As I write this, I’ve just arrived at a city restaurant at 7PM and I am waiting for my dinner companions to show up. I had the most interesting cab ride on my way to the restaurant and it was all about hair.
The driver, Harrison, in the effort to make small talk asked if I had left school or work. Poor guy didn’t know small talk is the bane of introverts’ lives. Since it was neither, I piped up cheekily, “Kinyozi” which is Swahili for barber. I had just had my fade neatened up as I was scheduled to be away for ten days. Harrison, looking a bit green in the gills, turned to me to make sure he’d heard right and went through the theatrics of even switching the light in the car just to make sure I had, indeed, come from the barbershop.
He still had the gall to ask; “Salon?” and I said no, Kinyozi just to make the process of getting my hair done, more viscerally male. Why would I do it, you ask? I did it because, for decades getting your hair done, was a decidedly female affair but I’ve not felt like my hair gets done, in that sense, especially since I visit a barbershop and don’t get to the salon any more.
Harrison was a chameleon of emotions; he flitted between horror, admiration, patronising agony and resignation. He then launched into a speech on how once I’d get married, I would eventually stop getting my hair cut and would indeed go back to the salon and hang out with my fellow female friends- he loves natural hair but me cutting my hair just seemed to him, an unnatural thing. He went so far as to tell me, if a guy liked me in “this state”, then I’d know he was for real and he’d be a keeper. Did this make me angry? No it did not; I didn’t get angry because Harrison was talking from a limited life view with minimal experience dealing with natural hair or lack thereof. If he saw the star design on the side of my head, he didn’t say anything.
By the time we got to my destination, he had one more piece of advice. I don’t know how I managed to keep it all together; Harrison told me dudes would leave me alone because my hair was short and I looked like one tough cookie- as tough a cookie as my baby face could look. He then implored me not to grow dreadlocks and this harkened back to the 90’s when dreadlocks were viewed with mistrust. As I lighted from the vehicle, Harrison looked genuinely pleased with himself; he had saved the life of yet another lost girl. All in a day’s work.