Today, I see more and more women and girls wearing their natural hair or embracing afro or African hairstyles than was the case some ten years ago. When I spot some of them, I literally want to do a victory dance. But I cannot help wondering if this is just a trend or something deeper.
I remember reading Chimamanda’s Americannah about six years back and recommending it (even before going through half of the novel) to my sister. At the time, she was thinking of going nappy and I knew this book was going to be of help. My natural hair journey was probably just a couple of months old at the time and this book helped me to boost my motivation, especially as its reception (nappy hair) recorded a rollercoaster of reactions and emotions from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to work in nappy hair. It was a Monday morning and the tendency was for women to do/redo their hair during the weekend so that they looked smart and ready for work. I was known for my big curly afro weaves and faux locks. So when I appeared that morning in an afro bun (entirely my hair), I noticed how staring eyes lingered on my hair ten seconds longer.
Most people were polite enough to hide their shock or stop staring immediately when they discovered that I was conscious of their eyes on me. But there was this lady in her fifties whose reaction has never left my head. She was one of the bosses. She would have made a very demanding and strict leader if she were the main boss. I used to thank the heavens because she was not the big boss for she was sometimes tackless in her speech and she could hurt you with her bluntless without even realising it. However, her words didn’t hurt me because I had a similar experience a few years before when I tried dreadlocks for a couple of months and gave up.
After the usual morning greeting at work, came the small talk. My hair seemed to be the right topic for small talk that morning:
“What happened to you?” She looked at me and settled on my hair as if to direct me to the thing she was addressing.
“Nothing,” I responded and acted as if I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“What happened to you during the weekend? It seems as if you are not ready for work today,” she insisted.
“Nothing happened to me,” I replied as I walked towards the notice board to see what was new.
The following day, a male colleague who liked my afro weaves realised that my nappy hair was a new look I had adopted. He approached me and asked why I don’t use relaxers on my hair. I told him it was just a matter of preference; I liked it that way. I knew he preferred the curly weaves for he stopped telling me that I looked like an African American (which was meant to be a compliment).
With time they all got used to the nappy look and I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone. When I didn’t have a bun, I had temporary dreadlocks, braids, twists, faux locks as protective hairstyles. I occasionally wore an afro wig (and I’m still trying to get used to wigs.) Another colleague later had the courage to wear her natural hair to work on some occasions. Two years later, another nappy lady joined us at work and each time I see her, since I can’t do my victory dance, I do the victory smile.