Renee au naturel

I did it! I walked into the salon, and asked to see Betty. Betty had done my hair before, and for this, I needed someone with whom I had good experience with. Truth is I had ditched Betty after I found a more affordable salon close to where I live. But I needed her now; she was the only one who would understand. She would know what to do, and how to do it. Plus I couldn’t afford any mistakes being made on my head. Mistakes on a woman’s hair are always expensive. The risk was too high.

The lady at the reception desk at the salon called Betty and when she came, she pointed her to me as if to say “Yours for the mending” Betty came over and said “Hi!”

I told her what I needed. She was blasé about the whole affair, no surprised looks- like she was used to seeing women in my situation; scared, and not sure whether they were making the right decision. Even though I had dumped her only to come back and ask her to take me back, she did not rub it in my face. Quite the lady. She instead asked me to follow her to a seat and as soon as I sat down on THE chair, she made me lean back. Like in therapy, she tried to get to the root of the problem; she probed my hair by massaging it with her fingertips, feeling for the ‘growth’. Then taking a comb, she combed it all the way up, while examining the strands.  “What happened? Your hair was to die for!” She said.

I had children, that’s what happened.  I had my first kid, and my hair thinned. Child number two and my hair couldn’t take it anymore; most of it disowned me at that point. It’s like when I chose to have children, I inadvertently made a choice between my hair and my bundles of joy – the bundles won hands down of course! The hormones during pregnancy happened. The breastfeeding after pregnancy also happened. The ping-pong hormonal bouncing robbed me of my full, long, black, very strong, very kinky, very African hair. A very small price to pay, I must point out.

She nodded in understanding, as if suddenly, everything made sense. How can a woman go through all that and retain the virginity of their hair anyway? Add to the hormones, the weaving, the chemicals applied to make it manageable, the plaiting, and the pulling that makes you spend sleepless nights because of braids done too tightly. I lost my hair to all that. But now, sitting in doctor Betty’s chair, I felt like the time was ripe to remedy what was left of my hair!

Betty called her colleague, Martin-the barber, and gave him instructions on how to cut my hair and what length to keep. Yikes, I was actually gonna cut my hair! She asked if I was sure, and I affirmed that I was. After all, what was the other option…braids and weaves till kingdom come? A camouflage at all times? That wasn’t me.  I wanted to be able to proudly comb my hair again someday. I wanted to leave the weave, and get back the savory taste of Kinky African hair au naturel. I had in fact thought of going bald, but I decided to spare people the shock. Let’s make sure no one I know will have a heart attack when they see me with short hair first.

In Martin’s hands, I was nonchalant and I let him do his thing as I perused a magazine, trusting him completely. He took his time, cutting the hair in layers from the top. Exposing me with each cut, until he was just a few inches from the scalp. I hated the vibrating thingamajig that is used to cut hair, and I told him so. It vibrated with resounding vigor like he was drilling a hole in my head or something. He said I felt that way probably because I was not used to having my hair cut. I almost turned around to face him and ask “Ya think!?” but there are people who are sarcasm-impaired and I wasn’t sure Martin wasn’t one of them.

Soon, I was stripped down to my ‘underwear’ – exposed and somewhat vulnerable. The contours of my head were out there for everyone to see and judge. I had set myself up, and now people could make fun of me and my head. My forehead was fully visible for anyone to poke fun at (Remember what they did to Joey ‘Forehead’ Muthengi?)  And even though I was privileged enough to have a head that was not egg-shaped, still my ‘kisogo’ was hanging out back there all exposed, seemingly inviting provocations like “Kichwa kama malenge” Or “Kichwa kama sole ya kiatu” … or something along those lines.

Looking at the mirror, I could not see Renee anymore. For some reason, I saw my little girl Heidi. There was something about me at that particular moment that reminded me so much of her. I looked more closely and I saw a girl from Turkana or somewhere in Northern Kenya. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s my Nilotic ties or my eyes were playing tricks on me? There is that typical picture of a girl herding cows in the desert with short tawny hair, that girl seemed to stare back at me from the mirror.

Betty did her thing. And she did it well. She treated the miniscule hair, colored it even, gave it a little more trimming and all that jazz. When my hair was all maroon, the picture of the malnourished girl with short hair herding cows, was made complete.

Suffice to say the transition went well. I survived. Most importantly, I like what I did for my hair. My head feels lighter – a tabula rasa in its purest form. I kid you not; this feeling of novelty is oh-so-refreshing!  


PS: Have a blessed Easter good people!

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