Black women have been more than heroines. They have been saviors for countless children. They have been the backbone of the black community. Our black women have proven to be the STRONGEST homo sapiens on earth and the VAINEST when it comes to their hair. Unlike white women, hair appears to be overwhelmingly important. The black female spends countless time and dollars on keeping their “Do” up-to-par. They also forgo a healthy lifestyle in order not to “sweat out” their perms.
Now, many of my black female readers are saying, ‘He better be extra careful with this one.’ If you are black and female, why are you cautioning me or beginning to feel uncomfortable? Are you guilty of spending large sums of loot on black hair products? Are you guilty of becoming a regular at the local Korean owned and operated black hair products store? Are you guilty of having to get up at 6:00am to “fix” your hair when your work day begins at 9:30am and when the commute is only 30 minutes? Are you guilty of neglecting your health because you refuse to workout? If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you are making the Koreans wealthy, you are probably missing out on an additional forty-five minutes of sleep, and most importantly you would rather gain weight and become unhealthy all in the name of keep’ in yo wig tight.
Yeah, I know I have upset someone. I would say that I don’t care, but I do care. This is my sole reason for bringing this to my readership community. I am so tired of seeing my sista’s struggle with the hair and weight dilemma, and it is my hope this commentary will help and not offend. Continue to read.
A few months ago I conducted a week long study in the Atlanta Five Points Marta train station (in the morning between 8:30am-9:00am). I decided to count the number of African Americans and White Americans who take the escalator instead of the steps. 75% of the African Americans decided to ride up the escalator. 60 percent of the 75% who took the non-energy exerting ride were black women. At least 70% of the 60 percent of the women were overweight. I realize Five Points station is a predominantly African American drop off and transfer station because many of the riders are coming from the east, west, and south ends of the city. This surely accounts for the high statistics. However, out of the 80 white people I counted in a week’s time 74 walked up the steps with me.
I decided to do this study because I overheard a discussion between two black men discussing African American health issues. The light skin brother said, “I only date white women because they enjoy doing the things I want and like.” The dark skin brother proceeded to ask him, “What do white women do that you like other than give you head whenever you want it?” The yellow brother said, “For one, white women will workout, and black women make up every excuse not to workout. One excuse being: the upkeep of their hair.” After ears dropping on this dialogue while the two men and I sat outdoors eating lunch and while admiring the beauty bodies of African American women as they strutted up Broad Street, I began to think about his statements and began to wonder why do I see so many unhealthy looking black women on the train, in restaurants, in the building where I work, in the bars, and even working at the strip club?
Now, looking unhealthy of course to me is being over or under weight. When I told a black female friend this she began to question my understanding of the Body Mass Index scale and Height to Weight scale. I appreciated the questioning (which were out of her frustration with my analysis). However, with a degree in Health and Physical Education, having a certificate of fitness instruction, working as a fitness trainer, and enough common sense to know that if you are 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighing 250lbs, I perfectly understand there is a problem.
This problem is definitely not unique to black women. I realize that. My issue is the reasons or justifications I have received from black women on why they refuse to workout or restrict their workouts. I posed the following questions to 20 African American women: Why is your hair at times a barrier to maintain proper health via working out? Should it be, considering the rising black female weight/obesity problems?
Some of the responses are legitimate and some maybe plain ole excuses. Read a few of them:
1) I would not have this hair issue if black men accepted me with nappy-hair.
2) I must admit I am a culprit of the hair barrier. My head sweats really badly. The only reason I am wearing weave in my hair right now, to this day is because I want to continue to workout without sweating out my hair. It is really sad. The main reason I wear extensions is so that I can workout without sweating out my hair all the time. I have delayed working out several times because I did not want to get my fresh "NEW DO" messed up.
3) THE CROWN & GLORY.....Hair has always and will always be an issue for woman....whether it be sweating exercising or having sex. Some women just can not maintain their own hair...so the in between time is most important, even if it means holding on to a couple of extra pounds as to not mess up the "DO" or maybe making him get on the bottom as to not mess up the "DO"...Black women have to compete with other races with "GOOD HAIR"...simply because ours just does not bounce back...maybe one day our men will start loving us for what we are inside and not what we look like between the "DO'S".....
4) The hair washing process is a lot different for black women than ANY other race. It’s a process...a two-three HOUR process. Neither white, Asian, Latin, Middle Eastern, Native American, nor Eskimo women have this same barrier. Washing their hair is a part of taking a shower. They can wash, leave, and let air dry. We as black women have no such luxury. I am a black woman who would be considered to have a relatively decent "grade" of hair- and it definitely hinders me from working out as much as I would like to. I couldn't imagine how this would affect someone with really course or inflexible hair- it makes their ordeal even more difficult.
I will allow you to determine if these are plain ole excuses or legitimate reasons. You decide and then read some more responses to the questions:
1) My hair stays in braids -- it's not a deterrent for working out. Well, maybe for water aerobics. My biggest obstacle is laziness... When Fall comes, I'm cutting this stuff off, again. Anyone using hair as an excuse is just not owning up to her laziness. I betcha she gets her booty-slappin', screaming, hair-pulling sex on though! Sex-exercise is the best exercise. Hair isn't an excuse for everything...
2) I choose to watch my diet more closely in order to compensate... With this being said, hair should be no excuse for obesity. Eat better, or get braids and go to the gym! Now- excuse me as I run off to my elliptical machine!
3) I understand the importance of health. And, I am no friend of obesity. It sickens me that black females have allowed themselves to become overweight, and with the help of immature and ignorant boys/men and celebrities like Monique, they think it's sexy. Not realizing the heath aspect of it all. I can say I know quite a few females that go to the gym and workout on a regular basis, despite the hair issue. For the most of them, they keep their hair in braids. However, it's the ones that aren't obese.
Hair for black women is an issue. It is evident in the frustration this commentary may have generated, in the responses listed above, in the profits the Koreans continue to make (http://www.eurweb.com/story/eur27288.cfm), and in the small number of black women in the gym. It is my sincere hope that we (black folk) will support each other on this front. If not, the primary caregivers of our children will continue to be among the diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other health aliment statistics.
Men need to decide which is more important: A woman’s Good Health or A Nice Hair-Do. I prefer both, but if I was forced to choose one it would be Good Health. Women need to do what is best for themselves and discontinue being preoccupied by a man who does not realize staying healthy is essential.
A message to the permed-up and lazy black woman (another sista called you lazy, not me):
You need to get with the program. A man in the final analysis of things will select a woman with a natural over an out of shape woman. If he does not, you better believe he is lurking around trying to find a Fat Blow Job-Giving White Chick while you are at home eating honey buns!
Written by Brian E. Payne. Inspired by my love for a honey bun.