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I'm not my hair

By | September 22nd 2010

By Renee Mboya

A few years ago my favourite song spotted the refrain "I am not my hair...". This song I loved not because it made profound musical sense to me or added any excitement to a night of vigorous college dancing, but because it said, in words simpler than I could ever have thought sufficient, what I had been trying to say my whole life: "I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations (oh!).."

Being in college means spending small fortunes on hair care bills. You’re out of mother’s house for the first time and frankly hair is the one thing the Bank Of Mom doesn’t seem to mind paying for beyond the bounds of her domain. After all no mother wants her baby girl looking like something that was dropped by the roadside by the fruit seller.

Walking onto campus after a long weekend means being accosted with a vastness of creative ideas for what hair should look like. It’s big, it’s small; sometimes it’s yellow and purple. Last year it was those Ghanaian corn rows. This year is a weave year, true story. Hopefully next year will be something I can pull off.

I recently I went where I swore I would never again go. I went to the hair salon. Having had dreadlocks for much of my adult life (well college at least) there was never any need, I did for myself. I don’t go to hair salons. Hair salons are places of evil and let’s face it there are easier ways to be bored to death without having someone tug, pull and burn your scalp.

Nevertheless your college chick has to take care of her looks and hair is a big part of this process. It doesn’t help ones image or esteem to have total strangers come up to you in the street and ask ‘what happened to your head?’

I have the misfortune to have been ‘gifted’, by genetics or creation or freak accident of nature-whichever is most cruel, a mass of tight, dark curls which seem to arouse the greatest interest of strange types who insist on the tugging, pulling and parting of it, much to the dismay of my delicate nerves. These people, generally saved in the folders of my memory as “people not to like”, tend for the most part to be hair-care professionals and the mothers of children with receding hairlines.

Needless to say the salon will never be my favourite place, but in the age and spirit of oversharing, I must say that nothing gives me more pleasure than checking out the latest trends in hair care and fashion.

 I think we can all agree that our college peeps are looking hot. What amazes me though is the extent to which some people, and especially your folks on campus, will go to look college fresh and funky. There’s even more pressure now that the college guys are getting their dos done in the seat next to you while you’re getting your braids taken out.

I recently took a leap of faith. I shaved my head (in a Britney Spears mini-melodrama sort of way). I was pleasantly surprised, after I had spent a lot of time contemplating buying a Beyonce wig, when someone came up to me and said hey “You look chic!! Like Angelique”. Angelique? Last time it was Alec and it was hugely unpopular.

So in the long run I think this is a lesson learned. Your looks don’t define you. Your confidence in the look you carry does. You define yourself. Either that or the shape of my bald head has changed into something more acceptable. Take the lesson; it’s good for you.

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