Can’t Tell Which Hurts So Good-er

If you want to look good, sometimes it has to hurt.

This weekend, as I sat in my salon chair for my regular soul flagellating ritual of a relaxer, I was convinced to try

pressing instead. The results, are thankfully the same–my hair is straight and the little curls of God’s practical joke are gone…and both methods come with pain, discomfort and a credit card bill near or in the three digits…But I’m not sure which is the best way to go.

For those of you who are already blessed with hair that responds to a comb and that your beloveds can easily run their fingers through, here’s a quick primer on what we do to keep our locks in line.

Relaxer: Imagine spreading a slice of sandwich bread with a thick layer of mayo.

Getting a relaxer is like only the sandwich bread slice is your scalp and the “new growth”–tightly curled natural hair that has yet to be tamed. And the mayo is lye a relaxer cream that in about 10 minutes of it landing on your skin begins to cause second degree burns. Luckily, it takes about 20 minutes for a relaxer to do it’s thing, so you’ve got plenty of time to sweat, squirm and stew about how lucky you’d be if you didn’t have to do this.

Pressing: No chemicals, so it’s healthier. But it’s also painful. Imagine raking your lawn. See how pulling the rake through the grass makes the lawn look all pretty?

Now imagine the lawn is your hair and the rake is a metal comb that’s been heated up to about 400 degrees. Also imagine that in order to make the rake work, you have to smooth just a bit of oil on the grass first so that when the 400 degree metal comb touches the oil, some vaporizes, but what doesn’t, melts on to your scalp and causes a quickly cooling, but mild first to second degree burn.

The pain of the relaxer is more intense, but sustained, so you can build resistance and is over in about 20 minutes.

The pain of a press and curl is more sporadic, so you’re not sure when to stop tensing and lasts longer as the oil-then-rake process must occur a couple hundred times (using very small chunks of hair each time) before you’re done.

Relaxers also last longer so you don’t have to endure them as often; but the scars they leave behind tend to last longer than the welts brought up by a relaxer.

Hmmm. Definitely want to make sure that my hair process reinforces the self loathing…there’s beauty in pain after all. Not sure which is the better way to go. What do you think?

Plausible Deniability

I almost bought a watermelon today.

I know excuses are pitiful, but it was hot, I was hungry and the allure of a lightly sweet, hydrating fruit was mighty and powerful.

But I was strong. I left the display, went inside and bought a bushel of figs instead.

The whole experience made me realize there are some things that even the most devoted Oreo will have a hard time avoiding. I’m listing some here for your reference, hoping that you can forgive me my trespasses and looking for a program, 12 steps or otherwise, that can help.

lotions-wholesale-privateAshy Knees. When one has higher levels of melatonin in one’s skin, one should also have higher levels of lotion with them at any given time. We do our best, but sometimes extra dry weather, a sudden fall to the ground, or time spent genuflecting and praying to be released from our ethnic bondage will sap the skin of moisture. Don’t worry, we’ll reapply as soon as possible.

Hairanoia. As discussed earlier, hair is a very delicate subject for an Oreo. We go 6046through great pains to keep it in line….a very straight line…and stray jets of water, rainfall or the beach or a public pool can be disastrous. It’s not that we can’t swim, it’s just that like a Mogwai, water has the ability to replicate things about ourselves that are best left alone. Specifically, the curls that give away our true identities.

blackjesusLooking Bad by Comparison. If you watch movies, you will see that black people are relegated one of to two roles. They are either the obligatory thugs/criminals/ ganstas , or they are what is affectionately called a Magical Negro.

These MNs are found in movies like The Green Mile, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The Shining, The Hudsucker Proxy, Because of Wynn Dixie, Two Weeks Notice, Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, Driving Miss Daisy (oh, hell, the whole Morgan Freeman oeuvre), The Matrix, O Brother Where Art Thou and The Stand, just to name a few.

These black characters exist to help white characters with whatever their problems may be without taking any reward or benefit for themselves.

The truth is, every black person is a Magical Negro. If you’re a scuzzy looking white person, you’re not nearly as frightening as that black man in line behind you, so consider the loan yours. If you’re a white lady with a few baby daddies, well at least those daddies don’t come from Inglewood, so line up for county services. If you’re a high school dropout with suction cups for hands, your resume is still more readable than Harvard graduate DeShawnda’s so get ready to roll over that 401K.

Sickle Cell Anemia. This disease exists only in persons of African descent. 76520-004-27CD47E9The upside: It renders us immune to Malaria. The downside: It exists only in persons of African descent, so the blood test that’s part of a yearly physical forces us to reckon with who we really are. Why must you betray us, biology?

gritsGrits. No excuses here. Grits are amazing. Small. Grainy. Filling. Delicious…and white. So hopefully that counts for something.

Angels and Inner Demons

In preparation for the opening weekend of Angels and Demons, I got caught up on my Dan Brown canon and watched The Da Vinci Code.

What’s great about this film is not Tom Hank’s proverbial portrayal of a nice guy caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Nor is it Ron Howard’s sensitive and dramatic direction. Nor is it the compelling story that allows for intelligent questioning of age old institutions that often go unquestioned.

What moves me the most is a scene about 8 minutes into the movie. The albino Silas zips up his leg in a terrifying razor belt, slicing open his skin. Then, bows before a crucifix, and whips the mess out of his back, bringing up welts, tears and penitence.

An appreciation of self-punishment is vital to the Oreo experience. Pain is a perfect reminder that you are not quite good enough. And if you can bring that pain on yourself, so much the better!

So once a month, I schedule a little masochism called a relaxer touch up to keep myself in check.

No natural hair for me! No dreds or even heat processing. Instead, I spend two hours and nearly $200 to have caustic white goo poured on my scalp to force my naturally kinky hair into beautiful, luxurious submission.

If you’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing a relaxer, let me walk you through it. The stylist spreads a thick white salve on your head that smells of sulfur. For the first few seconds, the naturally cool ointment feels almost calming. Then, it does its work and your head feels like it ate 4400 habanero peppers while being digested by the acid of 2300 angry angry stomachs.

First degree burns are not uncommon. And not unnecessary. Because in the end, my hair is as straight and as silky as any shampoo model’s. Fingers ready world! Run them through it. After all, I did this for you.

As my skull is still tingling from my latest salon adventure, I thought I would pay homage to some other self-punishers. Here’s to those of us unafraid to let the demons out…or rather to keep them in where they can do the important work that personal demons are meant to do.

A tip of the hat goes to:

1701164207_933ca62bafThe Classic: Vincent Van Gogh.

His human crime: Falling in love.

The punishment: One ear removal, sans sedatives.

The Creepy: Cathie Jung.

Her human crime: Having organs in the right place.

The punishment: Forcing intestines, lungs and other vitals into a 15-inch flesh tube. Yep, this lady took the brave step of corseting her once normal waist into something that Tim Burton will use to mocap his next movie.

The Contemporary: Daniel Witwicky

His human crime: I’m not sure what poor Danny Boy did wrong, but whatever it was, the punishment seems to be having to endure all of his bones breaking into bits as his gift of a robot carcass must transform into a very non-human-shaped car every time the Autobots decide to roll out. (sorry for the long video, you can see his self-sacrifice at 3:12)

Now that’s committment. Puts my relaxer to shame. Anyone know where I can get an exosuit?