While I am sure that Samson had many other things going for him besides his strength and luscious locks, he kind of lost it without his hair. I wrote the following post a few years ago when I lost some of my hair and I kind of lost it as well. After a long tearful adventure that involved bad hair days, a weave (never again!), and a cut, it’s grown back healthy and strong, but that is now, and this was then. What follows is a cautionary tale:
I had contemplated a hair weave for a hot second back in the ’80s when so many of us lusted after Lisa Bonet’s flowing curls. But I quickly realized that I couldn’t be bothered and never gave it another thought. That is, until recently.
About a year ago, when the grays started to taunt me a little too much, I thought, instead of just covering them up, why not get a little color too? I have always played it so safe with my hair, so it was a big step for me. I investigated — what I’d hoped was — a trusted salon, and went for it. I loved my deep honey-toned hair, until slowly, over the course of year, it got drier, thinner, wispier, and then, worst of all, started to break. I knew that it is considered a risk to use permanent color on relaxed hair, but I thought my hair could take it. Not ready to cut it short and leave it natural, like a sensible person (I’ve done that twice and hated that in between growth period), I realized that the question was… to weave or not to weave?
Many women wouldn’t have thought twice about getting a weave or adding a few pieces, but I clearly I harbored a secret disdain. Not when it came to other people, but for myself. While I couldn’t really pretend that my relaxed and colored hair was natural, at least it was what was actually growing out of my head! The idea of a weave seemed extremely phony, like Real Housewives-franchise phony, something that would turn me into a high maintenance hair whore.
Chris Rock’s documentary, Good Hair, didn’t help. Oh, I laughed alright, it was funny, and I don’t know what made me feel like Mr. Rock was the boss of my hair, yet somehow his snarky voice-over played over and over in my head and made me feel like a traitor for entertaining the thought. But timing is everything. I am lucky to have a trusted friend (glamorous and exotic, but not high maintenance) who recently added a little something-something to her hair. She looked fantastic and I realized I was being silly. Why shouldn’t I look better? Why should I limit myself? Why be ashamed?
Like scores of women, both black and white, store-bought hair is often the explanation behind not only cascading locks (look around—if you didn’t notice it before, you will now—who has that much hair?!), but for many of those perfect little pixie cuts or bobs. My occasional on-camera work kind of requires that I looked as pulled together as possible, and my poor hair was no longer up to the task.
At my friend’s suggestion, I decided to head out to a salon on Church Avenue in Brooklyn to have a consultation, and possibly get the weave done. Worst case scenario, I’d grab a Jamaican beef patty or a Trinidadian Doubles on my way home. There I met Candi, a lovely woman from Trinidad who is a bit of a hair whisperer. Affordable and knowledgeable, she explained that my hair was indeed fatigued and broken, and that a weave would give my natural locks a rest from color and relaxer, as well as the manipulation of blow dryers and curling irons. So I went for it.
All around me were women getting weaves put in or taken out, and I realized that because of all the years I spent frequenting Dominican hair salons (I love a $20 wash and set, sue me), I wasn’t used to seeing the whole process. So many styles, so many colors! I was as fascinated as Margaret Mead in Samoa! I sat in Candi’s chair, bugging her with constant questions, as she cornrowed a little cinnamon bun looking circle of braids in my hair and then skillfully sewed in freshly purchased hair to match my color. I went in with lank locks and came out with volume and oomph. I wasn’t about to try to pull off a Beyoncé. I wanted to look like me, only new and improved, and that’s what I got.
It has been about a week now, and I have to admit, I’m still getting used to having all of this extra stuff on my head. Sometimes I feel like a cross between a Chia Pet and My Little Pony. (Oh ladies, how do you do it?) It is also nuisance to wrap it up at night in a silk scarf, like I’m supposed to. My daughter refers to me as Tupac, and my son serenades me with “Shortnin’ Bread,” but that little scarf does keep every hair in place.
There will be a learning curve as I figure out how to take care of this baby properly. What happens to it in the summer when I hit the sun, sand and surf? How will it hold up in a steamy Bikram yoga room? So many questions, but if I can give my own hair a break for six months or so, all this weirdness might be worth it.
Yes, somewhere out there, Chris Rock is probably shaking his head in disapproval — another black woman bites the dust, but I’m starting to enjoy it and let the guilt go. As Candi so wisely put it, “That is your hair — you bought it!”
Epilogue: I am so glad to have my own hair back again. I promise to be kinder to it than I was, because I have to say, I really hated having that weave. I hated the hours it took to sew it in, hated sleeping in that scarf every night, and I hated how self-conscious it made me feel.
Yes, it served the purpose of giving my own hair a rest, and sure, I woke up looking photo-shoot fresh, but it just didn’t suit me. I felt as though I had an alien strapped to my head. I think it comes down to this: You’re either a weave girl or you’re not, and I know which camp I belong to. Beyoncé honey, you look fabulous, but I don’t know how you do it!