So, there’s a lot of poetic interpretation of when a woman tinkers with her coif. Coco Chanel famously remarked, ” A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” Can’t say that I had revolution on my brain when I made the decision to go short. It was a domino effect motivated by a particularly bad experience at my usual straitening appoinment. The relaxer wasn’t working like it should, or the technician didn’t possess the right skills…or both. Either way, as she tore at my regrowth, dryer frying my scalp for the umpteenth time, I’d had enough. Pondering deeper, I queried what “enough” practically meant. Was this a temporary or permanent stand off? I mean, I’m no naturalista. Neither am I a clip-on addict. I’m just a girl, standing in front of the mirror, asking the hair dresser to take it easy. As the days turned into weeks and, surprisingly, months; free-spirited, tightly clenched strands supported silky, chemically processed tops. I undid my latest braided hairstyle, noticing how the juxtaposition wrestled for singularity. What to do? What to do? Keeping my mane’s static, squiggly bravado would result in loosing the joy whipping hair back and forth. But then again, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Standing tall while bearing it all. The road to mid-thought-twirlery was cumbersome. Outcomes bounced from one scenario to another, like a tennis ball during a Wimbledon finals match. Stepping into the salon, I committed to the words as they announced, “Cut it”. Clumps of hair made their free fall to the floor as I watched, not sure whether to laugh or cry. My hair stylist was definately laughing. This is what she terms real styling: doing something completely out of the normal slay queen package. The first few days were a tug of war between the old status and new profile picture. I had to make a complete change, mind included. Taking notes from my hairscapades, here are a few lessons that I felt were worth sharing.
1. Real Growth
Inspite of how bent out of shape it got, my hair chose to push through. Being over the hill, one’s general bounce back isn’t as snappy. I did a lot of pulling, burning, curling, straightening, cutting, plaitting, sewing and a sprinkle of dying. It got thin and worn out. That’s a good tap out moment. But to my amazement, it fought the odds. My hair only had a milimeter on a mile yet, like clockwork, up it sprouted. I guess I always assumed that I had to be in the right space or frame of mind to grow. When the environment was not condusive, I shut down. It was easier to recount all the faults than measure the silver lining. Even if I did nothing wrong, I could learn to do better. In retrospect, we pick up those things our egos, emotions and “oh no’s” benched in self defence. Was that really the best way to do it? Did you sincerely have no choice whatsoever? And shooting through the roof legit hurt less than biting your tongue? Man, I’ve been stunted. The ability to grow had always been in me. I refused to tap into it unless certain factors were aligned. I touted strength to empowering situations instead of fighting through discouraging encounters. Not saying one should thrive on chaos; learn when something is being destructive or demolished. Demolition is preperation for the next phase. Destruction obliterates existance. Human beings, by design are not stagnant creations. Every part of us is constantly in motion. From the blood rushing in our veins to the marathon our minds often take us on or the high from our favourite treat. Interruption in growth, no matter the catalyst, is equal to decay. Never say die. Grow.
2. Greatest Fears Realised Might Be The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen
My entire life has mostly involved substantial amounts of hair. From the thick Afro in my younger years to long, relaxed hair as a teenager then later on, braids and weaves intentionally selected to tumble past my shoulders. Those styles miandered from my scalp rather fantastically. Bald headedness was an abomination, short hair being its dispicable cousin. I rebuked scissors feverishly, only tolerating them when it was time to trim split ends. Seeing scalp was a horrid nightmare. I pictured screaming as the breeze rushed away with my beloved. The day it actually happened was mildly eventful, at best. Nothing apocolyptic. What was I avoiding all these years? How I believed it would be was one hundred times worse than what it genuinely is. Take for example, rejection. I carefully calculate before making the decision to put myself out there with minimum risk of push back. On the other side of the cookie, a friend used to spontaneously request whatever she wanted from anyone, including complete strangers. Some situations would end favourably and others would involve flabbergasted side stepping. Insanity. Yet her reason made the whole cookie crumble. “The worst thing a person can do when I ask is say no.” Have you not done something because you’ve set a pain threshold too low to implement required sacrifice? Are your fears fuel or quick sand? I’ve experienced a lot of my greatest fears; personally, financially, spiritually and in my career. Im still here, they are gone.
