Hair salons are very intriguing places. They are not just places that you frequent to beautify yourself. They are places people visit, to share stories, solve problems and take time out from their busy lives. They’re the local hang out and of course serve as centres for the acquisition of tantalising information. At the hair salon, there are no secrets and since we are all “friends”- no topic is off limits and all advice is solicited. Hence no one found it invasive to question my decision to cut my hair last week.
Yep, after almost a decade of sporting the same hairstyle, shoulder length hair with a signature ponytail, I decided that a haircut was long overdue. So in keeping with my theme of 2011 (A new day), I walked into the salon, boldly announced my decision and was met with the suffocating silence of disapproval. The salon goers were not happy, not happy at all.
I made the longer that usual walk to the high chair and amidst darting eyes took a seat. The sounds of the hair salon slowly return to full volume: the Nigerian drama playing on the Africa Channel (accompanied with in-house salon commentary); the blaring blow dryer straightening a weave; the buzzing hair clipper shaving a bald man; the sizzling hair being straightened; the silent sobs of the little girl having her hair processed for the first time and of course ceaseless chatter and conversation.
My hairdresser was not happy with my decision. But as they say, the customer is always right. “Yeah, you’re right. We haven’t trimmed your hair in a while” she says, hopefully.
“No K, not a trim…a cut. Cut if off please”.
As she prepares to make the first cut a hushed silence flows over the room. The Africa Channel is muted; the ladies at the nail stand all stop to watch; customers preparing to attach their weaves turn and join in the collective stare. If looks could kill!
“Hitekani, are you sure?” asks K.
“Yes, please cut it”.
With a sigh she makes the first snip.
“NOOOO!!” the sharp scream of the customer beside me, attaching a weave, pierces the silence. Suddenly, the salon is alive with protests. The in-house salon commentators has moved their attention from the screen to me…the criminal.
“K, have you tried to speak to her?” asks one.
“What is her problem?” asks another lady.
“Please speak to her K, speak to her.”
K says: “I have done all the talking I can do…It is the clients’ choice.”
Undeterred, an older lady places her hand on my arm and kindly asks: “Sisi, is it because of a man? What’s wrong? Please don’t do this.”
“No mamma, there’s nothing wrong” I respond. “I just want to change my hairstyle!”
“But why sisi? Why?” she insists.
I smile and tell them all…
“It is time.”
She walks away and like others in the salon shakes her head in dismay.
The next cut is met with a collective hiss and so the process continues.
I know that hair is a sensitive issue in our community but I was not expecting the drama that I encountered at the hair salon.
My feeling: hair is hair.
It grows out your hair, you cut it off it grows back.
You can curl it, straighten it, colour it or let it be.
It can be functional or decorative.
Natural or synthetic.
You just need to be you – with or without it.
According to the in-house commentators I had committed the ultimate crime…
Yet, I came out looking fabulous and feeling great…
Note to self:
“I am not my hair…I am the soul that lives within”