“Do you really wanna do it?” he asks, giving his voice extra bass.
Man. Why did he have to ask that because the truth is, as sure as you were a few minutes ago that you wanted him to break out the clippers and do whatever he wants to your hair, now you’re not so sure. The fact that he’s never cut anyone’s hair a day in his life is starting to make you feel a little cuckoo because what are the chances that this will end well? Even he’s questioning whether he should do it. But at the same time this hair has you oppressed like the police. It’s disrupting your whole life. If you can do this now you might actually be free. But can you do it? Can you let this hair go?
By junior high school things started getting out of hand. IT occurred during a basketball game between your school and its arc-rival Robinson. It was fourth quarter, the score was tied, the bleachers were packed, and with just one minute left on the clock your team was bringing the ball down court. The point guard passed the ball to you, and bam, you caught it and called a timeout.
The coach was confused because this wasn’t a part of the play, but since you were team captain he was willing to see what you had up your sleeve.
Without saying a word, you sprinted to the bathroom. Within seconds, you were standing in front of a mirror checking your profile. Running your fingers through your hair. Aiight, let’s play! You ran back out and resumed the game.
When it was over the only thing your coach would say was, “We lost the game, but your hair looked nice.” Your brother disowned you he was so embarrassed.
By high school your hair obsession grew, and so did your reputation for being psychotic when it came to it. One time you were getting it cut by a stylist named Fez and all hell broke loose. “How short are you going to cut it? I told you I don’t want it too short,” you snapped.
“I’m cutting off the dead ends,” he snapped right back, continuously snipping.
Snip. Snip. Snip. Hair fell to the ground like casualties of war. This guy was cold-blooded. Was he going to scalp you? Worse yet, was he going to behead you? You weren’t about to find out.
Up you jumped like Superman, ripping off the hair cape in a single bound, and off you ran. You ran and ran. You ran all the way home, which normally took two buses. “What the hell happened?!” asked your mother as you stood before her with half your hair. You explained that Fez was trying to kill you and vowed never to see another hairstylist again. The look, sometimes referred to as asymmetrical, became your signature all through high school and didn’t change until you became a professional model and was forced to do something about your hair. Now all your issues with hairstylists came crashing back to the surface.
You found that white stylists gave the best cuts and color, black stylists gave the best relaxers and styles, and Dominicans gave the best and cheapest wash and sets. The result left you schizophrenic because now you had a zillion people in your hair, and New York City stylists were not like the ones at home in Toledo. Naomi Campbell you were not so they had no time for your Diva attitude. One time a stylist told you to straight up get the hell out of his salon. He didn’t even want you to pay.
It wasn’t until you locked your hair that you were able to let it down, so to speak. Once your locks got going it was easy to maintain without a stylist so life got pretty tranquil for a change. Work was great and with the extra mind space you even got a chance to clean out some relationship baggage. Before long, you met the man who would become your husband and everything was grits and gravy. Until you cut your hair.
Gone were the locks that had your hair in bondage so now you were right back in that mirror 24/7 like you had never left. Your husband was in disbelief. “Why are you always messing with your hair?” he’d ask as you twisted and re-twisted the same pieces over and over again. After it had been going on for some time he started suggesting you get a new hairstyle. “Hey, just cut it off like Grace Jones.”
Was he crazy? Grace Jones? You couldn’t imagine your hair that short, nor picked out. With your unresolved “good/bad hair” issues the look would leave you with what a friend once called carpet-textured hair. What would Grandmother think?
When years passed and nothing changed- everyday found you getting worse and worse because now your joy was reduced to the three days a week that your twist-out looked good (not too greasy and not too dry)- your husband reached a boiling point. “You have to do something about that hair! Just cut it already!!!”
But you couldn’t hear him. Who was he to tell you about your hair? You were the only one who knew what to do with it. You didn’t expect him to understand.
Once you had your second child even you knew something had to change. Time and energy was limited so you decided on box braids. The freedom you felt from not having to do your hair was thrilling, but the downside was carrying an extra 100 lbs. of weight on your head. Sometimes you skipped going to the bathroom at night because you refused to lift it, and washing it gave you Whiplash it was so heavy.
Finally, you decided to take them out, perhaps you’d try some lighter braids. That’s when you discovered that your edges had been destroyed worse than Hiroshima. Now what were you going to do? The way you saw it you were out of hairstyles because wigs and weaves were never your thing. And besides that, you were tired of fighting, tired of giving everything to this hair. And what about you? Your relationship? Everything was suffering. There had to be more to life than hair!
Back to your husband and this chainsaw, you mean clippers. As you’re still deciding what to do a story your friend Nana once shared comes to mind about her experience growing up in Ghana where schoolgirls are required to cut their hair short ala Lupita N’yongo. It’s done as a way to make sure that girls focus on their schoolwork and not hair. Only foreigners are exempt. Since she was coming from America her aunt was able to get a note from the doctor saying that she might go crazy if she were forced to cut her beautiful mane. Once she was given the pass, her aunt sat her down for a talk. She convinced her that it was just hair and it would go back. She cut it and grow back it did. And though she questions the effectiveness of having girls cut off their hair, because they still spent many a night playing and heating up forks to straighten each other’s hair, she feels that cutting your hair off is something that every woman should do at least once because it’s completely liberating…
“Let’s do it!” you say to your husband, and the cutting begins.
Funny enough, there’s a calm that comes over you that can’t be explained. Is it the calm before a storm?
When he’s done and takes you to the mirror you are in shock. It’s not perfect, but you love it. Ironically, it’s the same Grace Jones-esque cut he suggested you get some five years ago. You can’t explain it, but somehow you know that this is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Finally, you feel free.