My hair and I have an on-again-off-again-love-hate relationship. Right now we are in a fragile state. I am a bit raw and emotional from having stayed up until after four in the morning to unbraid my hair. And my hair is fearfully aggressive like a stray cat. It’s like this every time. Once it’s time for the braids to come out, my hair and I have to navigate through all the steps of grief.
Denial: I pretend that I don’t have to take out the braids. I willfully ignore how fuzzy my roots are getting. I tell myself it’s okay to wait another week or so.
Anger: Once the unbraiding begins (usually a two-part-two-day process), I begin to resent my hair. I start wanting to do violent things to it like shave it off. Each tangle I encounter, each labored pull of the comb makes me curse my kinks and sigh with nearly defeated exasperation. I hate, hate, hate how hard my hair can be to manage — especially when it first comes out of it’s braided hibernation. That really is what the braids are, a way for me to make the beast sleep. But the price I pay is that every three months or so, the beast must be roused. And it wakes up cranky and determined to take at least one prisoner.
Bargaining: I start to dream about getting dreadlocks. Then I’d never have to put a comb to my head again. Maybe I could get a perm again. So what if the last time I got a perm the resulting chemical burn left me with a bald spot? So what if that “bald” spot has never been the same (the hair there is still shorter and more brittle)? So what if “the spot” still feels “different” when I touch it even though it has been fifteen years since “the incident” happened?
Depression: It’s pretty humbling to be three decades old and still not be in complete control of my hair in its natural and unfettered state. What will I do if I ever have a daughter? I’d be completely unqualified to help her. I begin to worry that this awkward stage (in between unbraiding and my next hair appointment) will last forever. Perhaps my hair stylist will call to tell me that she double-booked and I’ll have to wait another month. Perhaps she’ll say that her salon is closing down and she’ll never braid hair again. Maybe I should call and confirm my appointment…just in case. I double-check my calendar and start counting the days.
Acceptance: The key to this stage is a lot of conditioner…a lot. About half a bottle does it. Conditioner is like a drug to my hair. It makes it feel happy. And when my hair is doped up on…