Glimmers of Life

So this week new mum’s losing their baby weight has hit the headlines. Not for the first time, but this time there was a slightly different take. It wasn’t just about celeb mums losing their baby weight super quick (again), it was mum’s complaining that they don’t get enough support from their midwives on slimming down. My opinion is that at the time a midwife is in your life you shouldn’t really be thinking about losing weight – and I know myself that that’s not realistic because as you stare at your old wardrobe through tired eyes trying to find something to fit, you can’t help but wish for slimmer days but actually that won’t fix the problem.

I was never really “body confident” before I had a baby. I had the odd day where I knew I looked good, but most of the time I was in clothes that were a size or two too big to hide the “problem areas”.  But this meant that after a few weeks of breast-feeding I was actually able to get back into the clothes I had had before. I remember thinking, “Great” as I slid back into my size 16 jeans and slightly fitted shirt, but while I could get into the clothes they didn’t actually fit. They no longer felt like the comfortable staple to go out on a Saturday afternoon, they just felt….wrong, that meant was that what little body confidence I’d gained from being small enough to get back into my old clothes, was quickly lost by not looking as good in them as before.

Losing the weight shouldn’t have been my priority, finding ways to gain confidence should have been. Because with a little confidence you just feel better about yourself even if you are in ill-fitting clothes.  With me I started by going to the odd mother and baby session, there I saw mums with babies the same age looking good, it made me then want to take a bit of pride in myself, so I took myself and my baby off to the shops. I remember the day quite clearly, going into Debenhams picking up all sorts of clothes and then taking my the large dressing room for ages. Most of it didn’t look right but there was the odd thing that I could carry off. To be honest I didn’t actually buy any of it but I then knew what to look for and the road a happier me had begun. I began to understand that it wasn’t just a weight issue but a body issue. My body had changed – old problem areas (small boobs) had disappeared and new ones had taken their place (wobbly tummy). I had to learn about this new body and adjust accordingly. Now for some it may be a bigger body for others it may be just changed but so soon after having a baby learning to work with what you’ve got is key, while your body recovers.

I think this may come across as a little cheesy and cliché but it’s experience and advice that I have been sharing with my friends and it seems to help (especially for those whose husbands or mother-in-laws call them fat). I mean the midwife told me it takes two years for your body to fully recover from childbirth, so unless you’re at a serious dangerous weight, I wouldn’t even think about slimming until baby is at least a year old.  And I’m not saying just go out and buy new clothes and all your problems will be solved, I’m saying that while your body is in transition, give it a bit of time, build up some confidence so you work with what you’ve been lumbered with.

My views on going to the gym have always been clear. I think it’s a waste of time and money. Surely there are enough things to do in your average UK town or city that can help you get fit or keep fit or whatever. In fact I’m sure even just round my house I could find enough items to lift, twist with and step up on to create a fantastic calorie burning workout.

But there’s one thing a gym has that I just can’t replicate at home and that’s a swimming pool. I recently started a new job and with that job came a discount for the local gym and already I’m hooked. It started with just a quick lunchtime fix, then I negotiated a night off the evening childcare routine with my partner so I could go after work. Then yesterday I had a late appointment, so I made dinner, fed my daughter and then went out for my appointment. Once that was done (seeing as I already had my pass for the night) I went to the gym again. If I count it all up I think I’ve been at least 7 times in the past two weeks.

What has most perplexed me however is that I’m not just going to swim. On my night off I started doing a couple of classes, and I’ve been tempted by the machines too (although I’ve not used them for a proper workout yet). I’m now beginning to wonder how I managed without going to the gym. I hate myself for it but the legal high (if not a little expensive) I get means that for now I’ll just have to live with it!

