Monday, January 26, 2009

Say What? Steamy Talk In Mickey Mouse's House

I’m in total agreement with Beyonce: A little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody. Especially when it comes from getting “bodied” on the dance floor. Or getting in a good… ahem… “couple’s” workout. I’m even game with getting a little moist from playing a fun round of hopscotch with the girls and hooking up a tasty dinner on a hot, summer evening.

Incidental sweat is what I call it. You know—a few beads trickle here and there while you’re making it do what it do, and when it gets too hot and the moisture moves to the edge of getting out of hand, you stop whatever you’re doing and grab/run for/stand in front of something cold to cool off. Such action averts the ultimate black girl crisis: The hair sweat-out.

You know how we do: Be we relaxed or natural, we avoid any and everything that might lead to us having to spend a grip of money/an even bigger grip of time redoing the ‘do—which means there are a whole host of activities we black women might be more prone to skipping. Exercise. Water sports. Super hot showers. Singing in the rain. If it involves moisture, we’re thinking long and hard whether we really need to be involved.

Which is what I was trying to explain to my fellow Disney Cruise Mom Blogger friends as I trotted reluctantly into the saunas in the Disney Wonder’s The Vista Spa. Oh, don’t get me wrong: Hands down, The Vista Spa was one of my favorite places to be on the Disney Wonder—there were warm tiled stone lounge chairs, tranquil fountains, the sweet smells of ginger and lime, and private open-air massage villas equipped with Jacuzzis, hammocks, warm foot baths, invigorating showers, and champagne and strawberries for nibbling. Best of all? It’s a kid-free zone. In my book? That made The Vista THE place to be in Mickey’s floating house.

Um, except for the three-room series of saunas Katja of Skimbaco Lifestyle, Melanie of Don’t Try This At Home, Arianne of To Think Is To Create, and Maria of My Teen, The Alien practically dragged me into. Now, I tried to explain to my new bloggy friends that black girls don’t do steam. “My hair,” I exclaimed, patting my natural up do. I mean, it was in an afro anyway, but a sweated out afro? Not. Cute. But nooooo. “It’ll be great!” they insisted. “You’ll detox!” they exclaimed. “The best thing ever!” they swore.

And my dumb butt followed them in.

The first steam room, an aromatherapy sauna, was, I admit, nice; I wished I could bottle the scent and take it home with me—that’s how delicious it was. We stayed there for only a few minutes, then moved on to the next—this one hotter than the 4th of July and steamy enough for you to have to squint to see who you were talking to. Oh, the hair was toast in there; within seconds, every last strand on my head coiled into tight little fists next to my scalp, making it clear that I would p-a-y at least 90 minutes of pulling/stretching/combing/praying/ to get my coif into some kind of manageable, presentable, hairstyle that would go with the fancy dress I was wearing to the upscale Palo restaurant later that evening.

So now, I’m a wreck, right, because I don’t have 90 minutes for The Hair Fix. And I’m all “I told you I shouldn’t have come in here” to my bloggy friends, and they’re all like, “We. Don’t. Get. It.” And in the course of my explaining “It,” my new bloggy friends start asking me all kinds of questions I don’t see coming: What’s relaxed hair? Why were black women mad that Malia and Sasha Obama had their hair straight at the inauguration? Hair politics? What’s a head wrap? Do you wear it during sex? Three hours to twist your daughter’s hair? Really?

That conversation eventually morphed into our thoughts on Michelle Obama as First Lady, Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate, conservatism vs. liberalism, Dems vs. Republicans, plastic surgery, body fat, hot guys… the list goes on.

And in the time we spent boiling, er, detoxifying, I realized that my hair mess was a teachable moment for my new friends, who not only learned A LOT about me, but black women in general—things that they’d always wondered but were too afraid to ask. For fear of offending. For fear of being scolded. Or thought dumb. Racist, even, for simply not knowing.

I know a few folks—sistahs—who would take offense to this. We are not, they might argue, black life tour guides, meant to be mined for info or to make white folk comfortable. I, however, am much more content to answer the questions—none are too dumb or silly in my book. Indeed, I believe those questions lead to answers, and those answers open doors, spark conversation, bring us closer together. Enlighten.

In my bad hair moment, I managed to find some fine new friends in the beautiful Vista Spa on the Disney Wonder—women I may have never come to know and who may have never come to know Denene if it were not for that steamy conversation in the sauna.

