A Hot CocoaMama

I said I was going to do better. Since the new year I’ve been waking up my eyes with my favorite Lash Extract mascara and some black eyeliner. I found a new “formula” for my hair that includes Miss Jessie’s curly pudding, and Carol’s Daughter’s Hair Milk and Twi Leave-In Conditioner. It is, admittedly, the first time my natural hair hasn’t looked (as) dry since my Momma was doing my twists, lovingly and meticulously, with B&B.

I’ve been hot recently 🙂 I presented a paper at MLA in some cute black leggings, my favorite purple dress and the mandatory tweed blazer; my version of the academic staple was fitted, and had the cutest coordinated hues of purple, pink and white. I even rocked my purple snakeskin pumps just to shake the boys up a bit.

Truth is I’ve been back and forth lately about how to “dress the part.” I spent the last three years on my feet/game in D.C. public schools, where jeans and sneaks often get you in the mood. Comfortable and relaxed I approached my day, energized, organized and with my sleeves rolled up, getting dirty with the best of ‘em. I was never as fly as my artsy, fashionista students, male and female, or as “professional” as my suited up veteran colleagues, but my look got the job done.

Over the winter break, in anticipation of my first class as “Dr. Me,” I cashed in on a merchandise credit at Tiffany’s and bought “everyday jewelry,” because I’ve found that looking plain has its perks. I am often the younger teacher that gets “mistaken,” for the student at work. Furthermore, the Plain Jane mommy routine does numbers when you are trying to get medical professionals to class you as warm, caring, educated and motivated, and you really need them to stop stigmatizing you and give the expertise your children need. I know . . . crazy!

All that being said I wish I was still turning heads, particularly mine, and then my husband’s, in that order 🙂 I have this homegirl who has been putting me to shame for years!!!!! The other day I needed her bad, and she always comes through. My daughter was admitted to the hospital for “failure to thrive,” my two-year-old son was tearing up the place with “failure to stop cutting the f*%K up,” and my husband and I needed him gone! She came and rescued both of us on green stiletto pumps, in cute tight jeans, and with a full face of perfectly applied/neutral makeup. Her hair was in an upsweep, cause she knew she didn’t have that kind of time, but even the upsweep was still as eye-catching as the A-line on her trendy, grey coat.

She and I have talked about this!!! A few months ago, while driving cross-country, I confessed how boring and tired I think I look, and told her truthfully how I admired how absolutely flawless she always is, even though I have known for forever that it takes her waayyyy tooooooooo long in the bathroom. She told me, like a true friend, that I needed to take more time to care for myself, and that I was probably putting too much time into caring for my kids and my book project. She also told me what the hell she does for that long in the bathroom, and though the details are now fuzzy, it had something to do with exfoliating and pumice stones.

Often when I go to the barbershop to take years off my face with a razor blade eyebrow arch I tell my barber, Omar, and longtime friend, that I remember when I was cute. It’s normally couched in some conversation about how adorable his new wash girl is, or a tender quip at his receding hairline. He tells me that I’m still cute, which I know is to make me feel better, but thank God it works. I would love to feel that good all that time, and know that I really brought it on.

11 thoughts on “A Hot CocoaMama

  1. Tanji,

    I can relate to your post. One of the things I had issue with over the last two years was that I felt how I looked was reflective of how I felt, which was often miserable and depressed. Part of that came from being unable to afford the “look” I wanted. The other part came from simply not giving a damn. Life was a mess and so I didnt care how I looked. I neglected my look, my health, just everything.

    But one day, I snapped out of it. I began paying more attention to how I dressed. I began paying more attention to my hair, my skin, my nails. I worked within my resources to present myself in ways that I felt made me shine. And you know what? It brightened my feeling about myself. Then as the positive feelings and energy grew, I started attracted more positive attention and things began changing for the better in my life.

    Alas, I have a new job. More money. I have no marriage. Less husband. lol. This weekend, I spent a WHOLE lot of money on MYSELF. I got new clothing, did my hair, and I’m feeling great. In my new position, I’m younger than all but one of my staff, but I’m the director, so I feel like I need to step up my appearance, even though the agency doesn’t require formal or even business casual dress. I find myself dressing prettier, more feminine. Classier, sharper. I’m wearing make up more, paying more attention to my hairstyling. Ive been getting regular pedicures and my skin has been clearing up nicely. I’m feeling SO much better now. I even have a strut in my step.

