Thursday, December 31, 2009

All-natural Hair Relaxer

A new non-permanent hair relaxer is on the market: Diva Smooth. Instead of an alkali solution that strips the hair's natural curl pattern from within the cuticle, this product uses coconut oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, honey, and molasses. Use these natural ingredients along with a flat iron, and your hair can be straight and still remain healthy and natural.

It's probably also great for transitioning divas who hate that two-textured, in-between look.

Here's the topper: you can buy it online for only 50 bucks.

How I wish I would have known about this years ago!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Rock the Short 'Do

Speaking of Miss Jessie's Grow-Out-Challenge (see 12.22 post), I've been thinking a lot about Big Chops these days. Big Chops, as in, chopping relaxed hair down close to the roots to start over and start natural. Or maybe you just want the short look. Solange Knowles did it earlier this year, causing an uproar from the media. People made nasty comments such as, "She look like a man" or "She looks like a cancer patient." I say she looks great.

Here are some pics of my cousin (a new cousin!) Carla's super cute short look. I think her short hair accentuates her face and brings attention to her eyes. She can play it up with accessories--big earrings, etc.

Love this short hair. I say, Rock on, sisters!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What if you discovered your birth father is Charles Manson?

That's what happened to adoptee Matthew Roberts (read more and see photos here). After he found out his father's identity, and that his father had raped his mother, he went into a depression. Naturally! What a shock.

If we want to have the right to search and find out who our birthparents are, we have to be ready for not-so-pleasant surprises. Knowledge hurts sometimes. But I believe secrets can hurt more than knowledge, and most of the time knowing is better than not.

It sounds like Roberts did not have support--an adoptee group or therapist trained in adoption issues--when he began the search. Searching can be such a lonely, terrifying experience (let alone if something like that happens!) Reach out, all you searching adopteds. Reach out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Calling all Women Who Want to Stop Relaxing Their Hair: Miss Jessie's Grow-Out Challenge

Miss Jessie is having a hair grow-out challenge over on Share your story of growing out your roots, and you could win cash and other prizes!

Colorado Allows Some Access to Adoption Records, but Fear Still Looms Large

A Colorado Court of Appeals decision opened access to original birth certificates and adoption records for adoptees born between 1951 and 1967 (see Denver Post). Adopted children born post-1999 have some access as well, but for those outside these short windows of time, forget it.

Secrecy still rules in the world of adoption. Access varies widely, unfairly, state-to-state. Only 9 states give full access to records or OBCs for the adoptee, and some with tight restrictions attached. Lots of control, lots of fear. The Denver Post article details the many fears people have about this issue. Check out the reader comments too--many are explosive.

When your very existence is surrounded by fear in this way, it can be emotionally confusing or damaging. To insinuate that adoptees are "dark secrets" whose presence will "destroy lives" is hyperbolic and hurtful.

In Colorado, record numbers of people filed for their original birth certificates following this court decision. Isn't that evidence of how important this is?

The question on allowing access is always this: Whose rights matter most?
  • The adoptive parents'? They might fear that their child will reject them if s/he is allowed to seek information about or contact with birth families...let me tell you, the possibility of rejection is MUCH higher when they are denied the right to this information.
  • The birth families'? The birth families might fear lack of privacy and therefore not want an adoptive child to seek. Often that's not the case, but sometimes it truly is.
  • The adoptees'? Many say that access to birth certificates is a civil right that belongs to every citizen and should therefore belong to adoptees as well. Many also say that access to information about heredity, etc. is also a basic human right.
Perhaps all parties should have the right to say "yes" or "no," but what about when interests conflict? Does the adoptee's rights supersede the birth mother's? Does the adoptive parents' rights count more than the adoptee's? How can we make everybody happy?

Not everyone can be happy unless it's a perfect world. And let's face it: adoption is often evidence of a broken world. When a mother is in a situation where she must give up a child, when a couple cannot get pregnant, when a child has to be removed from a dangerous situation and become property of the government, this is not perfection. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, but it is a human thing so it is flawed and emotional and complicated.

