A Problem of Visa Paperwork Proportions

                       DSC03162 Shea Moisture + wide tooth comb + rat tail comb + Mom’s mix + determination distilled over three years = ?

When I think about my hair I think about yellow rubber gloves, length, and independence.

Yellow rubber gloves? Yep. Yellow rubber gloves. Thick ones. Once, while sandwiched between my mom’s knees as she hot-combed my hair, my thick hair trapped the heat better than a fire blanket. When my mom lifted those mischievous tresses up to press another section, steam escaped and burned her hand. After that, mom always donned thick yellow rubber gloves like she was going into a construction site before pressing my hair. I didn’t blame her. She never said anything negative about my hair’s texture, and for that I thank her, but life got real whenever it was time to get my hair combed. Being tender-headed with what seems like the kinkiest hair God could’ve created is not a good look. Lil’ Wayne did say “tougher than Nigerian hair,” and I honestly couldn’t be mad. Side note: that’s about the extent of my rap knowledge.

Length: Too many black girls, myself included, obsessed over long hair. This has caused me much grief because my hair falls out whenever I’m stressed. Truthfully, I think my hair falls out if I even think about the S-word…and I am easily s*****ed. In NYC my hairdresser would say you have to stop stressing before I could even settle into the chair. I’m exaggerating, but still.

Independence: Even though my hair has overwhelmed me when I tried to comb it, broken a couple of combs in its lifetime, and just done what it damn well pleased, I like it. I love it. It’s a statement. I like to think that it highlights a particular side of my personality because I can be just as stubborn, if not more so, than my hair.

All the love in the world did not stop the anxiety from brewing once I accepted a position in Venezuela knowing fully well I did not know how to do my own hair. How and where would I find a hairdresser? This was a problem of visa paperwork proportions. I’d tried to two-strand twist my hair myself before and the results were (repeatedly) disastrous. I stopped attempting for about two years. When I tried again the result was OK. The last time I twisted my hair my mom said she was impressed.

But then, there was a game changer. I went to a “natural” hair dresser in Houston who claimed she knew how to do my hair. Upon touching my hair the first words out of her mouth were “Oh, you’re really natural.”

Ummm…yes?? I didn’t even know how to respond. I didn’t know how to respond after she…styled my hair either. I was furious. I could’ve done a better job because I had just done it two weeks prior. I knew I should’ve gone right up the street to the hole in the wall braiding place staffed with people whose accents were as thick as my hair felt instead of to the faraway place that looked nice on the outside but couldn’t do anything for me on the inside.

That moment in time was the spark I needed.

So, in the weeks leading up to Hairschool starting in my new place of residence I:

  • opened the Shea Moisture products a best friend recommended
  • skimmed Curly Nikki’s book
  • got out the hair moisturizer my mom made after attending a hair expo in Houston
  • dusted off the Miss Jessie’s product I’d barely used
  • got my combs ready
  • and got to twisting.

In the end, I was proud of the results. They’re definitely not as good as the twists the Ghanaian and Haitian hairdressers I went to could do, but they’re not crazy looking either. They’re neat. Even uniform.

They’re what finally brought an end to my hair anxiety…fifteen plus years after it first began.


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