For sure, a little sweat ain’t nevah hurt nobody.

(Note: This post is the first in the MyBrownBaby series on the 2009 Mommy Bloggers Disney Cruise. For more information on a Disney Cruise vacation, click here.)

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  1. Okay so I have curly hair that I can't stand and most of the time it's flat ironed out. Which means we fear rain, sweat...moisture of any kind to touch my hair. I totally get it.

    I hate (not really) my friends with the naturally straight hair. You know, the ones that can take a shower, run a comb through their hair and go. Nope...not this girl.

    Wish I were there with you! Maybe we could have cruised the bar and had cocktails. :) While the straight hair'd girls did the hot sauna stuff :)

  2. Oh, I've been there. I just transitioned to my natural hair (did the big chop during my maternity leave) and I do a roller-set every 2 weeks to loosen the curls a bit.

    First time I went to work with my natural hair it was silence. "How do you get it to do that?" They asked me.

    "Do what?"

    "Be curly."

    "Um...that's how it grows."

    Enter the look of confusion. All this time they thought my hair grew straight and me telling them otherwise just screwed up everything. My bad.

    I don't get offended when people ask questions because if people aren't around black people, they honestly don't know.


  3. I am a white gal with naturally curly/frizzy/crazy, completely dried out hair...and I HATE it. People with straight hair make me nuts...they just wash it and go. My hair takes a good half hour to straighten (if I'm lucky) or else I have to go out in all my natural goodness (which really is not good at all.)

    Denene ~ I think the thing I love most about you is your willingness to talk about "hush-hush" things. From the very first conversation we had together, I felt completely comfortable to talk to you about anything and I knew you wouldn't get offended. You are a sweetie and I love ya for it!

  4. This is why you are in my Fave 5!

    Great post! Sometimes I don't feel like being the authority on blackness, but I guess God puts us in these situations to educate people. If not us, then who? Kudos to you for sacrificing your 'do' for the greater good. I refuse to go on a vacation like that without some sort of braids or twists in my hair to avoid the moisture dilemma. Thank you for motivating me to educate rather than stay silently annoyed when people rudely say, "is that your real hair." I guess I am here to educate the world that there are black people who actually have real hair that comes down past their shoulders!

  5. Sounds like a great detox and a wonderful "teachable moment" for everyone involved.

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  7. LOL! I can picture you trying to nicely decline the offer, but giving in (reluctantly), and making faces the whole way there. I'm glad you did, b/c it really sounds like you got a chance to share, in an environment where people were interested in aspects of another group -- that's always a gem!

  8. Isn't it funny how those opportunities happen? I also don't mind answering questions and discussing the beauty of our hair and skin and everything else. I always remind the person that I'm talking to that if they don't ask, then how will they know?

    Glad you had fun on the cruise!

  9. I am so glad I found you Denene. White man here. And I have a black daughter. Last count, ten different hair care products I have purchased to help my two year old go out into the world without being tsked at. I am just entering into the world of "mama of a daughter with black hair" and I gotta tell you, I'm a wee bit terrified. I might pop back to your blog from time to time just to grab some equilibrium. If one more person tells me to go out and get such and such a product, I swear I'm going to... Breathe. Thank you Denene.


  10. This had me crying I was laughing so hard! I completely agree with is better for them to ask than to assume. I have been in situations where I have been asked "black" questions (ironically about hair as well) and I have been all too happy to answer them. Good for you...and for your new bloggy buddies!

  11. girl, you are so funny! :) i'm glad you took time out to explain a few things. nothing wrong with that at all. just like a few others mentioned here, if no one tells them, then how will they know?

  12. Oh oh oh! "Smells of Ginger and lime" I never quite got pass that sentence.

  13. For all of us to be able to sit and learn and dish about women things, especially things that *we* don't understand, like your hair, was seriously such a gift for me. I am such a sponge and feel most alive when surrounded by different people from all walks of life. Thank you again for the gifts you gave me on our many talks last weekend. I cherish them!

  14. My mom is white, my dad is black, so I straddle both worlds sometimes. The thing is, white people really have no way of knowing all these things if they haven't been exposed before. And many of them haven't. We are exposed to all of their products because in our country, we are still surrounded by mostly white images everywhere we look. We probably know more about their culture and products than they know about ours. So it's really important to open up the dialog without getting offended.


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