Sunday, September 22, 2013

My One Year Clothing Shopping Hiatus Is Proving to Me That Natural Is Still Cool Enough!

Last year, I went to a store, where I frequently shop for clothing, and did not receive what I consider to be positive and excellent customer service.  I contacted the customer service number of this retail entity, explained to them what happened and they apologized and offered me a very nominal amount in the form of a gift card to return to their store.  I asked them if they seriously thought offering me the opportunity to shop in their store again, with a gift card, was the solution and what would they do to ensure that I or no other customer in the store would experience such poor service?  They had no answer.  So I decided, and informed them of such, in writing, that as a regular customer, I would not shop at any of their stores, or their affiliates for one year.  As I purchased most of my clothes from that store and its affiliates, I took my idea one step further and decided not to by clothing, at all, for one year.  I notified the company and reminded them that I had a history of buying most of my clothes from them, so they had lost, a loyal customer, at least temporarily.  They said that they truly hoped I would return.

So, this is how it went.  I set ground rules and decided that the first would be not to buy any clothing at all, with the exception of hats and scarves, of which I argue are not clothing anyway, but accessories, but my daughter begs to differ. Hats and scarves could never be purchased from the above store or its affiliates during the one year, but anywhere else, both in and out of the country.  The other exception was to be able to buy one t-shirt for each of the athletic teams that I support, for one game of the year for each, for example a championship t-shirt, if needed or a t-shirt to wear to a game in which they are playing against their most significant rival.  Other than that, no dresses, no pants, no shoes, no pajamas, etc. for one year, beginning in the month of November of 2012.  I determined that this would also give me the opportunity to clean out my closets, give away a great deal of unwanted clothing that I no longer preferred but that were in good condition, and others who need them and may enjoy them would benefit.  I also decided that I could focus more on other important aspects of purchases such as linens and other items that may be needed in my home and  of course determining what products if any are great for my natural hair.

Well, it turns out that this has been one of the best efforts that I have made in a long time. First of all, and obviously, I saved a great deal of money.  Secondly, I really took a good long look at every piece of clothing that I have, over the past year, and made decisions about what I liked and disliked.  I gave away, bags and bags of clothing to donation spots of my choice and felt great each time I did so. I am once again, in the middle of this process and I am still giving things away, only keeping those items that I love or that I found especially cherished over this one year.  I also really was able to determine, which of my clothing were really made on a quality basis rather than an appearance of looking good.  I also considered, which of my clothing items really held up in terms of durability after repeated washing in terms of maintaining color and not falling apart, which remained appealing to me over the year and which suited me best in terms of my notion of fashion and comfort no matter where I traveled.  I kept this clothing shopping rule in tact, no matter where I traveled, including 6 weeks in China.  I felt so liberated in that I was not persuaded by anyone's fashion ideas except what I found in my closet, suitcases and dresser drawers and after a short while, when I went out, the notion of clothing shopping never entered my mind.  I noticed that because I walk across campus often as an academic, durability and comfort of my shoes really matter so I decided to reconsider my shoe choices in the future although comfort and style combined always were a priority for me, compromising only with boots.  Sometimes, I will experience a bit of discomfort for a wonderful pair of good looking boots, but I think I am over that too. 

So in the end, this has been a fantastic endeavor.  I am in the last leg of my clothing hiatus. I didn't spend a great deal of money or venture out into buying too many other unnecessary items such as hair product either because I stayed true to my belief that Natural Is Cool Enough.  I bought extra shea butter at a few farmer's markets and street vendors in both Miami and NYC and some loc gel and I decided to just condition, twist and let my locs hang out freely or up in a pony tail most of the time.  There was the occasional henna purchase to keep my hair nice and extra conditioned.  I mention this  because I thought that since I was not buying clothing, I would get excessive in another area of shopping, particularly on products for my hair,  since I blog about natural hair, etc.  But I am proud to say, that did not happen.  I was true to my belief about minimizing excessive product purchase so as not to contribute unnecessarily to the billion dollar plus hair product industry of which few reap financial benefit although the products are being marketed to them, for their hair, mostly towards making it appear unnatural.

So, instead of buying clothing and excessive hair products, I focused on new linens for my linen closet and making my bed extra comfortable for restful sleep at night.   I focused on increased thread count for my sheets, which really makes a difference in terms of comfort, and the quality of cotton and I also purchased  down and memory foam pillows and a lovely down comforter.  I  had my car repainted, since I love it anyway, instead of buying a new one, and getting into a ridiculous car payment since my car is  completely paid off and continued to do one of my favorite things that I love to do most with my husband and children, travel the world, without being caught up in purchasing clothes, no matter where I was  in the world.

