Paper Bag

It’s amazing how I can’t remember a damned thing that happened last week, but I can remember specific instances that stood out in prekindergarten. When I was a four year old in Mrs. Merganhagen’s class at E.C.C.#61, we did lots of arts and crafts projects. The most memorable one to me was the self-portrait project we did right before Thanksgiving. All of the Caucasian kids in the class were given pieces of white construction paper, and were instructed to draw themselves as pilgrims. The rest of us were given brown construction paper, and told to draw ourselves as “Indians”.
As a little girl who had been brainwashed by society to believe that whiteness was synonymous with beauty, I was devastated. I had never had a meltdown in school, but I had one this day. The teacher’s aide (who also happened to be African American) picked my piece of brown construction paper up off of the floor every time I swept it away, and placed it back in front of me. She adamantly informed me that I would not be getting a piece of white construction paper, and ignored my cries of indignation with a calmness I look back on with envy. I reluctantly completed my self-portrait, protesting silently by way of the bone-straight hair and blue eyes I drew for myself. The teacher’s aide collected my finished drawing, her lips pressed together tightly in disapproval. My face mirrored hers mockingly. In my young mind, I had won. She couldn’t take everything away from me.
Throughout my childhood, I (and other little girls like me) was bombarded with ideas of what I should consider beautiful. Those images didn’t include people who looked like me. Society taught me that the harder I worked to achieve this singular standard of beauty, the easier my life would be. So I begged my mother for a relaxer to tame my poofy hair. When I got older, I snuck samples of foundation that were many shades lighter than my skin, in an attempt to lessen the blow of my blackness.
At one time, the only visible brown girls in the media were those who had very non-ethnic features. No wide noses, no full lips, no nappy hair, no complexions darker than coffee with lots of cream. That isn’t so much the case today, but the damage has been done. Many girls of my generation grew into women who held disdain for their darker skin. They’ve straightened their kinky hair with caustic chemicals, and worn grey contact lenses.  And their observant daughters have watched and taken notes. They have concluded that their dark skin and wiry hair makes them inferior. It’s a perpetual cycle of self-loathing.
I’m thankful for social media. I follow Instagram feeds featuring beautiful women with coarse hair, and skin that looks like it was dipped in dark chocolate. I save the images to my phone so I can scroll through them with my daughter, whose sometimes struggles with loving her hot cocoa complexion. If she ever has to draw a self-portrait, I want her to pick up a brown crayon without any hesitation, and without any envy for the girls who get to use peach or tan crayons. I want her to touch her hair and marvel at the texture of it. I want her to look in the mirror and see the beautiful girl that I see.


More of Afsana’s Favorite Things

It’s been a really long time since my last favorite things post, so I figured it was time for another. Instead of featuring stuff I wish random people would buy for me as gifts, I wanted to highlight stuff that I’ve actually tried and loved.

Urban Decay Total Perversion Reloaded
This set comes with Urban Decay’s Perversion mascara, as well as their Perversion Waterproof Fine-Point Pen. I purchased this at a beauty outlet store here in Orlando for $18, but you can find the set at Sephora for $24. I cannot stress enough how worth the price this set is. I have the least impressive eyelashes you will ever have seen in your life, and this makes me do a double-take at my own reflection. It doesn’t irritate my sensitive eyes, either. And the eye pen dries quickly and DOES NOT MOVE once it is in place. You cannot sweat this stuff off. It’s the blackest liner I’ve ever seen, and it even led to my breakup with Bobbi Brown gel liner. Y’all? Get on this. You will not be disappointed.


Urban Decay After Dark
Unfortunately, this eyeshadow palette was a limited edition and is no longer sold in stores. I mentioned it because it happens to be my favorite palette of all the ones I own. Urban Decay’s shadow is impressively pigmented, and I’ve loved all the ones I have tried. I’ve been experimenting with color a lot lately, and the After Dark palette has been my go to.


