By Dyke Road/ @dykeroadbaby
I did something very cool this week.
I started the week by cutting my hair short. In my life, this should not be a big deal. I’ve had short hair of varying lengths for the past 8 years. I had really really short hair, punk cuts, and mo-hawks but this particular cut was a big deal.
The first reason is that I now live in Lagos and certain things are expected from women. People are doing double-takes because they first think I’m a guy then they realise I’m not. One major requirement of being a woman here is long hair. It doesn’t matter whether it comes naturally or not. They don’t care how you do it, just make it long somehow.
The second reason is that I spent the last two years in a relationship with someone who was obsessed with how I presented to society. Because she was deeply in the closet, she paid too much attention to how much I sagged my pants and how little I dolled up.
I decided to cut my hair after I had texturised it, following some very bad advice from a friend who promised it would curl back once the hair was washed. We wanted these grey extensions in our hair, we got get them and they turned out very cute. However, my hair also turned out very straight and I love my coils. I tried to wait for it to grow out but eventually decided that I couldn’t stand those limp strands so it had to go.
I went to the barbershop with this ex and when I asked her if she thought I should get a mohawk; she said no. The actual experience of cutting my hair was a miserable one. The barber was uninterested in what I wanted and started to shape my hair in what he said was, “woman’s shaping”. He told me he couldn’t give me a mohawk because he had another call and he was getting paid N10,000 for it so he didn’t have time to do my mohawk that cost only N1,000.
My ex and I had several arguments about this because I felt that her comments about not getting the mohawk gave the barber more ammunition to talk shit to me. It also made me more self-conscious that I would be attracting more attention wherever I went because I now had short hair.
I wore a hat or tied a scarf for a week. After that, I wore a wig that my friend gave me. I asked for the wig because I didn’t like how my hair looked. I looked like a teenage boy with no swag. I got my hair braided after that because the wig was cute but it was too va-va-voomy for my everyday life.
Getting my hair braided was extremely painful because of how short my hair was but I put myself through that because I didn’t want to hear it about my hair. After two weeks of carrying the braids, one Sunday, I woke up and decided that today was the day I would be taking out the braids and turning my hair exactly into what I wanted.
I looked on Instagram for cool natural hair short fros and I settled on one look. I also settled on the barbershop I would be going to; one where I didn’t expect anyone to be telling me shit like, “Aunty, don’t do it like this now”.
I had an amazing experience at the barbershop I went to. The barber asked me polite questions before he took each step and before he started carving, he asked me, “Should I give you man carving or woman carving?” I said, “Do anyone you like”. Then he said, “You know, man carving go fit you”. Then he asked me if I wanted to loc the top and I smiled inside before politely declining because his method involved gel which I’m not into.
I was very happy with how my hair turned out. The best part is that when I got home, no one made a single comment
about my hair. It was as if I still had the braids on. If there is one thing I love about my family, it is the ability for them to make you not feel self-conscious about any changes. They simply take you as you come.
When I got to work the next day, everyone loved it. I keep getting compliments about it. A lady at the store where I went to buy my hair conditioner told me I looked “beautiful”. I don’t remember getting this many compliments in a long time. It definitely cheers me up.
One day this week after a long day at work and a long drive home I was thinking back on some of the compliments I got about my hair during the day and smiling to myself thinking- ‘What a dangerous thing it is to commit so much of your time and energy to someone who cannot let you be who you are.’
It then occurred to me that even though we theoretically knew certain things, it was easy to forget them or become affected by how other people feel about us. Loving yourself involves active effort. There is nothing passive about it.
The morning after the Barbershop row with my ex, I wrote on my Tumblr:
“You have to be wary of people who criticise you over basic personal choices such as the decision to wear your hair a certain way or to dress in a certain way. Don’t take their words at face value, but rather, where you feel it’s appropriate, take a minute to dig deeper. They might be deeply uncomfortable with your decision to deviate from the norm and are projecting their discomfort by way of negative criticisms. Maybe you are close friends and they don’t want people to make assumptions of who they are because of how you’ve chosen to present to the world. Their insecurities and their lack of confidence to be one’s self and to walk around showing everyone who they are through their choices should have no moral bearing on your life. Don’t let them patronise you with the idea that they know better than you, about you.”
Loving who we are and being able to choose and live our values can be greatly undermined when we spend time in an environment that stifles this. Choosing to keep yourself in an environment that doesn’t nourish you is definitely not showing yourself love. I don’t think we are taught enough of this especially as girl children or as young women.
Learning to love yourself is a huge deal and comes in so many forms but we don’t always know what it looks like and are not always ready to embrace it because it requires courage. Sometimes it means leaving your comfort zone or isolating yourself.
When it came to my hair, it took me a month of suffering myself and chilling in negative vibes before I finally did the right thing.
First published on DykeRoad’s blog reblogged with her permission.
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