Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Snow. Addiction. Hair. Personal space.

I looked out of the window first thing this morning and decided that I wasn’t going anywhere. Snow on the garden, snow on the pavements, snow still on the main road, and sleety stuff still falling from the sky. Bang goes the exercise routine! Maybe I’ll go for a stomp in the snow later.

This morning I read an article written by someone who had fought to overcome a lifelong addiction to diet coke. She was drinking about seven cans a day. I know people who drink that many cups of tea in a day. Does that count as an addiction. In this case her doctors agreed that she had become addicted, probably to the caffeine, but also to the routine of waking up to a cold can of diet Coke with her breakfast. She had serious withdrawal symptoms as she weaned herself off the stuff, headaches and irritability being the least of it. Apparently the bubbles don’t help - or rather they possibly help the body to absorb the caffeine. It has been proven that the bubbles on champagne help you absorb the alcohol more quickly! Who knew?

I was reminded of a friend, years and years ago when we were young mothers together, who realised she was addicted to caffeine. We were terrible trendy and considered ourselves too sophisticated to drink instant coffee. Only the real thing would do for us and every day she brewed a large pot of coffee to last her through the day. Gradually she found that she was finishing her daily pot by midday and would make a second one. She began to think she was overdoing it a little and decided to cut coffee out. By the afternoon of the first coffee-free day she was feeling shivery, a bit twitchy, her head was aching and she she was showing decided signs of withdrawal problems. A cup of coffee sorted it out. Cold turkey was clearly not a good idea. Gradually she cut down her consumption though. In the case of the diet Coke addict, she has not touched a can since she freed herself, for fear of slipping back into bad habits!

It’s quite likely that we all have addictive personalities to some extent. Think of those who MUST have sugar in their tea, who always have a packet of sweets to hand.  Maybe we all should examine our diets more carefully. 

Oddly enough the diet Coke addicted, who as a teenager had regarded the fizzy drink as a substitute for food so that she could remain super skinny, found that she actually lost weight as she reduced her intake. It seems that the artificial sweetener in fizzy drinks can actually make your body crave other sweet things: cakes and biscuits, bars of chocolate and the like.   

I also read something about an actress, Monique Coleman, who was talking about racism in the fashion and entertainment industry. This was because she believes make-up artists and stylists preparing models and actors for filming do not know how to deal with black hair, which may well be true. I would imagine you need experience of dealing with such hair. As a naturally curly- even frizzy-haired person I can sympathise. It demands a lot more attention than straight hair if you want it to look good. No doubt the straight-haired people will argue that they put a lot of effort into making their hair curl. All I can say is that they should compare all our childhood school photos!

Anyway it seems that there is a bigger issue going on here. According to research from Pantene, 93% of Black people have experienced “micro-aggressions” related to their hair, with uninvited touching being the most common, experienced by 46% of Black people. 

“On one occasion, a girl at a bus stop on my university’s campus, who I did not know, stood next to me and started touching my hair,” said Stephanie Cohen, a founding member of the Halo Collective, an activist group working towards ending hair discrimination. “I had not realized this was happening and assumed it was the wind or something, however as I turned around, there she was touching it without me knowing. I immediately felt uncomfortable and awkward. I asked her to stop and moved away abruptly, she just stood there as if nothing had happened,” she said.

I can sympathise with the problem but I did not know there was such an activist group and I am not sure it’s really a question of racism. A friend of mine, someone I taught in an adult education Spanish language class, had a mass of naturally red - very red - , curly - very curly - hair. After attending my adult classes she moved on to study A-Level Spanish at one of the local secondary schools. (By the way, having an adult in a standard sixth form A-Level group is a very interesting thing and productive educational thing.) She accompanied the sixth formers on an exchange visit to a small town in Andalucía. The people living there had not seen such hair before (they should visit parts of Galicia) and would approach her and touch her hair, as if to check that it was genuine. 

It’s annoying but it’s not really discrimination. It’s part of a natural tendency to exclaim at the unusual. Or sometimes the not really unusual. How many expectant mothers have experienced complete strangers feeling quite free to compliment them on their bump and even put an almost proprietary hand on said bump? I suspect it happens less nowadays than it used to. I don’t mean specifically because of our Covid restrictions but because we have all become more aware of privacy and personal space matters. 

However, some people take that awareness to extremes; according to the Pantene research I mentioned earlier, 53% of Black people have said that discrimination against their hair has affected their self-esteem or mental health. Well, I know that some schools and workplaces cause problems because of hair but surely there are more important discrimination matters than hair. 

That’s my opinion anyway.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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