An Open Letter: Screw your “Groom’s tip”, my love

[This article is a long-overdue response to Siphiwe Mpye’s “A   Groom’s Tip”; an article published in a South African glossy mag (TrueLove), in April 2011. The article discusses the writer’s idea of beauty. In it, he encourages women to take whatever steps they have to, to appear attractive to the opposite sex—whom he advises, in turn, to do the same. I’ve done my best to make my point clear in the case of readers that have not read this copy of the publication.]

How can you not love that face? Look at that smile!True Love Magazine

Before I Go To Bed, let me just tell you…

Siphiwe, my darling, I’m afraid I’ve got terrible news for you. I hate to break it to you here on the interwebs of all places, knowing how you detest scenes, but my love, I fear my love for you has died.

“The culprit?”—I can hear you asking, devastated. To answer you; your article in the May 2011 issue of True Love magazine, entitled “A Groom’s Tip”.

Reading through it, having gotten to it by flipping hungrily to your column’s page number, I found the joy that I receive from my ceremonial five-minute “aaawwww” at the sight of your face drain from me as I realized almost too late just what your anecdote about Cold War propaganda was getting at.

Before this turns into a fight, my love, I do have to point out that this isn’t about the quality of your writing, for I found it humorous, informative and as delightful as the face staring lovingly back at me from the white background of your column.

But as I read on, something happened. Your words began to turn against me. My thoughts, very gradually went from rosy and fluffy to dark and confused. I was left wondering why you could disregard everything we had. How you could throw away the principles we had once bonded so strongly over.

You wrote:

“….I have even abandoned my Fanon-esque anti-relaxer and weave sentiment after meeting numerous women who are solid about their identity and don’t exhibit a hint of self-loathing, but just want to look good” – Siphiwe Mpye

These are possibly the most important words you’ve written to me. That I could keep reading without vomiting out whole organs should be a testament to the depth of adoration I felt for you.

In fact, your admission to abandoning the teachings of our shared love, Frantz Fanon, did not make me stop loving you for being a sell-out.

And your admission to believing that a woman with synthetic hair that mimics that of the race that has been oppressing said woman’s people for centuries could be “solid about her identity” did not make me stop loving you for being naïve.

Up until then, Siphiwe, I loved you. Sure, you seemed to me a naïve sell-out, but I still loved you.

But the statement that ended your sentence made me reassess our entire affair.

Did you hear that breaking sound, darling? –The breaking of glass accompanied by the ‘splash’ of unleashed 17-year-old blood at approximately 6-57PM on a Wednesday night? Well, that was the sound of my heart falling to the ground and smashing to a million pieces. That, my love, was the sound of our affair ending.

In essence, you had equated a weave to beauty. You had equated the mind-fucking process of altering one’s natural hair texture to beauty. What you said was: “If you want to look good, get a weave or relax your hair. I have no problem with it.”

Before I go to bed, allow me to ask you a few questions:

  1. Have you read, and understood, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skins and White Masks?

For if you had, you would have realized that you had essentially played the role of ‘Black male that believes black women need to mimic the appearance of White females to look attractive to him.’ [Excuse me here for using the labels “White” and “Black” despite my understanding that they are slightly stupid]

2. Do you realize how large an impact writing this in an international publication can cause?

For if you had, you’d have taken into consideration the number of young girls—girls far more impressionable than myself—that take in a lot of what your magazine puts out. Your magazine is one of the very few in your country of millions of young women born during your transition from the oppressive ‘White’ government to the new ‘Black’ leadership, that caters to ‘Black’ women. How many of the women still clinging to the box of straightening chemicals, not yet “solid about their identity”, have you just discouraged from even exploring the writings of Fanon and his peers? How many young women that have only begun to explore Africanist principles and are still feeling insecure after taking the plunge and shaving lifetimes’ worth of chemically-altered hair, have you pushed in the opposite direction? Lots.

But I shouldn’t take too much of this to heart. After all, in the magazine that hosts you, I need only turn a couple of pages in either direction to land on a skin-lightening or hair-relaxer advert. I suppose I can only blame myself for clinging to hope that the only writer that veered away from the beauty issue would not add insult to injury. But you have to consider your responsibility as an attractive male writer in a society that judge’s women’s beauty according to standards set by men they are attracted to. A girl, whose mind is unlike mine, not drenched in the pro-Africanists words of several writers, that might actually be attracted to you could take your article very seriously.