I just thought I’d take a moment to say how fantastic Stylist Magazine is. Stylist is the free women’s magazine that usually appears on newspaper stands every Wednesday. I don’t know how long it’s been going for or much about it at all except that I like it. Every week I pick up a copy and look forward to taking a few moments to read it – sometimes I don’t get those moments (hence there reason there’s a pile of them by my bed) but I take the chance to read what I can when I can. In fact I particularly like it if my daughter falls asleep in the car on the way home because then I can stay in the car a little longer parked up outside my house and read an article or two. I’ll always try to read the “Day in the life of…” section and the interview at the back…. But inevitably they’ll be another article that I fancy reading… hence the pile by my bed!

But what inspired me to put my Stylist love down on virtual paper was the fact that they featured an afro hair product on their 30 Most Desirable Items This Week feature. It was one of those moments when your brain and voice box fizz with excitement and a little involuntary squeal comes out. Personally I found this reaction quite odd. What’s the big deal?! It’s just a product on a page, they do it all the time, there’s almost always at least one product in this feature that I like – one on which if I had the cash it would be splashed. I think what it was was that I felt acknowledged, acknowledged in the main stream. The beauty pages are usually targeted to the majority and that’s fine, I can still learn things, after all everyone has a face and tips on how to make the most of it can always be adapted whatever the skin tone. But this product is not for the majority, it’s only for those of us blessed with afro hair and Stylist thought they’d let me know about it. They say small things amuse small minds – but this little addition in the magazine delighted my little mind, that sits under my minority hair and put a big smile under my wide nose.

Thanks Stylist!

Mistresses, the BBC drama show came back for its series last month. There was excited anticipation in this household from both me and my hubby, as soon as we caught a glimpse of the trailer. We’ve watched every episode of every series, and to my surprise, I think it’s something we enjoy equally.

The first episode of this final series aired and it was as enjoyable as ever. The second episode we missed but made a special effort to watch at the earliest opportunity on the iPlayer. Then we heard rumours that the next one was the penultimate and suddenly it was over. RUBBISH!

It felt like they thought, oh a new series of Mistresses – great idea. They got everyone on board, got the writers busy at their computers and then two episodes in said – “oh, you know what, actually we don’t have the money to do a full series, wind up what you’ve got and we’ll go with that”. What was the point?

The final episode seemed like such a hurried resolution to the whole thing, without really being a resolution. Very odd.
Mistresses as a whole was a very engaging and enjoyable piece of entertainment and this final series did it such a disservice that it’s left me wondering whether they should have bothered at all.

When I went to see this documentary (a while a go now), I was impressed that there was a documentary that touched on my life and something I have an opinion on. I watch documentaries on the tv – but no more than your average person, and I usually do it because the subject matter is interesting and I would like to learn more. In this case though, I do have some inside knowledge and I think that’s why it got to me.

Good Hair takes you down a few different strands of the “black hair” world, but I think the part I found most interesting was about the industry, and how despite being huge consumers of black hair products – probably the only consumers really, that black people didn’t profit from it. Black people don’t make the products, source the products, distribute the products or sell the products, black people don’t own the industry. There is a part where the Reverend Al Sharpton explains how we wear our oppression everyday day. That was something I really wasn’t aware of.

But then there are parts that just left me with more questions – like when the Reverend Al Sharpton explains how James Brown told him to get his hair straightened to look like him – but why?

And then there was a little part which kids in a classroom and one black girl says something like I probably wouldn’t hire you with your hair like that, to a girl with a funky afro hairstyle. That comment strikes at the heart of the issue, why wouldn’t she hire her? What messages has she been given throughout her life to say that to one of her “sisters”? I think that would have been really interesting to explore.

But I have to say that the part that burned me the most was when he said that we don’t keep our hair natural because we want to be white, which he then spends no time at all in trying to dispel… is this really what he thinks? Is it really what black women think? Because I can safely say that that is not the case with me. I think Nia Long says at the end “black women are hard work” but I think that it’s black hair that’s hard work. Black hair doesn’t fit into the caucasian dominated world in which I live. And I don’t really mean that in terms of perception (although it could be the case), I mean it in terms of working for me. Let me explain a little….