NYX Micro Brow Pencil
My eyebrows have been boycotting my face for as long as I can remember. When I went to Sephora for a makeover a while back, eyebrows were the first thing I requested. And Lucas delivered, by way of an Anastasia brow pencil. I was so excited about having a full set of brows for the first time in my life that I plopped down $21 for that pencil without hesitation. When it ran low, I hesitated before buying another one. Surely, someone had something cheaper than $21. I’m not a cheapskate, but that didn’t sit well with me. I stopped in the NYX store to see what they had to offer, and was pleasantly surprised by their Micro Brow Pencil. At the low price of $10, it’s a staple in my makeup bag. Don’t fret if you don’t have a NYX store near you; you can also grab one at Target or CVS for the same price.


e.l.f. Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer
I had been using Smashbox’s Photo Finish Lid Primer in Medium, and was perfectly happy with it as long as I stuck with a neutral eyeshadow palette. When I started experimenting with colors more, I realized I needed something a little more transparent. Not wanting to spend another $21 on a lighter shade, I stopped at my local Target and picked up a tube of e.l.f. Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer for $2.00. $2.00, y’all! And it is fantastic. My eyeshadow stays put all day long over this primer, and I have no desire to try anything else. Sure it may dry out fairly quickly, but it was TWO DOLLARS. I think I can justify buying a new tube every month.

NYX Eyeshadow Base
I use Nyx’s Eyeshadow Base in black and let me tell you, it intensifies the heck out of any color. If you have colors that you love during the daytime, but want to make them work at night too, pop some of this underneath. It takes it to a whole new level. For $7.00, what have you got to lose?


NYX Butter Gloss
When I had my makeover at Sephora, Lucas used Tarte’s Tartiest Glossy Lip Pain in Snap, which is sort of a nude mauve. I really liked it, but passed on the $20.00 price tag. After searching high and low for a dupe, I decided to try NYX Butter Gloss in Gingersnap. It’s not an exact match, but pretty darned close. And for $5.00, I’m not stressing over the slight variation.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream
Can you tell how much I love NYX products? Anywho, sometimes I want to look like an adult, so I opt for a matte lip instead of a glossy one. Some matte lipsticks leave my lips super sticky, but this one doesn’t at all. Sure, it dries the stew out of your lips just like any other matte liquid lipstick. But throw some lip balm on first, and you’ll be fine. After combing through Instagram for color inspiration, I found myself drawn to Kylie Jenner’s liquid lipstick in Brown Sugar. Not wanting to pay Kylie Jenner prices for a lipstick that I may not actually like in person, I searched for a dupe and came up with NYX’s Soft Matte Lip Cream in the color Dubai. It has some impressive staying power, and I love the color and texture. And the price, which happens to be $6.00.


Bath & Body Works Body Cream
This is the ONLY moisturizer I use on my body. It’s effective, and smells amazing. It can be a little pricey at $13.00 per tube, but I have never, ever paid full price. Get on their mailing list and get coupons in the mail on a regular basis, y’all. And, their huge semi-annual sale is happening right now. RIGHT NOW! If you’re on the mailing list, you likely received a coupon for $10 off of $40, which will go a long way with this sale. Their classic scents are out of the vault starting at only $3.25, and many of the newer scents are on sale for $6.25. For anyone struggling to think of what to buy for my birthday next month, some of my favorite scents are Pink Cashmere, Sheer Cotton & Lemonade, and Brown Sugar & Fig. Just throwing that out there.


Inglot O2M Breathable Nail Enamel
Before we pray, Muslims are required to wash themselves. Water has to be able to touch all surfaces and for that reason, Muslim women had to reserve nail polish for that “special “ time of the month, at least until recently. There are now a few water permeable nail polishes on the market, including Maya and Tuesday in Love. I have only ever tried Inglot O2M, and I am so thankful for it. I have the ugliest toes on the face of the earth, and nail polish makes them bearable to look at. It’s a bit pricey at $16.00 per bottle, but Orly recently showed up on the scene at about half the price. I plan to check that brand out soon, and will report back with my results.