3. Be True To Yourself
No matter how much I tried to get my hair to conform, it never gave up its authentic identity. By nature, it is curly, kinky and often cheeky when it refuses to let the comb through. I wanted it straight. That made it much easier to manage and redirect. Which is ironic because the process to getting it that way was as uncomfortable for all parties concerned. Boxes, spaces and ideologies confont our “otherness” daily. We wind up trying to allocate shapes to holes while we equally don’t know where we fit. It’s hard being a woman in the midst of chauvanism, hyper sexualisation, stereotyping or cultural consensus. It’s hard being a black woman in an industry controlled by white, male domination. It’s difficult being amongst fellow black collegues who put you down just as hard because they can’t accept that we are also deserving of certain opportunities. It’s exhausting not being thin enough, being too tall for a chic, not possessing the right complexion or being considered a bit too hairy. Thrown in your face at every unwanted glare, belittling tone or blatant conduct, one can feel deflated. It’s not about what gets attacked. It’s about what’s on the inside. “Being” works its way from the inside, out. No matter how much the world tries to get me to conform, my true self can withstand it. I’ll only be different if I pretend I’m something I’m not or turn into something I was never meant to be. People will either make the effort to familiarise what is foreign to them or tear apart what they do not understand. Your existence was crafted without a cent thrown in from the peanut gallery. Why then should they be given the right to moderate it? Simply put, do you boo!
I didn’t automatically do the “big cut”. I chose to transition. Secretly, underneath braids, I was drawing out a fresh start for my hair and I. All I’ve ever done to my hair has been public, in plain sight of everyone. But when the time came for me to do what I felt it took to take care of that relationship, it happened privately. My hair never fussed about it. Instead, it worked with me, doing its part as best as it could. How many times have people hurt me publicly, yet I was offended when the reconciliation would be kept in a private space? Worse still, when they felt around their apology, touching sore points, I was just about ready to throw up because it made me so sick. Sick of them. Sick of this see-saw. Sick of treating certain hurdles like its something I can get over devoid of a burning in the market square. I craved for the whole world to know how sorry they were for how I’ve been treated. I needed the satisfaction of seeing them squirm. Which meant I didn’t want an apology, I wanted revenge. It’s a lie that seeing someone who did you wrong suffer will make you feel better. Releasing bitterness, anger, doubt and open wounds brings healing. Your happiness should not depend on whether that perpertrator goes on to greener pastures or hits rock bottom. Both legally and biblically, justice is out of your hands and must be meted out by a higher authority. Our interpretation of justice is contrived, hardly ever considering reformation. I’m glad pay back from the ones I messed up remained a sinister thought, strolling over to fulfiled plots every now and then. Much as negativity may have been carried out, I can appreciate that it wasn’t the full scope of their desired end. In that, I got the chance to realise where I missed it. There were doors opened to rebuilding from “I’m sorry”. There were also closed doors, where those words would never be received. When approaching reconciliation, we tend to rationalize it as two parties present, one grovels before the other responds accordingly. The Lord forgave us before we were cognizant of our wrong doing or grateful that He did. An apology is not the key to unlocking your forgiveness. It is remorse expressed from the other person. Meaning it’s all on them. The choice to forgive is therefore an independant one. That’d be all on you. I can forgive even if you don’t understand what you put me through. I can forgive even if you’ll never know that I have. I can forgive even when you throw it in my face time and again. Forgiveness is valuable. Nobody deserves it, nobody can earn it. Yet, truth of the matter is, embracing the future would not cost us as much as holding on to the past.
At this stage, my hair is in limbo. Maybe I’ll let it grow out again, maybe I’ll keep it short……heck, maybe I’ll throw on a 14 inch wig or go back to straightening. The options are endless. Wherever this leads, I’m taking it one day at a time. My old tendencies dictated satisfaction in light of full glory. Change felt awkward when it should have been liberating. I’m allowed to express myself in every season. Yesterday, I was all about the faffing and styling. Today, I switched it up to something I can do in the shower then be on my way. Tomorrow is yet to be discovered. What’s good, I’ll keep, what doesn’t work was worth a shot. Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes chimed, “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me.” My new mantra? “If I don’t surprise you by now, you will never, never, never know me.”
Blessings and love