It appears that things might be moving in a progressive direction in Colorado. Hopefully this will encourage further retroactive provisions. When people see that the world doesn't end when access is granted, more draconian laws will be lifted.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Language of Adoption

My friend Rachel recently wrote a wonderful blogpost about the language of adoption, and it got me thinking again about the terms we use to describe our situations and label our family members.

People take issue with certain terms used for mothers and fathers:
  • "birth" or "bio" mother/father: too cold and unfeeling, only acknowledges the role the mother played in the birth, when there's much more to it emotionally and post-birth
  • "first" mother/father: this qualifier can be silencing for the adoptive mother, as "first" can mean not just order but "top"..."she comes in first, you're second"
  • "adoptive" mother: again, a qualifier that by its very essence seems to undercut how this person is simply a mother
(I can imagine this is also an issue for families with children from previous marriages who use the term "step-mother")

BUT the problem is, if you just use "mother" or "father" in all situations, people won't always understand what you're talking about.

In my head and heart I call both my mothers simply "mother" and both my fathers "father." Though rarely do I think of my first parents with the more familiar terms "mom" and "dad" because, for some reason, to me those connote a certain experience I did not have with them. When I talk about my situation with people who don't know much about adoption, often I end up using terms that they will immediately understand, such as "birth/biological" mother-father, though I know by doing so I am leaving out many nuances of the language for this.

Both my birth mother and birth father and their families referred to me as simply their “daughter” right away when I contacted them. How might I have felt if they had said, “I’m so glad to finally hear from my birth daughter”? I don't know...maybe a bit slighted. We must acknowledge the shortcomings of our language, because always using terms that exclude no one and offend no one and hurt no one in the adoption triad is impossible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Healthcare Reform: Tax Credit for Adoption

Christmas, Birth, and Healthcare
Every year on Christmas Eve, millions of Americans celebrate the birth of Jesus.

This year on Christmas Eve, approximately 31 million people will have the birth of something else to celebrate too: the chance for healthcare coverage. Healthcare reform legislation is scheduled to go through the Senate early this Thursday.

It appears that birth and adoption were on the minds of lawmakers when they drafted these new policies.

The abortion issue
PA Senator Bob Casey had a big part in changing the language of the bill to satisfy fellow Democrat senators who took issue with how taxpayer dollars might be spent on abortion. The revised bill requires an accounting system that separates private from public funds and ensures that public funds do not support abortion. Casey also added programs aimed at reducing the number of abortions, which includes support for pregnant teens and victims of abuse and--horray!--tax credit for adoption.

How this relates to adoption legislation
I definitely like the idea of adoption getting more support, though things can get tricky when it's directly linked to abortion. People who oppose the open-records and original birth certificate legislation for adopted persons often cite fears that abortion rates will go up if there is more transparency with records. They suspect birth mothers will opt for abortion so they don't have to live in fear that their relinquished child will come knocking on their door one day. Truth be told, this is just not the case. The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and the AAC have done numerous studies on this, and have found that the majority of birth mothers actually welcome the idea of transparency and the possibility to know later on that their child is doing okay. For many this idea reduces the demonization of relinquishing a child. Plus, in states that have always allowed access to original birth certificates such as Alaska and Kansas, abortion rates have either stayed the same or gone down in recent decades.

Everyone has the right to medical care, and it's about time we make that a reality in America. I'm happy to see that this new legislation is allowing multiple options for pregnant women, including adoption. But I do hope that along with these breakthroughs in policy some changes can be made to the way adoptions are handled in regard to original birth certificates and records. Let us not forget the rights of mothers--and children--when it comes to healthcare reform.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Movie Broken Flowers: An Unexpected Birthparent Story

A few days ago I came upon the movie Broken Flowers and was surprised to find a birthparent story. Bill Murray plays a Don Johnston, middle-aged bachelor who one day receives an anonymous letter on pink paper informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him.

Johnston embarks on a journey to visit the women of his past and possibly find his son. Some women greet him happily, one slaps him in the face, etc. To each he comes bearing a bouquet of pink flowers. He does not state his reason for visiting right off, but rather begins looking for clues as he spend time with each woman. He begins to notice young men while traveling. Pink items pop up everywhere. This so brilliantly captures the kind of heightened awareness that takes over when you are searching so fervently.

I saw this as an adoption story, of course.