That’s all I have for now, but I may have a sequel for you as more products come to mind.

For Lack of a Better Word

It’s obvious to anyone who tunes in to social media, watches the news, or reads the paper that racial tension in this country is a serious problem. Some people would blame the rhetoric of certain political figures, but I disagree. These figures haven’t inspired feelings of hatred in anyone, but rather lent bravery to people who already harbor these feelings, encouraging them to wear their rancor like a badge of honor. I can’t call all of it hatred, though. Some honestly believe that “political correctness” results in an imbalance regarding certain freedoms. For example, I recently read a post regarding the celebration of southern heritage. Some people were vehemently opposed, others were in favor. Those in favor wondered why they couldn’t openly celebrate white heritage, when blacks could celebrate their heritage without being beaten up by the media. The comments section was filled with negative opinions on the matter, most of them regarding the freedom blacks apparently have to embrace being black.

I’ve come to the conclusion that what people actually have a problem with is the word “black”. I’ll admit the word can be downright cringe-worthy in some settings. I’ve overheard coworkers spit the word out like a spoonful of salt, unable to tolerate the taste of it on their tongues. It’s like a wretched disease, this “black” thing. At the mention of a celebration of blackness, some folks will immediately become offended, demanding the right to celebrate whiteness. Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: white people actually do celebrate their cultures. I have personally attended festivals honoring Greek, Italian, Irish, Polish, and German traditions. Annually, patrons roam the streets in t-shirts bearing the flag of the nation representative of their lineage, taking in the sounds of bagpipes, or Nino Rota, or the strumming of a mandolin. No one cares that these festivals exist. I certainly don’t, because I have eaten delicious food at all of them. The big difference is that white people don’t need the all-encompassing word “white” to define them. The majority of white person I’ve met have been able to identify the various countries their ancestors hailed from. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most blacks. I can trace my roots to a plantation in rural Alabama where my ancestors were listed in a property journal and sorted by age and gender.  I have no idea where they actually came from. If I did, I could proudly celebrate Gambian, Nigerian, or Senegalese genealogy by having a parade, setting up tents for vendors, and playing the music of my homeland without ruffling feathers because everyone recognizes the need to embrace one’s culture to a certain degree. An Angolan parade wouldn’t cause people to squirm uncomfortably in their seats. In fact, I’m willing to bet that many white people would find themselves in attendance, probably as eager to try new foods as I always am.

The elephant in the room known as slavery prevents the recognition of our true heritages. Instead, we are relegated to Juneteenth, a celebration of the abolition of slavery. As it is in our nature as human beings to crave a sense of belonging, we cling to the only thing we can readily identify with: our blackness. It’s not the point of this post to point fingers, or shame anyone. I am not holding white folks accountable for what their ancestors may or may not have done to mine. I am merely trying to explain the concept of blackness for those who don’t seem to “get it”.

Back to the post that inspired this haphazardly written rant. The thing I was most confused by was the fact that southern heritage was automatically deemed white heritage. Why is this so? The south has never been occupied solely by white people, as far as I know. Why are assumptions made on both sides regarding who southern heritage can be claimed by? Southern heritage doesn’t belong to white people, nor does it belong to black people. Southern heritage belongs to anyone who can trace their roots to the south, period. What it should be is a celebration of cornbread, corn on the cob, watermelon, fried chicken and sweet tea. Not a celebration of ethnicity and division. Sadly, a southern heritage festival will always ultimately be about race, because unaddressed feelings of anger and hurt still exist. Southern heritage celebrations will continue to be filled with parades of folks flying confederate flags, and said flag flyers will pretend not to understand how a strip of colored cloth could possibly be off-putting. We will continue to conjure up feelings of oppression in matters of happenstance, all the while turning a blind eye to actual injustice. And while blacks and whites at the bottom of the totem pole view each other with antipathy, the true oppressors observe our distractedness in amusement.

