Real American, Julie Lythcott-Haims Books ‘Real American’ tackles cultural and self acceptance

Real American, a memoir written by Julie Lythcott-Haims, is a process of socialization and cultural acceptance. Lythcott-Haims, a New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult, invites us into her life experiences over a series of prose. Prose that will make you laugh, scratch your head (only 3 visits to a black salon), and cry.

We’re introduced into her world with a question that most well-spoken black folk have been asked, “Where are you from?” A loaded question masked as an innocent one. Lythcott-Haims hits the nail on head when she writes, “The truth is, that’s not what they were asking”. There is an unintended racial bias with that question. It isn’t about understanding someone but more so classifying how they occupy a space that you thought was closed off to them. It is a microaggression. And Lythcott-Haims has spent her entire life experience haphazardly dodging microaggressions whilst making those around her comfortable with her otherness.

Lythcott-Haims is the byproduct of a Black father born in the Jim Crow South and a white British mother. Her parents met and fell in love in Accra, Ghana.  Lythcott- Haims, born in Nigeria, spent the first three years of her life living in Nigeria, before moving to New York City, Northern VA, and Wisconsin. She eventually settled in Northern California with her husband, Dan.

Most of the microaggressions Lythcott-Haims experienced whereby her white peers in high school, college, and law school. However, her father put her in a position to have these experiences. He made the active decision to relocate his family from racially diverse Washington DC to rural Wisconsin. A town 45 minutes outside of Madison with only one other black family.

Lythcott-Haims recalls the time a neighbor’s daughter mistakenly thought her father was the gardener. The daughter with a racial prejudice she didn’t realize she had, couldn’t understand a black man owning a home within that town. Many fathers, of all races, mow their own lawns but when spotting Lythcott-Haims father proudly riding his lawnmower around his yard, she assumed he was the gardener.

Adolescence in Wisconsin was difficult for Lythcott-Haims. She experienced blatant racism on her 17th birthday when a classmate attempted to write Nigger on the birthday decorations covering her locker. Her inept classmate wrote, “Niger”, instead, but even in his error, he inflicted damage on Lythcott-Haims that would last a lifetime. Her father also explained to her that white boys will only be your friend and never your boyfriend, leaving her insecure and begging the question, why did you bring me to this town?

Lythcot-Haims spent her college and law school years living up to expectations that weren’t entirely hers but the expectations of peers, whether real or perceived. For example, she took classes that didn’t interest her at Stanford only because her dormmate took those classes.  After failing most of her fall quarter, she eventually took classes that piqued her interest, leading her to public policy and political science. The high-powered job she landed after Harvard Law School in Silicon Valley was only because she didn’t want her peers to think she could only work within public advocacy or non-profits. The insecurities of Lythcott-Haim were exhausting and fascinating to read.

Lythcott-Haims met her husband Dan at Stanford. A white man who loves her even though her father once told her a white man would never be her boyfriend. Within her relationship with Dan, Lythcott-Haims becomes comfortable with her curly textured hair and stops painstakingly straightening it every day.

There is no doubt that she loves Dan and the life she has made with him. But she struggles with not being able to give her Black son a Black father, to help him walk this world as a Black man. In the same token, she also struggles to accept that her daughter is racially ambiguous. The clarity that she had gained in her relationship with Dan was eroded with her fears for her children’s experience in a world that isn’t always accepting of Black people and their lives.

Lythcott-Haims speaks very fondly of her father throughout her memoir, only criticizing him when she eventually has the courage to ask her mother why she let her father place them in such a white community. A community that left her feeling alienated, alone, and insecure.

Real American left me wondering if her life would be different if she grew up in the midst of a more racially diverse community or even among her black relatives. Instead of growing into an insecure and racially confused adult, perhaps she would have been a confident and thriving Black woman before the age of fifty.

Disclaimer: The author of this review received a complimentary copy of Real American.

This review originally appeared on BlackGirlsNerds.

Advertisements

Home Ownership

Isn’t all it is cracked up to be. At. All. My boyfriend purchased his home back in November 2015 and I was very excited for him. He had always wanted a home of his own. We knew that the house would need a lot of work. And it did. We rid did the bathroom, painted all of the rooms, removed a weird mantel in the living room, laid down new floors, etc.

