I look in the mirror and man, I just see a body that resembles nothing the one I had at 21. Or even before my last pregnancy. My breasts, my girls, they sag. Forget eye of the tiger, I've got his stripes. Have a slew of stretch marks too. I look like my dad, so I see his features. I'm at the highest weight I've ever been in (175-181 range), so my face is round and puffier than I'm used to. I just don't like what I look like. Hated putting my glasses on & having what I hate stare back at & taunt me.

That is until today. All day today I thought about acceptance. About what it means to accept my body...what having a healthy body image means. I generated a lot of thoughts about it, but to start I'll just say that I made  a decision today to just accept what I see.

Just accept it. Face it. Embrace it. Whether I like it or not. Just accept everything about me

that I think keeps me from being beautiful or desirable. I made a vow today to love my body and everything about it no matter what state it's in.

Accept me. Own me. Embrace me.  So, to show my commitment and to officially sign my pledge if you will, I took some pictures. To show that I'm no longer hiding behind blurry vision or despising myself.  As you can see I've, posted them among these words...

Here's to the conclusion of another Self-Love Saturday and me striving to see myself through a healthier, wholesome lens.

I'd like to thank Shape of A Mother for helping me take this step....

What lens do you view your physical self through? What do you think distorts or sharpens it? Feel free to share below....

Dance Party Friday: Square Biz Edition

Ok. So. Inspired by a chat with one of my amazing Twitter mamas (@momgosomething) I thought to myself, "Self, what makes you feel good?" Music. Dancing. "Wouldn't it be nifty if you could have a dance party with other people online, people like @momgosomething, who loves to crank up the volume and dance in her kitchen as much as you do?" Wow. Yes. Yes it would. I mean people have #Wineparties & Twitter chats, & GNO's on Twitter. Why not have a dance party? On a Friday. Just because it something that makes me feel good. Gets me moving, gets my heart pumping, makes me feel ALIVE and forget about the daily grind I'm in. Makes me forget that I struggle in the mental health dept,and makes me feel free.  Feel joy. Feel good about myself, reminds me that yes, there is a funny, silly goofball of a geek inside who. just. has. to. dance. Why not use dance as therapy? (I am after all planning on becoming a dance movement therapist) Use it as a tool to help me shed some insecurities about myself ? Use it to learn how to love & accept myself in whatever state I'm in or weight I'm at ? Plus they say exercise is a good way to battle depression & other mood disorders. It's a proven coping method.

So. Yes. I've decided to dance. Every Friday, I will post a new video of myself getting down with the get down & groovin to my fave tunes. Any song, any genre, anything that strikes my fancy I will be shaking my fanny to. And you, my dear readers will get to see it. See me make a fool of myself but see me really go after this self-love thing with a vengeance.

But I don't just want you to be a spectator. I want you to participate. They say that if you want to see real change and want to make a real impact then throw down a challenge. So here is my challenge to you: Dance with me. Let's find a way to Skype, Facebook Video Chat, or hangout on Google + and just DANCE. We can pick a song, maybe two and just have a dance party together, in good fun, just to let loose at the end of the week. If you want to send me a video of yourself getting your groove on & want to post it, email me a link: bconfessions (@) gmail (dot) com.

Below is my first video. Don't worry, I'm buying a better webcam, so I'm working on the video quality. And I was super nervous so forgive the deer in headlights serious looks I have at times. Just me fighting the urge to quit and go vomit in the toilet HAHAHAHAAAAA. I'm serious.  Enjoy!

http://www.vimeo.com/28127940

I'd really love to thank Kimberly for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this. You should really read her blog (see how her name's in pink? click on it!) Her owning her story and sharing her experiences helped save my life. Seriously. And I also want to thank Joy Tanksley for giving me the push as well to run with this idea. Not only is her blog awesome, but she posts videos of her boogie-ing too! Check it out.......and then, make urself some room where ever you are & just dance baby. :)

http://vimeo.com/26590850

Happy Friday!