When I was young, most of my friends were white. Whether they had straight hair, curly hair or something in between they could comb/brush it. At the flick of a wrist they could tie it up, let it down, have it half up half down whatever whereas I had to wait until Sunday night before I could have anything different done with my hair. My Dad would pin me down and haul a comb through the entangled nest while I cried. I’d then be stuck with that style until the next week.

Even now, I’ve had my hair in several different styles, braids, relaxed natural but I couldn’t honesty tell you that I know how to look after my hair. Almost every time I go to the hairdresser they say, your hair is damaged, your hair is too dry but when I ask for advice and tips on how to look after it rarely do I get a tangible answer. I have numerous half bottles of products around the house, that I’ve bought because they used it in the hair dresser or someone said it was good I use them and nothing seems to change. Now I am aware that this trial an error process is universal it’s not just black women that have a stash of products languishing in a corner somewhere, but the difference I think is that I’m not even sure when my hair is good condition, except when I come out of the hairdressers and you can never recreate that.

But why don’t I know how to properly look after my own hair – because it doesn’t fit. My hair is different from my mum’s (hers is less afro) so no help there, it’s different from my friends – no help there, it’s not the same as what I see in the mainstream magazines and I’m too boring for the specialist ones (blue loaf style anyone?), celebs – well they don’t count because they have more money to spend or their hair than I ever will. The only place it fits is at the hair dresser – but is the only way to look after my own hair to take it to someone else?

I don’t want to be white, I have straight hair so I can comb it into a style that suits me in the morning and go to work with minimal fuss. If I knew how to do that with my natural hair I would do it in a heartbeat and feel happier for it.
Maybe someone could tackle that in Good Hair – the sequel-a how to guide…

Thank goodness for the Cornerhouse in Manchester! I’d heard about this Chris Rock documentary on the radio and searched every cinema in the area to see if they were showing Good Hair, and nothing. I did actually even try the Cornerhouse website but there was no information. A week later they said it was coming soon and finally I got to see it.

At first I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth the £5 entry, but I decided that if you don’t support these things then later down the line you won’t get the option so I handed over my card and let it bear the strain. And I’m glad I did.

Good Hair is a documentary headed by Chris Rock which delves into some of the issues surrounding Black Hair, why every black woman wants straight hair, what lengths they’ll go to to get it, and how black men feel about it – with a bit of a hair competition thrown into the mix.

As a piece of entertainment I enjoyed it. I laughed, I questioned, I got angry (see next piece) – it touched me.  But it also bugged me a little though that rather than delve for answers it simply offered up the obvious or reverted to the superficial. Like when you go to a restaurant for a good meal, and you know the chef has freshly cooked the main course but that they’ve just microwaved the dessert from a packet.

Overall this is an accessible if not a little light film about Black Hair. I’d say this is definitely one to watch, especially if you’re black or know someone black, as it touches on some interesting points. Ideally though I’d say take a group of friends so you can talk about it afterwards. I’ve found myself chatting with friends who haven’t seen it about some of the points made, but it would have been much better if they’d seen it too.

I don’t usually buy Marie Claire, I don’t even really read it as it seems a little high brow for my childlike knowledge of fashion and trends. But last month my job required me to buy a copy and I decided to sneak it home for a cheeky read. To my surprise I came across a whole bag dedicated to black women.
Now back when I used to be an avid reader of the Guardian on Saturday, one of the many highlights was the section written by Hannah Pool called “The New Black” (i think). It was usually an article about something “black”, or at least that black women would be interested in and as a black woman I was interested. But then it stopped – and I was left without a guide….
So this section in Marie Claire is a welcome surprise. In the edition I read, it had a bit about having natural hair, and a bit about make up. It was small considering it is such a fat magazine but appreciated.
This month’s edition of the magazine has a shower gel freebie, so it may just be worth getting a copy…