A Series of Unfotunate (and Embarrassing) Events

The prevalence of social media in today’s society inspires us to put our very best foot forward whenever people are watching. And if our best foot isn’t impressive, there’s the option of using filters. After a while, it can get a bit discouraging. You may look at someone else’s Instagram feed and wonder how it is that everyone has their lives in order except you. Well, this post isn’t going to make you feel badly about your station in life. In an effort to bring a little normalcy back to the interwebs, I present you with some of my most embarrassing stories. And yes, all of this has happened in real life.

1. I suffer from gastrointestinal distress more often than I would like. The older I get, the more sensitive my body becomes to what I put in it. One day, I had eaten something that disagreed with me terribly at an office potluck. I quickly made my way to the bathroom, having broken out in a cold sweat. As I was walking, a fart slipped out. Not a tiny one, either. It was loud, like a gunshot. One of those farts that actually hurts on the way out. I silently prayed that no one was around, and took a quick glance behind me to be sure. To my horror, the Senior Vice President was eight feet behind me. To this day, I can’t meet his eyes when we have a conversation.

2. I have a huge hijab that slips on really easily, and comes in very handy when answering the door, or running an errand. It falls past my knees, so I can put it on with pretty much anything. One day, I decided to walk to the store. I slipped my trusty hijab over a skirt and a tank top (bra not included) and headed out. As I was leaving the store with both hands occupied by bags, a strong gust of wind lifted my hijab off of my head like a parachute and blew it down the street. I threw my bags down, bursting my gallon of milk wide open, and chased after my hijab. Quite naturally, it got tangled in a bush right next to the corner where a large group of my friendly neighborhood drug dealers stood. After fighting to detangle the hijab from the bush and yanking it back onto my head, several guys applauded and whistled. I left the bags of groceries where they were, walked back home, and cried tears of embarrassment into a bowl of dry cereal.

3. In high school, we used to have several dances during the year for various occasions. For one such occasion, I decided to wear one of those bodysuit shirts that snaps at the crotch. The DJ played Onyx’s Slam, bringing folks from the sidelines to jump around in the middle of the floor. Quite naturally, I joined in. What else are you supposed to do when this song comes on? You jump around like someone hyped up on Red Bull. Let me tell you, jumping around in a body suit that has a deeply scooped neckline is a terrible idea. When I jumped, so did various body parts. Right out of the top of the shirt.

4. In the kindergarten, I had a huge crush on a boy in my class. At naptime, I would always ask to have my blanket laid next to his. No one ever obliged. One day, I was given the honor of laying out the naptime blankets. Where did I put mine? Next to Americo’s, of course. I fidgeted during the first half of naptime, sneaking glances at my crush the whole time. I eventually drifted off to sleep with fantasies of standing next to him in a wedding dress floating in my head. I slept so well, that I was the very last person to wake up from naptime. I wiped away the drool from my cheek and was horrified to realize that I’d peed on myself. In front of the entire class, I had to pick up my wet blanket and notify the teacher’s assistant. She whisked me away to the bathroom to get cleaned up and changed into my spare clothing. When I came out of the bathroom, everyone was seated on the carpet for story time. The teacher had used masking tape to cordon off the wet spot that my naptime fiasco left behind. I’m not sure what Americo is up to these days, but I certainly hope he doesn’t remember the girl who peed next to him.

5. When I was in cosmetology school during my senior year in high school, we took a trip to Syracuse for a big hair show. I got my hair done for the trip at the shop where I did my internship. It was twisted up into a pretty French roll, which was all the rage at that time. I paid a visit to the hot tub, which happened to be full of what appeared to be male models. I bashfully stepped into the hot tub, and went to sit as far away from the guys as I could. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a seat where I was attempting to sit. Under the water I went. I was pulled up by one of the guys, and my hair a helmet around my face. I promptly exited the hot tub, and went to my room to pull my hair into a raggedy ponytail. I avoided the hot tub for the rest of the trip.