Nivea, You Can Go Play in Traffic

I jumped on the computer just now to finish up a guest post for a friend. Logged into Facebook for a quick peek and saw this posted on my cousin's wall. I'll spare you the expletives she attached to the photo, but I'm sure you can guess what they were.

SERIOUSLY?! SERIOUSLY?! Now, this isn't an offense to white people, I love ya'll but I just can't imagine any minority was sitting around the conference table when this was pitched and voted on. I just can't. And if there were, then they should have had the balls to raise their hand, and awareness as to the bigger message being sent out here. From a branding perspective, is this the type of message you want to be sending out to your consumers? Especially your minority ones? That our "nappy, uncivilized" hair needs to be changed, altered, "tamed", gotten rid of, "controlled" or that what God gave us is somehow undignified? Excuse me?! And what kind of message does this send to your white consumers, Nivea? I'll tell you what it does-it keeps perpetuating the stereotypes already out there, especially in corporate America. Natural hair is unruly and unfit for the business or professional world.

Now I'm not even going to get into how this goes back to slave days when lights were preferred over darker-skinned Africans and how that began the viscious stereotypes and cycles that exist today. The stereotypes that have so many black celebrities and regular women spending thousands on hair from India in order to look "civilized." And I won't mention how having Rihanna look about as light and pale as your lotion in your ads promoting her song and her as your new spokesperson. I won't get into that, I'm sure the internet is ablaze with other folks chatting about it.

I'm just here to add my gasoline laced digital voice to the online fiery backlash. Because social media gives me the power to.  I'm just here to sit in bafflement and disgust over how ignorant the group of individuals who pitched & approved this are. I'm just here to sit and watch the PR nightmare you're in. I hope when you wake up from it, your company has learned a thing or two and reevaluates your core values & beliefs.

And Rihanna-not that I dug your music that much anyway since you decided to start oversexualizing yourself and only spoke out against domestic violence when it benefitted your album release-but now? You definitely won't catch me buying any magazines, products or watching any media you do as long as you're their spokesperson. Because if Nivea stands for this, and you're okay with that....that just goes to show short you've really sold yourself-and your fans.

Now that my appetite has been destroyed, I think I'll just go back to trying  to enjoy my morning with my kids....and my "uncivilized" au-natural AFRO.

Rant over.

Perseverance

A couple of weeks ago I decided to change things up here on 'Confessions and I put out a call for some guest posters, because quite simply, I wanted to highlight the amazing writing skills & insights of some of the intriguing women I've met in the blogoshere. One of them, Susan, from Learned Happiness, is one such woman. She's witty, her style of writing holds a beauty to it that brings me to tears, and her authenticity & transparency is to be admired. She describes her blog as a place "To own my story," and how she does so is just one of the several things I find beautiful & respect about her. I hope you enjoy her post today as much as I do, stop by her blog, & follow her on Twitter. Please welcome her to 'Confessions, ya'll :)

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A'Driane and I met in the #ppdchat mamas group on Facebook.  In the months we've gotten to know each other online, I've come to see her as an optimistic, caring woman who wants to be so much to so many.  She's honest, both with others and herself, which is a rare trait to find in a friend.  And her outgoing personality explodes through my twitter stream every morning as I drink my decaf.  I'm so excited to share what we've been cooking up.  A'Driane asked me to guest post a while ago, so instead, we are swapping guest posts, each writing in response to a photo prompt - a picture I snapped in a garden next to Arlington City Hall. I'm honored she asked me to write for Butterfly Confessions and hope I can live up to the task. 

A tree stands in a garden, nestled between stone buildings of importance and dignity.  Reaching out from a small patch of green near a brick pathway, its branches twist and turn in a ragged, unrefined manner.  The bark, speckled with spots of white, reveals its age.

This tree did not choose its lot in life.  If it had, surely it would have chosen a larger pasture, one which isn't hidden in shadow most of the day.  A field, perhaps, filled with flowers and fed by sunlight and gentle rains.  Instead it was planted where even basic needs would be a struggle to fulfill.

