GoWoman Diary: Controversy, Hair & Me


A good old friend, let’s call him Remi, said to me the other day; “Why would you cut off your beautiful long hair? Bad idea.” And I said; “Don’t be fooled by the weave!” He confidently went on to tell me that I don’t look good at all and I should consider putting the weave back in. I had just cut my hair really short with the intention of growing out my perm and going natural. “People are talking,” he said. I laughed as my initial thought was WHO? Since we don’t have many mutual friends. Until I realised that he was not trying to be funny. He was actually serious about my new look being “unpleasant”. He then offered to be my first date when I decide to go “back to glam”. He’ll take me “somewhere nice…” he said. “Make it really special…” he said. Almost as though he saw himself as Captain SaveHerFromHerself, a kind of trophy or as though his proposition should be enough to entice me into doing the improbable. Struggling to take him seriously, I went on to explain to him that he has never really seen me with my real hair before now and offered to give him a lesson in weavology so he does not remain ignorant as to all the wonderful tricks that women can pull with their hair. Uninterested, he then asked if I noticed that “for someone who always gets comments and ‘likes’ on her profile pictures, no-one has ‘liked’ this one”. As if Facebook is supposed to be the scale which I use to measure my “beauty”. He also said to me that I should not be surprised if people assume I’m a Lesbian or maybe even Jamaican. Really Remi? Is this what “people” are saying?

He reminded me of an ex-boyfriend who did not want me to cut my hair because it would make him feel like he was with a dude. At the time I thought if the heavy artillery on my chest and the junk in my trunk are not enough to differentiate, then my hair is NOT the problem. Exasperated by Remi’s ignorance and gross insolence, I told him if he did not really like me now, then he could not possibly have liked me before as the weave was only an enhancer and was NOT naturally me. At this point, I was ready to terminate the conversation and agree to disagree. But he had to go on. “Do you realise that you are very controversial. Carry on and see if you will find a husband.” Remi was not joking. He was giving a good friend; me, some serious advice here. (A) Go ‘back to glam’. (B) Close your brain and shut your mouth. (C) Nod your head to everything. “African men don’t like controversial and opinionated women”, he said. But surely it is better to be controversial than it is to be a stereotyping and superficial chauvinist! The whole conversation took me back to a very similar but less annoying conversation I had with another male friend. Notice it’s men trying to dictate to me what my (a woman’s) definition of beauty should be?

A year ago I would have been at the hairdressers the very next morning trying to sew / glue in some extra long locks. Just because someone had insinuated that I am not beautiful the way I am. But guess what? It is just hair! It will grow back or I might decide to cut it even shorter. Heck I might decide to go bald! Or even go blonde a la C-Breezy Amber Rose! Who cares? I might even at some point decide to put some ‘Brazilian’ tracks in, braid it etc. Who cares? There are so many more important things going on in life than what I choose to do with my hair. What about the 1.7% of the population (UK) who suffer from Alopecia? Or the Little Princesses who have to cope with hair loss due to cancer treatment? Are they not beautiful? And if thinking that way makes me controversial then so be it. I DON’T go out of my way to be ‘controversial’ or ‘different’. Neither am I trying to be ‘self-righteous’ as others have insinuated. I just do not have any interest in conforming any more. I don’t feel the need to blend in with ‘packs’ any more. Quite simply put, I am just trying to be me. We spend so much time focusing on perceptions and what we ‘see’ that we totally lose sight of what’s real and how we ‘feel’. I once overheard a guy telling a girl that she was as fake as the hair on her head. At the time I was weaved up too and I felt bad for her. But he had a point. The weave had a way of giving me a false persona with each whip, pout and flick.

Now, I refuse to be a slave to Sleek. Mind you, Sleek is now considered the poor man’s choice. If you haven’t got the latest Brazilian or is it Peruvian brands, then you are slacking. I remember someone saying to me with disdain; “How can you wear Sleek when I can get you discounted Brazilian hair?” Maybe because Sleek is what I could afford at the time? Why spend £600 to £1000 on hair alone when I can spend £100? Or maybe because I had other passions that I needed to spend my money on? So much fakery and fockery going on. And I admit in the past, I have allowed myself to be enslaved by it. But not any more. If you are a Nollywood fan then you’ve probably seen the movie ‘Blackberry Babes in which all the girls are competing with themselves, the latest Blackberry phone being the common denominator. In the process, they prostitute themselves in order to be able to afford to keep up with each other. That’s another story altogether as I have also been told that my fully functional Blackberry Curve is a dinosaur and needs an upgrade. But I could bet my last penny that the sequel toBlackberry Babes’ will be Brazilian Hair Hotties or at least it should be!

Mind you fakery and fockery is not you being a Brazillian Hair Hottie. Like I said I am not totally opposed to it. I am not on a campaign against weaves. I do take breaks and have my hair weaved up from time to time. Fakery and fockery is you (society) trying to impose upon me the idea that being weaved up is the only way for me to look beautiful. Says who? So far, I have no regrets. My hair has never been healthier. My first love; my father loves it! I’m having a brand new romantic experience with it. Like all hair and all new romantic experiences, I have good days and bad days. I am enjoying the freedom of being able to conveniently wash it as and when I please. Water has never felt so good and I love the way the wind blows on my scalp. I love the fact that I can run my fingers through my hair without me feeling embarrassed about my tracks. I love the fact that I can just shake and go without spending hours on styling. Above all I love the fact that I can save the money! Like I said to Remi; “Like me or lump me.” If I am not aesthetically pleasing to you because I don’t have long flowing locks then you need to get stepping! Seek my heart, reach for my soul, but leave my hair alone.

I am not my hair

(UPDATE: This was originally posted on my personal blog, Royaume in 2011. Remi and I are no longer friends for other hair-raising reasons and my hair has now grown into a ‘fro, which for convenience is often hidden under braids and wigs. I recently contemplated going back to the relaxer but I have decided to hold out a little longer. My Blackberry Curve has been replaced by a sleek Samsung and Nollywood didn’t disappoint. Several Brazilian Hair related movies have already been made.)

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GoWoman is the reawakening of the 21st Century African Woman - a bi-annual magazine sharing the complete stories of the African Woman who finds a way or makes one. We do this for self-love, for womankind and for the continent.

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