I like your hair
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com
It has taken me more than 35 years and a trip across the Pacific Ocean half way around the world for someone to say to me, “I like your hair.” At first when I heard it I thought he had made a mistake. I had just placed my order of two servings of curry, 2 nan, rice and mango juice. While I awaited my meal, the Nepalese chef and I were engaged in a little chit-chat. We spoke about our respective homelands and the Covid-19 situation in each. We also spoke about work, music, languages and traveling.
That was when he said he like my hair. I assumed he was joking or had made a mistake due to his English speaking skills. However, he assured me his statement was genuine and recounted his experience working in Dubai where he met a few Africans and Jamaicans alike. That was when he was first exposed to and got to truly appreciate the kinky nature of our hair texture. He was fascinated by the different ways it could be styled.
As a child I faced many challenges because of my hair. This was due to the fact that whenever I combed my hair it tended to roll together very quickly giving the impression it was never combed to begin with. I can distinctly remember my initial years at primary school. During those days it was customary for teachers to ask the students in each class to form a line so they could examine us for grooming and deportment. They would check our hair, nails, uniform, shoes etc. I remember those being occasions of discomfort and embarrassment for me.
The teachers had a special way of checking if your hair was combed prior to coming to school or not. If your hair appeared unkempt, the teachers would pass a comb, or in some instances a pen, through it. If the comb went through easily it meant you had combed it that morning. However, if it got stuck or wasn’t going through easily it meant your hair wasn’t combed. You would be taken from the line, reprimanded, and instructed to comb it the following morning or face the consequences (usually a whipping). I can assure you that though I washed and combed my hair every morning I frequently failed the hair test. The small comb employed by the teacher had a hard tasked getting through the tangled mat of what was my hair.
The challenge for me was the length and thickness of my hair. My father wasn’t very fond of the barber and so my hair had to be close to 2 inches in length before I got a haircut. Not wanting the length to be obvious to my teachers or classmates I devised a novel way to conceal its true length. Each morning after combing it I would pat it. Prior to combing it I would add the appropriate portion of hair oil to get it soft. Next I would compress it by patting it afterwards. It meant that by the time of examination by the teacher my hair was a like a thick mat on top of my head.
My mom sometimes had to take on the role of a barber by employing the services of a large scissors we had at home. Despite the fact I enjoyed the haircut my joy was usually short-lived because upon arrival at school the following morning I was the center of needless attention. My mom was pretty useful with the scissors and she did her best to give my hair a professional finish.
However, as you can well imagine, the surface was a little uneven. Furthermore, getting a haircut with a scissors was no longer fashionable as everyone went to professional barbers who used electrical hair clippers. My hair, when she was through, looked like an eroded corn field. For the days that followed I became the brunt of all hair jokes and my classmates would ask me if a crow or a hawk had crash landed on my head.
Over time things petered out. I was a well-mannered and respectful student and so my teachers decided they would spare me the embarrassment by no longer conducting the hair test on me. Also, they recognized that my hair was actually combed each day, but the length and thickness made it impossible for the comb to pass through it by the time I got to school. My mom continued to pitch in as a barber for a while longer until we eventually decided the days of using scissors were well and truly over.