And instead of withering, fading behind the shadows of the surrounding foliage, it reached its branches toward what little light dappled the garden.  Stretching out at an odd angle, its trunk carried the life-giving leaves up to the sun, until it could no longer hold its own weight.  The roots strained against gravity.  And then... salvation.  In the form of a simple wooden frame, erected in defense of this tree - in support of its persistence.

My husband says, "Its so sad.  Why don't they just cut it down?"  Recoiling in horror, I look at him with shock and disappointment.  Can he not see the beauty in this tree, this being?  The beauty that instead of lying in youth or perfect form, lies in its strength and will to survive.  This tree, which has taken a beating from both nature and time, all the while fighting for life in the face of unfortunate circumstance, still has shade to give and leaves to nurture.  It is not less for needing buttressing, but more for welcoming it, growing up from its second trunk in gratitude. Its worth lies simply in its existence.

I wonder, would we have even stopped to notice it, had it been perfect?  No, most certainly we would have walked by, never noticing the beauty in its vulnerability.  I want to say, "We are the same.  I see your fight, your resolve.  Keep reaching for the sunlight; keep surviving."  Instead I simply snap a picture, in awe of what this tree has taught me about myself in an instant.

Susan is an elementary teacher-turned-SAHM and private music instructor.  She is a postpartum depression and anxiety survivor.  Now knocked up with Baby #2, she's kicking antenatal depression's butt.  A lover of music, books, and art, she blogs at Learned Happiness about parenting and finding balance and happiness in a life impacted by mental illness.

Letting the Dust Settle Into Something Beautiful

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR7VOKQ0xJY]

I woke up this morning and in my mind's eye all I saw was dust. Everywhere I looked, in every area of my life, I just saw dust, like a sandstorm had blown through my life and left a finger thick film on each piece of it.

Aside from dirtying things, dust is annoying because too much of it can make you sneeze, cough, gag...and a host of other bodily reactions I'm sure aren't pleasant. It's also irritating because it's so hard to get rid of and even when you swipe it away with some pledge, it comes back not long after. You might even find that you've gotten rid of the dust, but the tiny little particles of material from whatever you used to clean it up with are left behind, in it's place, seemingly immune to the cleaning agent.

So what's my point? Simply this: You can't get rid of dust. You can buy the best cleaning solution/furniture polish/super-microfiber rag that money can buy, but dust is always going to be there annoyingly sweeping itself back over your walls, appliances, baseboards aka YOUR LIFE. So what do you do about it? Well, as I laid in bed with Alex's foot in my ribs and Brennan's dragon breath scorching my cheek, I thought of this song and about how God really can make beautiful things out of anything. If He could create the Universe and every single particle & organism in it, is it really hard to believe that He can make something out of the dust in my life? The dust that makes me sneeze, that causes me pain, that makes me (or my house) look dirty, that can seem to overtake me?

Here's the thing about dust, er LIFE. It's always there. Causing you pain, being annoying, being difficult to get through, creating messes that are a pain or really tough to clean up....but the God who created the stars out in galaxies we haven't even discovered yet can take the dust in your life, in my life, and use it to challenge us, stretch us, grow & develop us, even mold us into who He designed for us to be before we were even a thought in our Mama's bellies.

So as I sat here with half my cheek melting away(4 yrs old is too young for halitosis isn't it?) thinking about the recent dusty events & situations in my life, I heard God challenging me & my OCD to put down the dust rag....Put the pledge back in the cabinet for a second and just let Him take care of it. "I know it looks Sahara desert dusty right now, AddyeB and that is throwing your OCD into overdrive, I know you're freaking out...but watch the wonder & beauty I create out it-watch the beautiful things I make. If I can make man out of dust, what other wonders can I create if you'll just sit back & let me do what I do best ?"