More generally it is a gentle story of looking for family, looking for likeness in every passing person. Looking for clues of connection. I appreciate that it is told from a perspective that is often silenced. A father who was never informed that he was a father. We prioritize the woman's role as mother (in an adoption context and otherwise), and often I think when the man isn't around the assumption is that he would rather not be involved. Murray's character wasn't exactly ecstatic about discovering that he had a child, but yet he was compelled to find the child and know who he was. This story is especially touching for me because of my own recent encounters with birth family.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Minstrelsy Alert! Be on the lookout for racism on SNL

A recent Saturday Night Live skit starring Kenan Thompson was called to my attention today. Prepare to be offended when you click here to view on Hulu.

Thompson plays Virginiaca, an overweight, obnoxious black stepmother of an equally obnoxious white girl. They are shopping at a store that sells high-end apparel. Virginiaca assures the salesclerk that she could purchase the entire store. She's rich, you see, because her white husband is loaded. (Golddigger? Materialistic?) "Where you is?!" mother yells at daughter. "Where you is?!" the daughter yells back. They continue in exaggerated blackspeak as they peruse the store. The daughter insists on trying on a teeny-tiny skirt 'cause it's perfect attire for her to "get her booty go round-and-round." Begin erotic humping. They finger wag at a mannequin because--surprise!--they're too dumb to realize it's not a real person.

It all culminates at the end when Virginiaca mounts the table and says to the white salesclerk: "Do you see this position I'm in?" She inches toward him, ass in the air. "I want you to imagine this with no bottom and no top!" She is literally throwing her sex at him, enacting the stereotype of the licentious black female that dates back to slavery. Thanks for bringing it back, SNL. It's really, really funny.

If SNL were trying to poke fun at stereotypes--to show their absurdity--they missed the mark. They could have shown the white salesclerk having these preconceived notions based on stereotypes and made him look like an idiot. They could have had Verginiaca and the daughter leave the store and suddenly drop the act, showing how they fooled the racist salesclerk that took them seriously. Instead, the whole thing was plain buffoonery. Buffoonery that fed upon--no gorged upon--terribly painful, racist stereotypes of black females.

Modern minstrelsy. Instead of the black and white characters in blackface, the white girl has an imitation black hairdo (a poor rendition, I must say), and Thompson gets to dress in drag.

I'm impressed (and appalled) with how they were able to roll so many stereotypes into a 3-minute skit! What a deal! And to mimic the long tradition of minstrelsy so accurately! Step right up folks, it's time for a show!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hot New Hair Ingredient: Carrot

Every so often the hair industry decides to endorse a new "hot" ingredient. It's like how acai is suddenly the superfruit of the decade, and everyone at Sephora is obsessed with grape for the skin. Right now I'm hearing lots of hair buzz about carrot.

We all know the nutritional value of eating carrots--they're chock full of nutrients such as Vitamin A, C, D, and B1; potassium, carotenes, etc. Good for the body. Good for eyesight. And, as with many things that are good for the body, carrots are apparently wonderful for your hair and scalp too. Some people think it's odd to put live nutrients and vitamins on hair because hair is dead, but it really can make a difference. Your hair can be the part of your body most subjected to the harsh environment--wind, sun, free radicals. Why not use natural fruits and veggies to bring it back to life? I've tried various edible concoctions on my hair in the past --peaches mixed with potato water, fresh squeezed lemon, mashed avocados with almond oil. Fruit is where it's at, folks.
Today I tried Carrot Oil Hair Food by Salon Pro. It has jojoba oil (remember when that was the big thing?) and added keratin. The top of the bottle is slit like fins because you're supposed to squeeze it onto your scalp first and then comb it through. (The label actually says to brush it through your hair, but brushes are a big no-no in my world.)

It smells like V8 Splash on my head, which I think I'm okay with. As for oil, it works well. Nothing too special. Moisturizing. Slightly sticky, but overall kept my hair feeling healthy and nourished even though it was a disgustingly rainy day today. Seems to dissipate after about seven hours. I'd say the best thing about it is that it cost me $1.99.

I've officially jumped on the carrot bandwagon. Now I'm waiting for acai hair mousse to hit the stores.