What was meant to be the joyous family occasion of a christening, turned into a 'hair' intervention. Undertaking my serving duties after church, where I'm held hostage by 50 kids demanding 'more jollof rice', 'not that chicken, the other one', 'my mum says I can have coke, you got a problem with that?' (they now outnumber the adults), my cousins find me at my lowest ebb and like hawks, descend. First individually, "Madam, what is wrong with your hair? I thought you said you were going to style it for today. What happened?" Then collectively "Chale, why? You look tired and sad. Is this new man of yours treating you well? Maybe if you did something with your hair, instead of this hard bush you call an afro, you'd find a new decent man." Turning to my sister for mercy, she shakes her head meekly and slowly extracts herself from the gaggle of women. "I know a girl who WILL do your cornroll. She's quick and does all the funky styles you used to like.
Give the afro a rest, it's not working and at your age you need to get married but this hair does not show your true beauty. AND...... Seeing as we're on the topic of your appearance, I know you like these floaty floaty dresses, but you have lost weight now, can't you wear something sexy to show it off?! You are beginning to dress like an old lady."
Fast forward a week. Broken and circumspect, I whatsapp my former hair dresser from hell. Note, I have to get the number off my sister as she's changed it at least eight times in the year and a half since I've seen her. Appointment booked. 7am on Saturday morning - Well actually it was 7pm on a Friday (I left work early), but she called me as I'm en route to her place (1 hour commute) and asks to postpone as she's going out dancing and still has a client with her. I'll leave you to imagine my rage..... Only a large pizza and bottle of gin could placate me.
7am I arrive, having woken before the birds. As instructed, I message her, to no avail. Again and again and again. Then I call and get her voicemail. I am on a dodgy street corner, freezing, with only my bag of Xpressions for comfort. I call my sister and with the croaky monosyllabic voice of the hung over she whispers 'flat 1', before the dial tone kicks in. Clocking the group of homeless men leering at me from the adjacent bus stop and the working girl retuning from her shift, I buzz manically, probably waking the entire block. She appears in a bra and shorts, is less than apologetic and leads me up to her flat, telling me I've gained weight since she last saw me and asking if I have a spare charger as her phone died whilst she was out and hers is lost. First rule of business - be contactable when you expect a client and NEVER mention weight gain!
They itch! Thank goodness for braid spray. Although it only relieved me for a few nights. Then came the boiling hot water, dabbed gently on my scalp with a sponge. The burning nicely distracts from the itch.
I visit the family and with glee my cousin inspects my braids, assuring me that I have been transformed into a beautiful princess, destined to find her prince charming (she assumes I care) - however next time I should come to her hair dresser as the long box braids are 'last season' and not the 'modern style' being worn today. AHHHHHHHHHH! - I leave.
They still itch and now they smell - Despite having washed them twice and smothered them in spray and pomade! My scalp is raw from the nightly dousing of boiling water. It's not all bad though.... I love the different styles: Long hair pulled back, loosely hung, wrapped on top of my head. With hat, or without hat, still looks good. So easy at the gym. I can exercise at all hours and not worry about shrinkage. NO MORE NIGHTLY TWIST OUTS!
New Year's Eve. London - standing on a bridge in Southwark in the rain. Fireworks. Back with boyfriend. He hates the braids. Calls them plastic. Says I'm now a clone of every other black girl on the road. Where is his Calamity Jane? Where are the beautiful natural locks he loves? STILL TIRED.
More itching. This time blood.
The fireworks are great, although my little ploy to navigate the backstreets to find us a romantic spot away from the crowds are scuppered by the police blocking every minor road in sight, forcing a million very excited and drunk people onto the main thoroughfares of central London. Fireworks done. Hundreds of thousands of people trying to cross a bridge. The police stand idly by as humanity's savagery rears its ugly head. Kicking. Screaming. Elbows. Young men jumping on cars and throwing alcohol into the crowd. Panic!
Finally home. Chicken and chips in bed. Really itching. Any skin the hair touches swells and raises. Allergic reaction. Hives all over my flesh. Stressed. Crying. Scratching. Bleeding. Fear in my boyfriend's eye. Bath. Bed. Jools Holland's Hootenanney.
No shower, or bothering to change. In the morning we jump in my car and head to the comfort of my home where I have the requisite tools to work.
Scissors. Old cloth laid down on the floor in front of the tv. CHOP. Watching the Best Man 2 whilst I delicately unravel. Laughing. Crying. Laughing = Good film.
It's done. I'M FREE. We dance in the kitchen.
The nightly twist outs never felt so good.
ps. Since this happened I have done my research and there are several instances of the alkaline in synthetic hair causing an allergic reaction. Despite having braided my hair for most of my young life I believe I have developed an allergy in adulthood. Next time I need to give my hair a break (which I plan on doing annually - as the result of only a month was growth and rejuvenation), I will just have to pay the big bucks for human hair and pray that has less alkaline. Fingers crossed it works.