Wet Foot, Dry Foot

Whenever I use the ladies’ room at work, I always do my best to leave a courtesy stall between myself and any other occupants. Obviously, this isn’t always an option. Sometimes, every other stall is in use. Other times, every other stall is filthy. But unless such circumstances exist, you can always count on me to extend that courtesy. I usually expect others to conform to this methodology, but not everyone is cognizant of the unspoken etiquettes of public and semi-public facilities.

Today was one of the days I experienced a run-in with one of the abovementioned people. Despite every single stall (save the one I was in) being empty, she entered the stall next to mine. She opted to hover instead of using the seat covers. I have no problem with hovering. At work, I will sit after lining the seat with a minimum of three seat covers, so long as there is no observable moisture clinging to the seat. In other places (like Walmart), I will hover like a pro. I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in a black household, but I was taught the fine art of hovering as soon as I graduated to “big girl” panties. My mother didn’t play. I made the mistake of sitting on an unprotected public toilet once in my life, and my mother disinfected my behind with the vigor of the sanitizing cycle on the dishwasher. I learned my lesson well, and it never happened again.

Anywho, back to the woman in the stall next to me, who shall henceforth be known as The Hoverer. I knew things were going to end badly when I heard the sound of splashing against the seat. Do you remember that scene from The Titanic when Rose and Jack were met in the hallway by a rush of water? This was what flashed through my mind when an invisible dam broke somewhere, and pee flooded into my stall. What had this heffa been drinking? And how large was her bladder, being able to hold a damned gallon at a time? Before I even had a chance to move my foot, I was hit with a warm spray of ANOTHER HUMAN BEING’S URINE. Did y’all hear me? No, I don’t think you did. This nasty heffa peed on my damned foot. And the whole time, I’m sat there wondering why she didn’t stop. I’d like to think I would have the courtesy to pause, assess the situation, and try to remedy it. But, no. Not The Hoverer. She kept right on going until her bladder was empty, while I sat there cursing (not silently).

The Hoverer quickly exited the stall when she was done, and left the bathroom after a quick rinse at the sink. I’ll assume she was trying to keep her identity a secret. Thank goodness I always tuck the end of my skirt under my arm upon entering the bathroom to keep it from touching the floor; otherwise, the entire office would have gotten to know me a whole lot better than they ever wanted to. I would have tossed my skirt in the trash and sported drawers and a tunic for the rest of the day.

In case you were wondering, my shoes have been discarded, and my feet have been thoroughly disinfected with the hottest water possible. I have also followed up with alcohol pads, courtesy of the medicine cabinet on my floor. I’m strongly considering buying adult diapers now, because I cannot go through this again. I CANNOT.

I Am But a Woman

When half of the act bears all the sin,
Injustice is merely our flawed perception.
Every one of us is Hester Prynne;
Secondary status bequeathed to us with lofty deception.
Those in positions of power wear skin of piety,
Hiding the acts they claim to detest with lies
And while we’re admonished for our shortcomings by society,
They enact legislation for the space between our thighs.
Women aren’t capable of intelligent thought,
Our bodies worth little more than livestock.
So our rights and freedoms can be sold and bought,
Not unlike slaves on an auction block.
They’ll direct our attention to the Middle East
And say: “Look at how badly women have it there!”
Consequently, concern for our liberties will cease
While we celebrate the privilege to display our hair.
Women are spurned for reporting rape,
Viewed as an insignificant infraction
While her accuser’s gender provides an escape
From his role in those twenty minutes of action.
To distract from our outrage, they present us with clowns,
Instruct us to go about our days in vigilance.
Men with painted faces terrorize our towns
Invoking feelings of fear and ambivalence.
The clowns disappear when our anger subsides
And our resolve goes limp and mushy.
Then the puppet masters gleefully sneak up from behind,

Grabbing us all by the pussy.

The Longest Race

This was a very difficult post for me to write, but it needed to be written nonetheless. On December 3, 2016, I began my first half marathon in over two years. It was the first race I ever registered for that I didn’t feel good about. I hadn’t been eating well, hadn’t been training much outside of casual walks with a run thrown in every week for good measure. I think part of me was hoping that my body would just remember how to finish a half marathon. Outwardly, I was confident in my ability to finish. I would tell my friends and family things like: “After I finish this half marathon, I am going to run such and such a race.” But inwardly, I knew I was setting myself up for failure.