Well God, it's like 6am, and since my mind's already been blown for the day I'm just going to lay here and marinate on what you just knocked me upside the head with....and watch you make beautiful things out of my dust. Just please remember to pass me a mask when you really get going-I have a feeling it's going to get thick in here for awhile and I don't want to choke.

Skin Color, Nappy Hair, & Other Black Girl Hangups

Stop.

I'm serious. Whatever it is you're doing, STOP IT RIGHT NOW and watch the video below. DON'T skip it, glance over it, say to yourself, 'I'll watch this later,' or jump past it to read the rest of this post.

Just.

STOP.

WATCH:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrtkNk1-48U]

Now....take a couple of minutes or however long you need to and just ABSORB what you just watched...

Digest what your eyes just witnessed.

Let the pain, shame, & other emotions you just heard travel from your ears to your heart.

And if you are feeling your eyes sting & burn from the tears threatening to spill down your cheeks-

LET THEM.

I did. I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop it. The tears are flowing, and my hands are trembling as I force myself to type these words. Tears flowing for the woman who said she asked her mother to put bleach in the water, for the girl who used to scrub her face because she thought it was "dirty", flowing in anguish for the woman who sat, with tears streaming down HER face, the betrayal & shame she feels burning in her eyes as she recalled the comment her friend made about thanking God her baby "wasn't dark!".

My hands are trembling in anger at the man, well, he sounds more like a boy to me, who said he would NEVER date a dark skinned girl because she "doesn't look right next to him." Trembling in anger at the young woman who described natural hair as "nappy" & "disgusting", but feeling empathy for her ignorance, because, I really can't blame her. No...I don't blame her...

I DO blame our society & culture for her ignorance though...I blame a media and an advertising industry who has sold us their institutionalized ideals on beauty and our culture for buying them at an ever increasing rate....I place blame on celebrities who give in to the pressures & demands made by these industries and actually allow themselves to have their skin lightened (I'm looking at YOU Beyonce/Sasha Fierce/whatever you're calling yourself these days), & have their own "nappy" hair glued/sewn down, hidden under hair from women who are paid to give it away.YUP I blame them. Why? Because they would rather give in than stand out. They would rather "play the game" to make some money than use their gifts/talents/art form to encourage young black girls to embrace who they NATURALLY are. Because looking like something you're not, because "blending in" is trendy-yes, this is why I blame them for her ignorance.

But more importantly, I blame us. And by "us" I mean African Americans, you know, "black folk". I blame us because celebrities wouldn't do any of those things if we didn't tolerate it. Better yet, MAYBE if we weren't so hateful against ourselves our daughters wouldn't be spending THOUSANDS of dollars on things like "Remy", and eyelashes, and lace fronts....Maybe if we didn't hate ourselves, the people who sell these products wouldn't be able to capitalize off of our self-hatred & shame. Maybe all the money we spend on trying to NOT be who we are would be used instead on growing businesses in our neighborhoods, putting HEALTHY food options on the table for our kids so OBESITY wouldn't be an epidemic, and funding the arts & other education initiatives so we could THRIVE...

But who am I to think such things? I'm just a big lipped, big nosed, black girl with "nappy" hair. My heart ACHES for the women in the above video, my face burns with the shame they feel, my eyes sting with tears over their hurt. Watching it brought an unexpected flood of memories & pain from experiences & hang ups I had growing up and sometimes still struggle with as an adult.

I'm not what black folk would consider "dark-skinned". Despite the deeply hued melanin burned into my arms from spending hours in the sun, I'm what most black folk would consider "high yella (yellow)". I've been told my skin is "so pretty because it has a nice 'golden' look to it, not dark like other black girls." I've born witness to men breaking their necks & falling all over themselves to talk to one of my black friends-who's skin was even lighter than mine and hair was longer than mine too. I've heard black men have conversations about "red bone girls" they wanted to "get it in" with and heard jokes about the ones who "look dirty" or "look like roaches" because of their pigment. But even being considered "light skinned" didn't keep me from wishing I had long, flowing hair like the white girls in my class, or worrying that if I stayed out in the sun too long I'd "get too dark"....and it wasn't enough to save me from developing hang ups about my complexion, hair, eyes, or anything else when it came to black folk.