I learned a great deal in this entire process.  The first is that I respect myself enough, not to shop in  a store, or any of its affiliates, when I do not receive optimal customer service.  It matters where I spend my money.  I learned that it feels so much better to give than to receive and that I will never throw away clothes (or any other items for that matter)  that I don't want but will always give them away (as I have always done and have taught my children to do the same) because there are so many people in need and that I must help and be conscious about doing so.  I learned that when I am not spending money to buy new clothes that I do not need,  I learn to value and appreciate what I already have.  I reminded myself of something that I already knew, which is not spending money on one thing, doesn't mean that you have to run out and spend money on other things, except what you need, and that this kind of frugal mentality translates into the search for quality in things, not quantity.

I also learned something else that I already knew, which is that Natural Is Cool Enough, always, in terms of my hair.  Even with extra resources on hand, there was no need to run out and buy more product excessively, but to use the same process that I use in caring for my hair in every aspect of my life, which is don't be hooked on what others are marketing to you as what is best for your hair, or any other aspect of your life, but focus on what I DEEM is best for me and in the process save and find more useful ways to use my money, in terms of purchases.  The upgrade on linen quality may have represented a bit of frivolous spending, but my bed is now much more comfortable and I have plenty of linen to give away to others who may be in need.

The Last Sorting Through of Clothing for Donation...Shoes Next!
So, today and during the rest of September and  the month of October, I will gradually go through every piece of clothing that I own, once more, and every pair of shoes and determine which are quality, which held up and which of those items I want to keep.  Anything that I do not want, both quality and that is in good to excellent condition, will be given away to chosen donation centers.  Since I am now in need of certain items that just didn't hold up, I will go out and buy, in November, 2013, just what I need with my preference as the primary selection criteria, focused on quality,  and of course based on the customer service that I receive in the store.  I still haven't decided if I will go back to the store that lead me on this journey in the first place, or its affiliates, but we shall see.  I have set a budget, in cash, so that there will be no interest attached to any purchase that I make and I will replenish without concern that I am buying now and paying later, avoiding any consumer debt associated with this venture.

I will also continue the notion of knowing that no matter what I put on my body, in terms of attire, or product in my hair, there is very little to buy, except what I need, and that as always, Natural Is Always Cool Enough and of course, that is N.I.C.E.!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Modernity Abounds: China Cultural Moments!

As promised, here is another brief post about China.  Although my last post about my trip to China emphasized natural hair and how it is viewed there, this one will simply share photographs, which provide glimpses of the overall experience. I don't believe that it is possible to capture such a vast and comprehensive culture with photographs, of which I have so many. The magnitude of the country is beyond the camera lens. It is important to note that since I've been back, I have heard some comments about China that I just did not find to be true. What I found is a different, interesting and unique culture where the food is outrageously delicious, the people are modest, gracious and kind, the cities are extremely modern and contemporary and the mixture of old and new architecture, art and culture is compelling and intriguing.  So, rather than words alone, below are pictures in this deviation from my discussion of natural hair.  Enjoy the photos and my next post will bring us back to natural hair elaborating on the emphasis of this blog which is N.I.C.E.!

One of many modern malls in Shanghai

Delicious Buns!

The Bund Area in Shanghai

The Bund Area in Shanghai

A Pagoda in the City of Shanghai

A Panda napping at the Shanghai zoo

A Chinese family that wanted a photo with me...a request that happened often

A lotus flower...one of many beautiful flowers

Hong Kong at Night

One of many delicious meals

One of many innovative carts

Another innovative cart...

Another example of delicious food...

One of many beautiful fruit stands...

The great wall on a rainy day

Another innovative cart...

Shanghai at Night...

Bamboo Steamers

The Pudong Area...

Tiffany's Ad...
An Awesome Louis Vuitton store next to Cartier and other designer stores...

The Bund area at night...

Terracotta Warriors in the city of Xian

Beautiful garden in Xian
Model of Shanghai
Bullet Train
Birds Nest from the Olympic Village in Beijing
Beautiful Performance at Summer Palace in Beijing
Chinese Opera in Beijing

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Little Sister, Natural Is Cool Enough!

When I read this story http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/04/tulsa-school-sends-girl-home-because-dreadlocks-and-afros-are-too-distracting/ as a lock wearing sister, my initial impression was outrage.  To see a child in tears because she has chosen to wear her hair naturally, as sanctioned by her father, and her school finds doing so unacceptable is beyond ridiculous. But on a deeper level, I find the matter to be painful because this is a true indication of the depth of disdain that some have in society for the beauty of the natural appearance of people of African descent, which may surface within and outside of the Black race and amongst other groups.  Imagine a person, particularly a child, being told that her natural hair is a distraction!  So, because the situation is so completely ludicrous, I am not going to give it too much credence or time.  I simply want to express, on behalf of the little girl who is sadly exhibiting how hurt she is in the video accompanying the story because people do not understand the beauty of her natural hair, that she must know that Natural Is Cool Enough.  Hopefully, she will not be led to believe otherwise and praise to the new school that she is attending now who accepted her just as she is.  That is a true understanding and indication to this beautiful little girl that anywhere, anytime and any place, little sister, Natural Is Cool Enough...N.I.C.E.!