Your article does something very effective—it takes a very ‘dark’ topic (the definition of beauty in the ‘Black’ community and its relation to colonization) and makes it easy to brush off casually. It’s a “Hey whatever!” to years of open discussion in the ‘Black’ community on the issue of skin and hair enhancement. Whatever progress was made by this century’s Black-Is-Beautiful movement must have taken a bit of hit by that.

But perhaps I’m overreacting. I get like that when I’m tired. I should probably go to bed.

But before I do, let me just say…

I have dreadlocks. I haven’t relaxed my hair in six years. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t go to manicurists. (You could have found out in person about my attitude to shaving, and might even have been pleasantly surprised…but, hey! You threw that chance away…)

So—would I look good enough to you?

Probably not.

I guess it really is over.

Yours no longer,

Katlo Siyanda M.

NOTE: The tone of this article is meant only in jest. Mr. Mpye and I have never met.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that Mr. Mpye had a radio interview in his home country, South Africa, on the content of A Groom’s Tip. Perhaps, if I had listened to it, I might have had a different reaction to his article. I’m going to take a leap of faith and keep a space in my heart for our inevitable reconciliation]

4 Responses to “An Open Letter: Screw your “Groom’s tip”, my love”
  1. Let me start by saying that I have no clue what it is like to have weaves or us relaxers on my hair. But I do get the sentiments conveyed here. I think you may have overreacted just a tad here. The way I read the sentence that broke your young heart was more like: ladies, do as you please, weave or no if you do all you can to make yourself look beautiful it is a good thing. Now think about that for a second (before you bite my ignorant head off).

    If the lady does all she can to look beautiful whose idea of beauty is she actually chasing? Her own idea first and foremost I would think. No harsher critic of a womans beauty then herself is my experience. So if the lady in question chooses not to have a weave she is certain she is making herself as beautiful as she can be.
    Equally if the lady decides to have a weave she is convinced that this will make her as beautiful as she can be.

    So ultimately it boils down to what the person herself thinks of what makes beauty. So who forms these ideals? Environment, publications (for sure) and most of all the man she is trying to win over. If it is an attitude adjustment that is needed it is maybe in the self confidence of women about their own beauty instead of chasing after ideals thrust upon society by media and the opposite sex. Surely your love for one man can not be shattered by his willingness to let the lady decide for herself how she feels the most beautiful?

    I hope I have restored your love a bit.

  2. Akanyang Merementsi says:

    People react differently to different things (just check my blog post on defending Sentletse Diakanyo, Kay Dlanga and many other bloggers like myself from other bloggers).

    And like me, I suspect that you might have over reacted. Or maybe you did not. as a women, you said what you thought was best for you and for many others who cannot speak for themselves, whose hair (if they have any at all) is seen as not beautiful, unattractive to men because in women (we made are made to be known as) we are only interested in their “good-looking” and not to forget their hairstyle.

    Beauty, I must say, goes further and is more than just relaxing one’s hair. It is about many things, some of which may include: people’s perception of you, your relationship with other people (colleagues, friends, family, and strangers).

    The original may not whole a view of what us men about of when we see women: we a re different and not alike and should not be even compared to the author of the article you referred to.

    So, just go to be, and maybe, just maybe, when you wake up – it will be “one of those things”.

    Have a great night.

  3. Sisi says:

    My fear is that by the time I have children, we’d have spent so much time feeding ourselves this “Do what you need to to feel pretty and don’t question the psychological source of it” act that my daughter will be born into a world that does not know African Beauty in its most natural and celebrated state. I fear my daughter will be born into a world where no-one is outraged by the amount of money and time spent on treatments made to make ‘Black’ women more white (I’m sorry–I mean “beautiful” and “self-loving”).

    That is my fear.

    And that is why I wrote this article.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] For more evidence that in the arena of magazines, my reading is very limited, here is an angry open … […]

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  • Hey, you.

    Thank you for reading through the ole b.l.o.g. I hope that you have been thoroughly satisfied. Let me know what you have for lunch, hey? Cheers.
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