“I’ve seen knives pierce the chest,
Children dying in the road
Crawling things hooked and baited,
Rapists bound and then castrated,
Villains singed in public square.
Yet none these sights did make me cringe
Like when my Love cut all her hair.” ~ Roman Payne
If my hair could speak I wonder what it would say. My mother didn’t believe in relaxing hair so I had extremely long natural hair that was never touched by anyone but my mother from as young as I can remember until I was about 9 years old. The teachers could always tell when my mother was out of town because my lovely nanny was great at a lot of things but taming my hair wasn’t one of those things. Then my primary school got a new authoritarian headmaster who believed hair was a distraction. We all had to shave our heads. After many verbal battles and much passive resistance from my mother the school eventually won the war. There’s not much to bargain with when the only good school in a town the size of 5 cent coin threatens to expel your child because you wont cut her hair. My mother cried as they shaved my head. I didn’t really get it. I only remember thinking I looked very different afterwards but I was a child and children adjust quickly.
I went to a high school that allowed me to grow my hair again. My hair flourished. It started growing and just kept going. I never put relaxer or a chemical of any sort on my hair throughout high school. My hair was what it was. I was extremely conservative.
In Varsity I started to experiment. I started to discover parts of myself I didn’t know existed. I yearned for new things. I became less conservative and I relaxed my hair. It may seem like nothing to some people but to me it was like losing my virginity. It was that big a deal. I tossed and turned the night before. I needn’t have stressed. When it was done it was just past shoulder length and it was beautiful. I loved it and other people loved it too. But truth be told, I knew nothing about keeping relaxed hair. After 22 years of taming my hair every night for an hour or so, relaxed hair was magical. It stayed straight. It was amazing. I suddenly had lots of time to spare. Oddly enough, it was my friends of other races who were saddened by my decision to relax my hair but they adjusted too.
As varsity ended I needed even more change. I experimented with colour. The wrong product and inexperience resulted in a temporarily beautiful result and then breakage. I cut my hair back to shoulder length to get rid of the damage. Then my mother fell ill and I was the unemployed breadwinner/new graduate looking after her full time. As her last days approached and the bills mounted I was so stressed my hair started falling out by the dozen in very long strands. Sometimes I would just look at the amount of hair on the comb in amazement but I was too drained to care.
After she passed away and I was eventually gainfully employed, the hair recovered but I didn’t. Suddenly life seemed so fickle and perhaps even meaningless. I dread to think what I may have done if I didn’t have siblings to look after. I was in a bad space. I went wild lol. I cut and coloured further and even further and then a little more. No barber would agree to shave my head but one gave me an edgy cut that was very short at the back with a fringe over my brow at the front. I kept that for 2 years.
Now I am ready to grow my hair again and I realised my hair and what I have done with it has reflected the seasons of my life. My conservative upbringing. My first steps into the big bad world at varsity. After 6 years in an all girls convent school varsity was definitely the big bad world. Rebellion and heartbreak. The good and the bad times. The stress of suddenly going from child to head of home. Above and beyond that, the stress of losing my anchor. There is nothing more beautiful than having your mum as a confidant and best friend. An anchor. The downside is when you lose her, you lose a part of yourself. A part I didn’t know how to survive without. If she had seen my hair then she would have had me exorcised lol. Getting a job and starting my career. The stress of trying to establish myself in a country where I knew no one and I was alone. My silent anger at the heavens for giving me what I thought I couldn’t handle.
2 years later I feel like I have found my new self. My spirit is right with God because He loves me. I have more than accepted life, I have embraced it. I still cry but I laugh too (a lot). I still wish for a home that no longer exists but I have built a new home in my soul and in my life. I have found healing and closure and suddenly I feel like growing my hair again. Not only that, I find myself considering whether to go back to natural hair. If ever there was a sign that I am at home in my soul again, that is it. I probably wont because I don’t have the type of dedication or time I had when I was younger but my hair now (pictured above) tells me that its a new beginning. Its ready for the rest of our life and so am I.
“Hair brings one’s self-image into focus; it is vanity’s proving ground. Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.” ~Shana Alexander