We finally moved into the house this past April after about a year and half of renovations. Excited for this next chapter but let me tell you this: Home Ownership is not for the weak.

I should mention that we have an older home, a century home – built in 1900.  I love the archways that can only be found in a home from that era.  However, older homes require more upkeep than even I expected especially as our own wasn’t well kept after the owner passed in 2011. Her home transferred to her son who didn’t manage the home or her gorgeous gardens very well. I don’t even think he lived there to be honest but there was a dog that stayed in the house. It’s all very confusing.

I’ve heard from neighbors that her garden was featured in magazines such as Better Homes & Gardens. She spent her time properly pruning and keeping her garden looking beautiful. Her garden was filled with roses, Japenese grass, lillies, you name it (see what I did there!!) but when my boyfriend purchased the home the backyard was a mishmash of weeds taller than him. He’s 6’0 ft, so you can imagine. He had to go back there with what he described as a machete to knock down weeds and clear up ivy that had taken over this once beautiful garden. I haven’t even started working on the back of the house. Honestly, I just want grass at this point. Grass would be nice.

Right now we have three main priorities in our home. We need to renovate our kitchen as the counters and cabinets are artificially low. As in a child’s play kitchen low. Washing dishes has been (back) pain inducing. I just found out that our roof needs work of some sort – we think it’ll survive another northeast Ohio winter but you can never play it too safe with the roof over your head (pun intended). And finally, we discovered that we have carpenter ants. Yay. Said no one ever.

The first priority for my boyfriend is to fix the kitchen because he know’s that I’ll nag him about the kitchen. Smart man. But seriously, I hate having a halfway done kitchen and I want the extra space to prep food for dinner. We’ve gotten quotes ranging from $5,500 – $10,000. I didn’t think it would cost that much for new cabinets and a sink basin. Truly, this week has been a (finance) lesson in home ownership responsibilities.

I’m not exactly sure what the issue is with the roof – I believe there might be damp wood or something of that nature. We recently had someone come out and provide a quote for fixing the roof in time for a Northeast Ohio winter. The dampness explains our next issue.

Last night, we discovered our ant problem. Actually, we’ve had an ant problem for a while but my boyfriend was very nonchalant about it and because of that so was I. He thought they were just coming in the house during the summer searching for food, so we cleaned our kitchen thoroughly and put food away properly. He would spray around the house and in crevices and we wouldn’t see ants for a few weeks. Until they eventually returned. About six weeks ago, I was making my way up our stairs when I heard a rustling sound in the wall. I didn’t know what it was. I lived in NYC for about seven years so I’m familiar with things living in walls but this sounded a bit different. I woke my boyfriend up in the middle of the night but he just said I was hearing things. I would continue to hear the rustling sound and hit the wall every time to get the nose to stop. It never did. Eventually he heard the noise too.

I was laying in bed last night when I rolled over and saw a ANT crawling up my pillow to get on the wall. When I tell you I DAMN NEAR LOST MY MIND. I’m sure the neighbors heard my scream. I’m positive that the firemen and EMTs (across the street) started making their way to our home because I screamed that loud. My boyfriend came upstairs and took care of the ant but I was officially freaked. We slept in our guest bedroom last night as we had never seen an ant in that bedroom before. Now, I’ve seen ants in our bedroom before but never on my PILLOW or the wall. A quick google search confirmed it was most likely a carpenter ant and Orkin was called promptly this morning.

A few people have suggested we take care of it ourselves but I’d prefer a professional because I want that nest gone and the rustling nose to cease.

I hope that next week brings a better kitchen remodel quote and an army nest evacuation. We’ll get someone to take start the roof project next week as well.

Ahh the joys of home ownership.

 

Wash. Day.

About eight months ago, I had to switch up my wash day routine. At that time, I had my routine down to a science, I could wash, condition and twist up my hair in about half a day, which for a natural is pretty good. But that was all about to change. I had noticed for the past year or so, that I had a lot of drandruff. No matter how often I washed or conditioned my hair and no matter the shampoo used – my scalp would be covered in flakes. It was embarrassing and made styling my hair complicated.

I had tried to go back to basics and thought it was working but a mere two months later, I found myself picking the flakes that would surface around my edges. I was also destroying my follicles in the process. My issue had also spread to my forehead as well. I had dry patches on my forehead that resembled acne. It got so bad my boyfriend even noticed. I decided that I would need to visit a dermatologist.

