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I Moved Across the Country and Never Looked Back

There are these moments in your life where you don’t know where the power is coming from, but you find yourself making a choice, a choice you never imagined you would make — even in your bravest daydreams — but somehow, you choose, and everything changes.

Gainesville, Florida is small, but radical — like most college towns — a liberal escape in the part of Florida where people wave Southern accents and racist flags.

I’d been there 6 years, after an entire childhood spent in the same Central Florida house. Never left the country. Never left my comfort zone, if I could help it.

Sure, the winter was impossibly cold. Especially coming from Florida with nothing but a cotton hoodie. And especially with no money for expensive oil heat. And especially because my housemate parked on top of the place we were supposed to refill the oil, then went away for all of December, so heat wasn’t even an option. And especially because when we tried to plug in more than one space heater in the house, we blew a fuse.

So I slept in a sleeping bag all winter, drank a lot of hot tea. And we made a house rule that any time anyone complained,

“It’s so cold in here!”

we all had to get up and dance together. It was almost always me uttering it. Everyone would groan, and then everyone would dance.

Everything fell right into place. It doesn’t always. In 2013, we got priced out of Seattle and moved to the country.

Seattle has changed a lot. Most of the punk houses have been torn down. Tent cities are growing, and so far, the rich aren’t doing near enough to make the city accessible for everyone again.

But as for me, at that time in my life, I was right where I needed to be. I didn’t need to get medicated. I just needed to take a leap, to leave my comfort zone and have an adventure. I came thisclose to accepting a mediocre life. But I made one brave decision, and it changed everything.

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Is the Natural Hair Movement Coming to an End?

While watching some videos on Youtube one day, something off-topic came up on my ‘Auto-Play’ pane. A video titled ‘Dear Natural Hair Police’.

Ironically, this video popped up as I was in the middle of my wash day (aka a drawn-out process in which I wash and style my hair). I didn’t want to touch my computer with my hands — soaked with hair product/oil — so I just let it play. In short, the Youtuber goes on to talk about why she decided to chemically relax her hair after several years of wearing it in its natural state. She also goes into detail about the backlash she received from other naturals (what she refers to as the “natural hair police” or “hair nazis”) regarding this decision. The first thought that came to my mind: When did it ever become this serious?

I’m going to pause to define terms for readers who may not know what’s going on here:

Natural Hair Movement: a movement which encourages Black women (and men) to embrace their natural Afro-textured hair rather than chemically straightening. this movement spiked between the years 2008–2014.

Relaxer: a chemical straightening cream that is designed to alter kinky/coiled hair texture by a process of controlled damage to the hair’s protein structure. When not handled properly and over a long period, some consequences could lead to lasting or permanent damage to the hair and scalp.

There’s no doubt that, within this sub-culture, some reform is in order. I went natural for a few simple reasons:

  1. I Hated Relaxers — my mom can vouch for this. As a kid, I was not a fan of going to get my hair done. I hated the entire process: going to the salon, wasting what felt like an entire day, having chemicals in my hair that would eventually burn, not being able to get my hair wet afterward, not being able to scratch my scalp, etc. As I got older my sister started doing them for me, which was a nuisance for both of us. I may not have made a fuss about it as a teenager but I still hated getting them.
  2. Curiosity — I had my first relaxer by the time I started kindergarten, so I had no idea what my real hair looked like. I wanted to at least try it.
  3. Expenses — I knew that when I moved to Northern VA I was going to have to either find someone to do my relaxers for me on campus or go to some salon that would charge way more than I was used to.

The keyword here is “chose”. I didn’t feel I had to appease anybody on either side, I just wanted to do something for myself. And it should be the same way for anyone else. If you’re going natural (or staying natural) because of external pressure to do so, then don’t. Not everybody wants to, some people just want to try it out, and some people just don’t like the work or maintenance. Whatever the reason, it’s no one’s business but your own what you choose to do with your hair and body. The ‘police’ of natural hair is not interested in empowerment, but in having people conform to a specific standard of beauty in order to be considered adequate. Now, where have I heard this narrative before?

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Beauty is Gene Deep but give me those little imperfections

Q. Why do pretty people get away with murder?

A. Preservation of the species.

Huh? How could those two ideas possibly be connected?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That’s partially true, but the symmetrical face with a particular set of characteristics such as how wide apart the eyes are and what the distance is between facial features, is seen as universally beautiful.

As Shania said, that don’t impress me much. So you’re pretty. So what?

Might not impress you, Miss Twain, but there is a gestalt quality about beauty. The cute child will not be disciplined as harshly as an ugly one. The pretty girl will have more boyfriends. An attractive defendant in court will usually receive a lighter sentence than an ugly one — sometimes, perhaps getting away with murder.

Not fair. Yes well — life isn’t fair. Few of us are beautiful enough to merit such allowances.

But how does any of this connect to the preservation of our species?

Survival of the fittest.

What? You’re saying beauty is a survival factor? Are you nuts?

I have yet to see a healthy person who is not beautiful. Doesn’t matter what colour their hair is, their skin, their eyes — there are hundreds of kinds of beauty. What does matter is vigour, strength, vitality. Trivialities like height or size of breasts are a matter of personal choice. A healthy person isn’t overly fat, nor is he or she skinny. A healthy person has glossy hair, good teeth, clear skin, bright eyes, smells good.

But those are the very things that make each one of us unique. Freddie Mercury, bless him, saw his teeth as a problem, but actually they helped to define him. Certainly didn’t put anyone off him as a person - or as an artist. David Bowie had his teeth straightened, but he lost something of himself when he did that. Barbra Streisand’s nose, Mick Jagger’s lips, Prince Charles’ ears, Sarah Jessica Parker’s narrow face, Julia Roberts’ mouth, John Goodman’s large build — not conventionally acceptable, but those small imperfections give them their identities and draw us in more than mere surface attraction.

Little flaws are what make us attractive. Beauty on the outside does not equal beauty on the inside. Pretty people can be vain and self-centred. If you’re not a gorgeous babe or handsome hunk, you have to try harder to cultivate other qualities like kindness, creativity or the ability to make someone laugh.

Our genes may want to make merry with sturdy strands of DNA but our humanity says otherwise. And fat, thin, bald, or buck-toothed — we are much more than the sum of our parts.