So, I’ve made an appointment for Hope to get her hair braided this weekend, but first we had to take out her current braids, wash, condition and blow out her hair to prep it. I’ve been eager to do this since she got here. I wear my hair in its natural state: curly, kinky, coily; so does Hope, but most of the time her hair is hidden away in braids. I wanted to learn more about Hope by doing her hair. I also wanted to have the little girl/mommy time that comes with doing hair.
When I was a child, my mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink while I stood on a small chair. Then she painstakingly blew out my hair with a hair dryer, followed by getting it straight using a comb heated on an eye of the stove. She would then either braid our hair or put it up in ponies. The whole process took about 2 hours—I had a lot of hair. Then she’d tackle my two younger sisters’ heads, both of whom, at various times, had hair down to their waists. Grammy was tired after it was all over, but she loved to see us with our hair all fresh and styled up.
There was an intimacy in those moments that I now more deeply appreciate. I always trusted Grammy to make me pretty. We would sometimes talk or even sit in silence, but getting my hair done on that small chair in the kitchen with Grammy was my time with her during hectic weekends. I had her undivided attention. She would fret over the health of my scalp and hair. She would cluck if she used too much heat on my hair or nicked my ear with the hot comb (long before flat irons). She would wail when I took scissors to it mid-week to cut crooked, too short bangs because she had to figure out how to help me hide them until they grew out. Even though it was a chore, it was something so selfless that Grammy did to care for me and to make me pretty. Looking back it was a special thing we shared.
I wanted to share that with Hope. I had to use a dining room chair in the living room instead of a tiny kiddie chair in the kitchen, but I got it done.
It took an hour to take Hope’s braids out, and more than 30 minutes to detangle it and get all the shed hair out (which incidentally was a lot, like think yeti).
I explained why I don’t use shampoo to cleanse (I find it too drying for my curly tresses), and yes, Hope, I go through large quantities of conditioner.
I explained that I don’t use towels on my hair because my hair can catch in the terry loops and break; instead I buy t-shirt fabric since the nap is gentler on my hair.
Yes, Hope, I use olive oil and coconut oil at various stages of the ‘hair-doing’ process. No, coconut oil does not smell like a pina colada, like you might think; it used to though. No, I don’t know why that old coconut oil grease used to smell like that.
I listen when she says she has “bad” hair (meaning it’s very kinky or coily, not straight), and I try to educate her that there is no such thing as “bad” hair. Her dark brown and black curly hair is lovely. And it’s so very thick. It lies down at the first sign of heat, though.
I listen when she feeds me the line, “When my hair is blown out, it’s down my back.” She has a lot of shrinkage, but it is not down her back. It takes me back to the short haired girls who used to tell me that same line, when I arrived at school on Mondays with my long ponies swinging. I remember how I couldn’t understand that science of how their hair could be longer than mine. It wasn’t. It never really mattered, but I see it for the self-esteem/self-identity issue it really is now. I see Hope struggling with long hair desires, too. She asked me for a weave earlier this week. I said no. I’m not anti-weave, I just don’t think she needs a weave at 12.
Yes, you need to try to learn what your hair likes and what it needs to make it thrive. I have gone through many products; we’ll figure out what your hair likes.
‘Oh, so the scalp massage feels good?”
She almost fell asleep, cooing how good it felt.
“Oh you like the paddle brush too?”
Hope begs me to keep brushing her strands after her blowout.
I explain why I need to trim her broken ends. I don’t have to cut as much as I thought.
I explain what a twist out is, and how it’s usually how I style my hair. I set her hair similarly.
Please, hold your head up. #phraseinheavyrotation
I am sad that her lovely tresses will be hidden in braids again by this time tomorrow. She can keep them for 3 weeks, but then I want to have this experience again. I need to experience this with her again.
I want to coach my little naturalista to love herself and her hair.
That was five hours (yes, Lawd—FIVE!!!) of near bliss.