Dr. Angela Kyei, is my dermatologist and immediately knew what was causing my hair issue. She walked into the room and diagnosed me as well as complimented my hair (my twist out was popping!!). She explained that I basically have eczema of the scalp, which is funny as I eczema and will need to switch up my regime. Again. It had spread to my forehead.

First, she put me on a medicated shampoo that I am to use only on my scalp. She was very clear that the shampoo would in fact dry out my hair so I should only use the shampoo on my scalp. Interesting. How exactly, should I just shampoo my scalp – I had been taught to shampoo my hair not just my scalp. I was directed to place just the shampoo on my scalp and let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes OUTSIDE OF THE SHOWER. That’s right. I know shampoo my hair in 4 painfully parted sections in front of my vanity and then promptly sit on my couch for about an hour because there’s a different world marathon or girlfriends and I get sucked into the TV.

After my shampoo sets, I rinse it out and try my hardness not to get in on my hair which will dry out because medicated shampoo is dry AF. Once, I get it washed out, I use a conditioner given to me by my dermatologist. It’s Head and Shoulders Co-Wash. Yes, that’s right. I know it’s pure blasphemy but I use Head and Shoulders Co-Wash and my HAIR LOVES it.

I condition my hair (not my scalp – that’s important) and rinse it out. After I rinse it out, I come back to the couch because black TV excellence marathon (DUH) and grease my scalp with Kenalog. Yup. I start my twist out by placing Kenalog (which I also use for the eczema on my left leg) on my parted my hair. I’m supposed to do this 3x per week but I’m a lazy natural so I probably do it about once a month. Then I twist my hair up with my signature whipped shea butter.

New Routine:

  • Shampoo my scalp with medicated shampoo and let set for 15 – 20 minutes (sometimes longer)
  • Rinse the shampoo from my scalp
  • Deep condition with Head and Shoulders Co-Wash (sometimes I use Knot Today by Kinky Curly)
  • “Grease” scalp with kenalog when parting my hair for twist
  • Detangle & twist my hair with a combination of the LOC (Liquid, Oil and Cream) method using my homemade whipped shea butter.

So yeah….my new regime is very long and tedious but I don’t have to worry about showing my scalp because it’s clean and finally flake free.

Hello. Again.

It has been too long. And I have thoroughly missed writing and sharing my life and new experience living in Cleveland. I’ve been inspired by watching others writing and sharing their stories. I was thinking to myself, I should write more and put together a platform, when it hit me – that I already have a place to share my stories and thoughts. So Nappy Sweaty and Broke is back in action. I’ll mostly be covering natural hair topics, working out, and money problems – cause three years later and I’m still nappy sweaty and broke.

Back to Basics.

I’ve taken a step back from my natural hair care regimen. I’ve stopped making my whipped shea butter cream and avocado conditioner and have taken it back to the basics. I’m just using water, oil (jojoba & almond), and a Shea Moisture conditioner.

My twist outs aren’t as epic as they used to be but I’m going to start making flax seed gel (again). Since going back to the basics I’ve noticed that my scalp isn’t nearly as dry and I don’t have huge dandruff flakes in my hair. These suckers were huge and itchy but since going back to a simple routine I’ve noticed that my scalp is better moisturized and I don’t have flakes.

I thought that I had seborrheic dermatitis (aka seborrheic ezcema) which would be fitting as I’ve suffered from ezcema since I was a child. However with a little bit of change my scalp is feeling a lot better. This doesn’t mean I’ve left my avocado conditioner forever but that I needed a bit of a break.

My new routine:

  • Cowash hair every other week with Shea Moisture Conditioner
    • I let the conditioner set for about 45 minutes – two hours
  • Part hair and massage a mixture of  jojoba oil & tea tree oil
      • Both are excellent for fighting dandruff and my dry scalp
      • You can also use it to remove makeup as well (bonus)
  • After my scalp massage I part my hair and detangle with a spray bottle filled with water and tea tree oil

My hair seems to like it and I’m enjoying keeping things simple as I roll into fall!

I’m Back.

It’s been well over a year since I’ve sat down and really wrote on NSB. A year is entirely too long and I didn’t realize how much I missed writing until I logged into WordPress. I miss you guys and I hope you miss me too.

There’s more coming…I’ll write you all soon!