My father put a relaxer in my hair before I was 5 and I vividly remember clumps of my hair washing down the bathtub's drain...and crying because I didn't think there'd be any left once we were done. I didn't even know what my own hair really looked like up until about 3 1/2 years ago when I made my first attempt at going natural. I spent YEARS straightening my hair, applying the creamy crack to it the instant I saw a wave forming. I could never let my hair be "nappy". No way! Having "beedeebees" in your "kitchen" wasn't cute and guys (especially) black guys wouldn't want to be with you. Straight....and LOOOONNNNNGGGG. That's how a black girl's hair should be-that's what I was taught. I remember being made fun of by the boys at recess because my hair was "greasy", fielding questions from white girls about how I "got my hair to do THAT", and debating with black kids, especially girls,about who must have Indian in their family or be mixed because they had "good" hair. I was brought face to face and challenged with the hair ideals I had grown up with and everything I believed hair should be when I decided to do THE BIG CHOP and go natural. The first time I lasted 6 months. I started working in Corporate America and caved to the subliminal pressure to conform-hair included. Afterall, natural hair didn't look "professional". However in July 2009, I gave up the creamy crack, and ditched those tangled, hairy, beliefs about my hair for good. It hasn't been easy. Seeing myself, seeing my hair in it's unruly, wild, tightly coiled, Ima-do-what-I-want splendor took some serious getting used to, but I forced myself to embrace it this time around and the process has taught me alot about myself.

Having natural hair has taught me ALOT about people too. Especially black people. The looks I got when I first cut all my hair off are just as numerous as the ones I get now that it's an all out 'fro almost 2 years later. I've had several (black) people ask me why I don't "do" my hair. I've had women say to me, "but it's so much WORK letting your hair go like that...don't you get tired of it being so nappy?". I've even had the pleasure of numerous black men look at me and my coif disdainfully. I even had a guy in one my classes ask me "Why did you do that {to your hair} ? You used to look so pretty. Now you just look....I dunno." My favorite reactions and the ones that anger me come from how people treat me when my hair is straight versus when it's curly or 'fro'd out. The minute I walk into a class, pass by a neighbor, or walk around a store with my locks straightjacketed with a flatiron, the compliments flow like the tide! I'm virtually ignored however, the minute I let it coil up....It's amazing that my beauty is tied up in how I wear my hair....REALLY?!

To this day I can't watch The Little Mermaid without squirming in discomfort once this guy pops up on screen:

When I was in elementary school I had a solo part in our Christmas concert, my first ever. I LOVED to sing as a kid, so I was super excited and couldn't wait to hear how proud my dad was of me afterward. Instead of receiving praise, I was told I look like that crab pictured above. I was told that I looked like I was singing "Under the Sea" because my lips, especially my bottom lip, was so huge. I was like 17 before he stopped calling me Sebastian....or "soup coolers". (And for the record, the only black woman my father was ever married to was my mother-he's remarried 5 times since....so yea...imagine what THAT would do to your perception of black women) Not only did I stop singing, I began to truly hate the way I looked...

I may not be "dark" but I definitely grew up with hang ups about my complexion, my hair, my eyes...about BEING BLACK period, and it just breaks my heart to see that this is still an issue in 2011. And it angers me when I look at black, "light skinned-long haired" celebrities who reinforce the belief in our own culture that lighter & straighter is better, prettier, & more desirable. It shouldn't be this way, but it is because we believed the "house nigga vs. field nigga" hype White folks sold us back during slavery. We bought into the idea that if you look like 'em you can "pass" and have a better life. In the generations & time that have passed since slavery, we've allowed shame to dictate how we feel about each other & what we teach our children about beauty.

My question is: When will it end? What will make it change? Why are we so afraid of who we are?

Watching this video really helped me see that we haven't come as far as we thought....