    And people are noticing 😉


  2. I loved your line about dressing in anticipation of your first day as “Dr. Me.” LOL! I totally get that…I am always aware of what I look like in and outside of the classroom, particularly because I live near campus and often run into students when I’m just going about my life. The other issue is that students tend to be very hard on their female profs, often assessing their physical attributes in teaching evaluations. I’ve had colleagues who received teaching evals that said “needs to wear more make-up,” or, my personal favorite: “needs to buy a better bra.” Men are never assessed in these superficial ways. And the problem is only compounded when you are both female and black. Alas, I am a product of the trifecta: female, black, and young.

    Outside of my professional life, I’ve also struggled with my look; trying to find a look that works for me, and reflects who it is I want to be. I’m a strong believer in uniforms: finding a look that works for you, and rocking it often!


  3. @ Benee – Girl, I love this new look of yours, even online you look damn good. You are inspiring me to. Your last post made me stop and think about the last time someone hit on me 🙂 I still can’t remember, LOL!

    @ORJ – o.k. so I’m really afraid of this teaching evaluation thing now. Especially because this is just a postdoc for me so the evals may be asked for at some point by a future hiring committee. One of the things that I did on the first day was cull all of the articles and images that they could have gotten online onto a CD for them. I want to appear organized and energetic. “Needs to buy a better bra,” is crazy!!!!!!!!! I was worried this week that my boobs would not go down in time for my class today (as I stopped nursing Clarke last week). I made it just in time for that to not appear on my evaluation I guess. 🙂


      1. girl this is like the fourth time I’ve done it. I keep going back and forth and that is the only versatility to my style 🙂


      2. Once I discovered the Dominican Blow Out, I knew that I was set as far as versatility was concerned lol Gets my hair bone straight without a relaxer.

        But I only do that once or twice a year, because of the heat factor.

        I think once you find the right formula or regimen, it becomes so much easier to manage. I’m also the extension queen so I stay having different styles and such.

        I think you look great, still have those youthful dimples, and you have a motherly glow. There is something about being a mother that makes a woman stand apart from her colleagues.


      3. problem is I just hate going to the hair dresser 😦 I do not mind the barbershop cause it is cheap and familiar but the hair salon is always asking way too much of my time, money, and energy. Dominicans aren’t as cheap outside of NY.



  4. Its not just in the teaching world that women get evaluated for such silliness. It happens in just about every field. It just shows how far we haven’t come. And what’s worse is that it is often other women who are hardest on their sisters.

    It frustrates me to no end because I feel my race and sex are of equal importance, maybe with race have the slighter edge. I feel the same injustices against women as I do against Black people. But I wonder how much of this we cater to? We use words like feminine, girly, etc to describe ourselves or our looks but what does that mean? We wear the make-up, go through the processes of prettying ourselves up, sometimes sacrificing comfort for “The Look”

    How do we work towards achieving the equality we seek as women in the workforce but still maintain what we personally define as womanhood? It seems like there is supposed to be sacrifice or compromise of one or the other, but can’t we make both work?

    You ever notice how, in many cases, the higher a woman’s position/salary, the shorter her hair is? Or the less frequently she wears skirts?

    It’s like we have to become more masculine to be taken serious in positions once only given to men. But that just opens the can of worms about what is masculine and what is feminine.


    1. Interestingly though, in the academy, there is some backlash against women who are not feminine enough in traditional fields, like law. A professor of mine began her career not wearing makeup, not very feminine and got low evaluations from students. A female colleague suggested that she get more feminine – wear makeup, skirts, pearls – and she claims that she did nothing to her actual teaching and her evaluations shot way up. Law students were not comfortable with a woman not being feminine.


      1. When I mentioned teach evals that referenced make-up and undergarments, I was partially getting at what you’ve addressed: that women are expected to be attractive and feminine in the classroom, while men are not similarly judged.

        Law school is a very interesting dynamic. While I would agree that law students want feminine profs, they also consider “good profs” to be those who abuse them in class, the way older white male profs often do. At the same time, when women treat them the way older white male profs do, they’re considered bitchy–a comment that also often shows up on teaching evaluations.

        It’s a very hard balance. I’ve struggled with how much of my identity to bring into the classroom. I want students to realize that I see the world as a black female, and that my perspective informs the ways in which we will engage the materials. I also want them to seem me as human; I have a spouse and child; I have political opinions; I have bad days. But if I let them see to much of my identity, they become way too informal, way too quick, in ways that I don’t think they do with their white male profs. And at that point, I have to put up a wall, or impose some distance. It’s part of why my classroom procedures sound so draconian; if I don’t start off with a little bit of an edge, things get too loose…

        A lot of thoughts going through my mind; I hope this was halfway coherent…


  5. Great post, Tanji! Girl, you know you’re cute! We all feel that way sometimes. Nothing a quick mani-pedi and visit to the hair salon wont fix 🙂


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