 

Homemade Conditioner

When I landed in Australia I didn’t realize it would be so hard to get the natural hair products that I could easily pick up in the US at Target or the local beauty store in Harlem. Honestly, I didn’t expect the locally run Korean beauty shop to be in Melbourne but Melbs has a Target and Melbs also has people with curly hair (albeit white people but curly hair is curly hair) yet I couldn’t find my favorite conditioner and shampoo (Kinky Curly Come Clean and Knot Today) for my life which lead me to making my own products.

Thinking back on it I’m actually quite happy that I started to make my own products – one product I need the most is a great conditioner. Natural Hair requires a lot of work and part of that is in finding the best conditioner to properly moisturize, detangle and keep my curls popping! I started making my own conditioner with the following:

  • One Egg – Benefit: protein; this help rebuild damaged tresses – so if you’re one of those girls that uses a lot of heat, coloring, etc you want some protein in your life (and most importantly in your hair) If you have protein sensitive hair obviously skip this particular ingredient. Including this ingredient will help you maintain strong hair growth.
  • Banana – Benefit: potassium & moisturizer;this particular ingredient will minimize breakage as it restores your hairs elasticity and will repair damage (read: overheated and colored) hair. Bananas also include naturals oils and have 75% water. Also Bananas smell good too but you gotta be careful to strain them properly or you will have banana in your hair (#truestory #thankgodformirrors
  • EV Olive Oil Benefit: promote scalp health and prevents dandruff. It also includes Vitamin E Oil, fatty acids, and antioxidants for hair growth. It also improves strength and elasticity
  • Coconut Oil; Benefit: fight frizz, helps with dandruffs, and a wonderful moisturizer
  • Aloe Vera Juice (this was hard to find) – reduces hair shedding, dandruff, increase hair shine and acts as a natural humectant (are important cosmetic ingredients allowing to prevent loss of moisture thereby retaining the skin’s natural moisture. Some compounds also have the ability to actively attract moisture.)
  • Rose hip Oil – helps soothe a scalp and relieves dandruff plus it helps alleviate dry hair

I liked this conditioner because I had all the ingredients in my kitchen with the exception of the Rosehip Oil and the Aloe Vera Juice. I trekked all over Melbs to find Aloe Vera Juice (which I didn’t find) but I did find the Rose hip oil which has basically changed my life. It’s amazing. I could only find Aloe Vera Drink (until I returned to the US and Trader Joe’s).

The first time I made the conditioner (sans Aloe Vera Juice) I found it to be way to runny and it actually ran down my face (and cause a major breakout on the right side of my cheek – ugh). I don’t think I measured the oils properly; I am pretty heavy handed with Olive Oil and Coconut oil and got my face totally busted for about 4 months. It was horrible. So besides the breakout my hair did feel well conditioned, my scalp wasn’t itchy or dry but I did have bananas in my hair (I needed to strain better!). I made too much conditioner so I had to throw out half because it doesn’t last very well due to the egg. I thought the idea of using this conditioner two weeks later would lead to ringworm or some type of fungus in my hair due to the egg being spoiled.

If you are protein sensitive just skip the egg part and add additional banana. While this was my favorite conditioner in Australia I started making a new one once I arrived back stateside and it has quickly become my new fav. My hair loves it, it taste amazing and it only requires four ingredients. Win Win. I’ll post more about this later!

Full Disclosure: I first discovered this conditioner via Naptural85 but made some changes – this was originally her Protein Sensitive Conditioner but I added protein (egg) and additional Oils (EVOO, Coconut Oil)

Office Politics

As many of you know I traded in the corporate lifestyle and the politics that go with it for a life as a yoga teacher…unfortunately, I still find myself navigating politics but in the yoga room. I guess I can’t be surprised I do live in a battleground state and politics matter here in OHIO but I’m not talking about Trump’s brashness or Obama’s current ratings or even Clinton’s emailgate – I’m talking the politics of working at a yoga studio…

I’ve been teaching at the studio for four months and it has been a great experience. I received a warm welcome and loved coming to the studio to teach and interacting with the students…but recently things have felt a bit off. I don’t always feel welcomed in the studio not by the students – the students are great but mostly by the teachers (not all the teachers but a few). As if me deciding to take the plunge to go back into corporate (more on that later) is a travesty of sorts. When I was trying to figure out a potential job offer I was forthcoming with the studio about my inability to commit to August and was given a deadline. The time I got the deadline I was told that the class schedule would be changed and I would maybe only be able to get 1 – 2 classes a week.I was surprised but I understand and felt that if the studio needed to go to less classes for the business I totally understood but it seems that wasn’t the case.