In February of 2014, I registered for the Biggest Loser Walk Run Half Marathon. And I began training right away. Granted, it wasn’t always running. Often, it was Zumba. But regardless, it was some form of cardiovascular training. I was improving my stamina, building my muscles, and training my lungs to work more efficiently.

In February (or maybe March) of 2016, I assumed that once you complete one half marathon, you’ll always be able to complete another. I didn’t work out much after registering because in my mind, I had plenty of time. Zumba fell to the wayside (moving to a second story apartment will really limit your options), and walking/running was something that I only fantasized about doing regularly. When November snuck up on me, I decided that I needed to get serious. And by get serious, I mean walking/running a couple of times a week without setting any real distance goals, and without changing my eating habits. I didn’t fuel my body for working out the way I used to, and it was obvious when I had difficulty pushing myself to run even five miles.

By the time race day rolled around, I was around 30 pounds heavier than I was when I had done my last half marathon. I knew it was going to be a tough go. My heel spurs had been screaming at me for the past two weeks, and my knees were both stiff and inflamed. As I walked from the car to the starting line, my heels felt as though I had jammed hot coals into them. I tried to tune the pain out, knowing that once I got three or four miles under my belt, my feet would go numb and I wouldn’t have to deal with the hell spurs until after it was all over and I sat down.

One thing I didn’t take into account was that my feet went numb in the last race because my shoes were too small. They were the perfect size for just hanging out and walking around, but my feet swell a LOT when I do long distances. For this reason, I had gotten myself some new shoes that were one and a half sizes larger than what I normally wore. They would have been perfect if my feet were in top condition. My feet were not in top condition, though. They hurt like the devil, and I needed that numbness. I really did. When I passed mile 5 with no relief, I really started to get discouraged. I had begun falling farther and farther behind the rest of the pack. By mile 8, I was even behind the patrol car that was following the slowest runners. The streets were beginning to open back up to traffic.

When I reached the water station just past mile 11, I wanted to cry. I was parched and hurting. The volunteers had just taken the water table down, but poured me a cup of water and cheered me on. “You can do it!” they said excitedly. But I couldn’t. I know what you’re saying. I should have pushed through. I should have gone those extra two miles. I just wasn’t in a good place by then. By that point, I didn’t even know if there would be a finish line left to cross. I was so far behind that I had to move to the side walk. The guy in the medic van kept circling and asking me if I was okay. He offered to drive me to the finish line. I declined. If I couldn’t cross it on my own two feet, I wasn’t going to cross it at all. So about half a block from the water stop, I called my husband and asked him to pick me up.

Can I tell you guys how much I love and appreciate my husband? I was on the verge of tears when he rubbed my back and reminded me of how far I had actually gone. “You’ll finish the next one,” he said. “I’ll even do it with you. But don’t beat yourself up over this. You did a great job, and I’m proud of you.”

I thought I would go ahead and register for an upcoming 5K to keep myself on track, but something happened: I was afraid to. My failure to complete the OUC Half left me terrified of registering for another race. Even now, every uncertainty I’ve ever had runs through my head on a constant loop. My heels still hurt. What if they never stop? What if I register and fail to finish AGAIN? There are lots of races I have my eyes on. I’ve even marked them on my calendar. But I’m scared, y’all. I love running. I may not look like a person who loves running, but I really do. I love the endorphins I feel when I run. I love the burn in my muscles. I don’t ever want to not love running. But I’m afraid that another bad race may take me out of the game completely.

I found a challenge that I am going to participate in as soon as my self-diagnosed pneumonia clears up (another long story). The challenge basically encourages you to run 3 miles a day for 30 days. I can do that. I know I can. I will. But I don’t plan to register for another race anytime soon.