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Two words men should avoid with women

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 3:14 PM EST, Fri November 25, 2011
There are some words men should just not bring up with women, says LZ Granderson.
There are some words men should just not bring up with women, says LZ Granderson. "Weave," as in hair, is one.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • LZ Granderson says there are a couple of words men should avoid when talking with women
  • The words: "Fat" and "weave." But a TV host mentioned his female co-host's weave on air
  • Granderson says the male co-host said he didn't know the rule
  • Granderson: Men, you can mention almost anything else -- but not the weave

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com and the 2009 winner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation award for online journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- I don't know if it's sexism or wisdom or just plain fear, but men have been socialized to avoid saying two words in the presence of women.

The first is "fat."

I know I don't go there.

And I don't see a good reason why any man should.

When women use the word around me I pretend not to hear it, and if asked a question with the word "fat" in it, I sneeze in my hand and then ask for a tissue. Juvenile, yes, but it allows me to change the subject without having to answer the question. And I don't ever want to answer that question.

Speaking of questions, the second word we should all stay away from is "weave."

I don't care if a man sees a woman bald at the office on Wednesday, with blond finger waves at the club on Friday, and with jet black hair down to her butt at church on Sunday -- if anyone asks if she wears a weave, the answer is "I don't know." She could be holding a receipt from Weaves R Us in one hand, and five pounds of hair in the other, and he should say "I'm not sure."

At the salon where I get my dreadlocks retwisted, every third woman walks in with a bag of hair. I keep my head down, eyes closed and try not to breathe. I want to be as invisible as possible, because the last thing I want is for a woman in there to think I'm aware of her lace-front, glued-in, braided back or whatever it is she's got going on up there.

And every man I know harbors that same level of sexism/wisdom/fear.

Which is why I had to talk to Blaine Stewart, who was not only brave and/or stupid enough to bring up his co-worker's weave -- he did it right in front of her face.

On live TV.

Stewart and Laila Muhammad host the morning show for WGNT in Norfolk, Virginia. During the Halloween broadcast, Stewart blew out the candle inside the jack-o'-lantern sitting on the desk. Muhammad joked that if the smoke from the candle set off the studio sprinkler system, "I'm done for the day."

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

"Sitting up here looking like a mop," she said.

That's when my main man Stewart chimed in, "You do not want a sprinkler system and a beautiful weave, because they do not go together."

Right now you're probably thinking: Oh no he didn't.

And I'm here to tell you: Oh yes he did.

And even as Muhammad stared at him with her mouth hanging open and a high-pitched wail filling the room, poor Stewart went on to say "You said it was a weave -- right?"

I hadn't laughed that hard at a YouTube clip since Antoine Dodson told us to hide our kids. And sites such as YBF and Lipstick Alley had a field day.

"I knew the first rule about not talking about fat, but I didn't know the second," he said. "No one told me about the second."

Which is why I had to write this column, in an effort to save lives this holiday season. Men, I don't care if half of her track is dangling in a pot of black-eyed peas, you do not acknowledge that weave. You sneeze in your hand and go to the bathroom and pray that an aunt, a cousin, someone has told her by the time you get out.

Now, Muhammad and Stewart are great friends, and their rapport plays well on camera -- even while "weave-gate" was unfolding. The two even put out a follow-up to try to add more context to the story. Stewart, who is bald, said the two actually talk about weaves on the show quite a bit, something he attributes to his latent hair envy.

Muhammad said the fact that she wears a weave is not a secret at the studio. She actually has long hair that isn't permed, but she chooses to wear a weave because daily exposure to the heat from the studio lights can damage hair. But Muhammad said while she was comfortable with Stewart and others knowing, she was shocked "he put all of my business out there like that."

"I wasn't mad at him -- but he clearly didn't know the rule," she said, laughing. "No, I didn't run to HR. No, I didn't beat him up off set. No, I didn't have to explain my blackness to him afterwards. It was clear he was trying to make a compliment. ... He didn't mean to call me out."

But that didn't stop some people from drawing a different, less forgiving conclusion.

"I was a little surprised by some of the pretty harsh things people said about me," Stewart said. "I don't believe I'm a racist or a white devil or a bitchy queen as some people have posted about me. I just wasn't thinking.

"But it's funny, we can talk about fake eyelashes, lip gloss, makeup and all of the other enhancements that we do, but when it comes to hair, we keep quiet. It's the last taboo."

That's when I stepped in and reminded Stewart that while "weave-gate" was bad, hair is not the last taboo. And if he didn't believe me, he should try bringing up the word "fat" and see what happens.

Of course, I won't do it.

I know the rules.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

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