My deadline came for committing to August and I sent the studio owner an email stating that I hadn’t heard back from the job but I wouldn’t be able to commit to the month of August because I thought I had the job in the bag. That was my mistake – I shouldn’t have put all of my eggs in one basket but I really thought I had nailed the interviews and was expecting an offer. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive an offer and told the studio that I would be able to teach but lo and behold they had found another teacher.

I was honestly upset about this because I thought the schedule was changing (for business reasons). I know that I put myself in this pickle but still I was hurt that I was so easily replaced in less than 24 hours and that they couldn’t reach out to the new teacher and explain that she wasn’t needed (yes i know that is quite egotistical of me!) because I could continue teaching. I was also annoyed that the studio manager and I had talked about a particular weekend of me covering her classes but shed didn’t put me on the schedule – instead she put herself down and then asked me if I could pick up the classes even though I had already told her in July that I could. I felt that was a bit passive aggressive and I felt a bit slighted.

I’m not entirely sure how I can navigate this particular scenario especially since I’ll most likely be relocating to this city and would like to teach at the studio – one to times a week. So again I feel myself in a bit of a conundrum trying to manage politics of a yoga studio. I don’t want to beg for classes and I’m happy to pick up classes but I also want to have set classes as well.

I’ve navigated the office politics and I guess I’ll learn to navigate politics of the yoga studio as well.

Anticipation

As human beings we anticipate everything. And I do mean everything – we anticipate that call that we’ll get everything nailing a final interview, meeting the love of our life, or even a great night out with friends. It’s in our nature. We always want to know what is coming next and with Bikram you know what’s going next every single time.

Bikram is the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises every single time – no matter where you go in your city, the country or the world. It’s hard to not anticipate the next posture or second set. As a practicing teacher I do it all the time. All the time. I have to make a conscious effort to not repeat the dialogue in my head while practicing so that I can stay present with the teacher (or Bikram’s recorded dialogue) and the class.

I noticed that students were anticipating what I was saying after only a few weeks of teaching at Bikram Yoga Cleveland. Students were anticipating when the posture would end especially in balancing stick. Balancing stick is one of my favorite postures, it’s so beautiful to see when students lock both knees and bring their bodies down parallel to the floor like a T as in The Ohio State University (Go Bucks!). There are benefits to holding this posture including increase circulation (flushing out your heart and arteries), stretching lung capacity and heart muscle, flexibility improvement, stregthen and tone your shoulders, upper arms, spine and the hip joints. Not only that but balancing stick is a therapeutic and preventive posture for heart conditions – got a heart problem get in the hot room. Want another reason it also burns the most calories from the other yoga poses plus you’re sending rejuvenating flood of fresh blood to brain!

But students know this posture ends with “stretch, stretch, stretch, stretch…” so by the time I get the second stretch out of my mouth most of them have come up from the posture! But I’ve figured out a way to trick them into staying the posture longer! I want my students to stay in the posture for the correct amount of time and I also want them to be PRESENT in class not just ANTICIPATING the posture – I want them to really listen to me as a teach. (I’ll tell you a story about one time a student really listened and I made a mistake next time! It was funny!)

Sometimes I’ll add more stretches and sometimes I’ll only say one stretch! The first time I added four stretches you should have seen the look on their faces as they started coming up and I was still yelling stretch stretch stretch stretch! I got them good on the right side. A few of them even smiled at me and I just winked back. One the left side I only said one stretch but I prolonged the posture with more dialogue focusing on the alignment so when I said “stretch, inhale breathing come up!” They were shocked! Couldn’t believe it.But in both instant they held the posture for the required 10 bikram seconds (which is more like 30 human seconds!).

What I’m trying to convey here is don’t anticipate your class – don’t think if you’re going to have a good class or a bad class, if you’re going to have a good day or a bad day, if you’re going to everything that you want out of your life. Just make the decision that you’ll have a good day, a great class, and you will get everything you want out of your life and you might just pleasantly surprise yourself and get exactly what you need!

See you in the hot room!