When I was growing up, some of my closest friends had “black hair” – otherwise known as curly hair, otherwise known as afro hair. Back in the day, access to black hair products, and hair stylists who had a clue about how to manage it, were pretty limited. As in, basically non-existent. Acceptance of diversity was also in its early stages (translated: having afro hair was not “cool.”)

From these friends, I learned some key lessons about the culture of curly hair:

– Weather (i.e. mist, rain, fog) and gym class (i.e. sweating) were things to fear – as they caused the dreaded “frizz factor.” Since we lived in a temperate rainforest (the west coast of Canada) and went to school (PE class again?!), this was a daily challenge.

– Finding a competent hairdresser was akin to finding the holy grail; losing a competent hair dresser was cause for collective mourning. No joke. I was at a BBQ when word spread amongst my friends (young adults by that time) that their beloved hairdresser was moving back to Jamaica. As I tried to continue the conversation, one of them stopped me in mid-sentence and said, “I’m sorry; I can’t talk right now.” No joke.

– Managing curly hair takes work and time – a lot of both. A visit to the hairdresser is a day-long event. No quick in-and-out appointments. It takes hours. Food is often ordered in for sustenance.

– Ensuring you have the correct tools is of paramount importance. When I was staying over at a friend’s house years ago, I asked her if I could borrow her hair brush. “Hair brush?!” she recoiled in horror. “There are no hair brushes here.” Right. Only wide-toothed combs or maybe a pick. Got it.

– It’s all about the product.

Little did I know that I would one day have a daughter with curly hair, and management of said hair would become my daily preoccupation. Luckily, hair products are easy to find now (except in South East Asia, land of poker-straight hair), the internet is a treasure-trove of hair management and braiding tips, competent hair dressers are relatively easy to find, and acceptance of hair diversity has come a long way (i.e. curly hair is cool).

Until the other day, Meskie had never had her done in a hair salon. Back home, a lovely Ethiopian teenager we know comes to our house periodically to braid it. I have also developed some rudimentary braiding skills over the years (“rudimentary” being the key word here).

Since we landed on African soil, Meskie had been admiring the incredible hair styles women sport here. After consulting with a lovely lady at our guesthouse, we made a trip to a hair salon here in Fish Hoek. (Side note: only here could you walk into a salon without an appointment and proceed to have your hair braided for 3+ hours).

Her experience was everything I hoped it would be: Full immersion in black hair culture. Tiny salon teeming with people. African soap operas blaring from the TV. Animated chatter in various languages. Ladies making a fuss over her. Food ordered in. Front row seats to amazing hair styling (Seeing a woman having hair sewn – as in needle and thread – into her corn row braids is something to behold).

Meskie and her

Meskie and her hair stylist in Simon’s Town (we bumped into her a day after Meskie’s hair was done)

She loved every minute of it. And she emerged with the most incredible braids – truly a work of art. Best of all? Watching the skip in her step as we walked back home to our guesthouse apartment. She was on cloud 9 – and more beautiful than ever.

Categories: Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Hair!

  1. grandma

    We always thought Meskie was beautiful — as all of our grandchildren are. It looks so lovely — a change from the “Angela Davis” look, for those of you who go back that far, although I liked that look as well. Hopefully we’ll see it when you get home. Love Grandad & Grandma (from Grandma’s house!)

  2. Marguerite

    Gloria, I laughed so hard reading this I was literally crying. Even Lukas had to say I have no idea what you are saying because you are laughing so hard, but I will just laugh along too! Thanks for this post and I can’t begin to say how happy I am that Meskie got to see so many women sporting their curly hair in a variety of styles all of them amazing I’m sure! Acceptance of her curls now is key to building her self-esteem. As a curly girl who is only now learning to accept my curls, I am so happy she is starting way younger.

  3. Gloria

    Hey, Margo… So glad the post gave you a laugh! I had major flashbacks writing it — including you, Sandra and Denise. It was Denise who said she couldn’t talk at the BBQ (which was at Lloyd and Annette’s). And you’re so right re: acceptance of curly hair. I purposely took a light-hearted approach — and also sidestepped all the politics and history of black hair! Love to you and the fam

  4. Angela K.

    I might have to stop reading your blog. Miss you all too much. “Skip in her step”, “cloud 9” and “more beautiful than ever” has me all choked up.

  5. I also had to laugh Marguerite, so funny! Gloria, I remember that day at the bbq and the hairbrush incident. Aren’t you glad you had so many friends with interesting hair? I’m happy that Meskie sees how cool her hair is and loves it at a young age. I love my hair now too, and have to admit that I’m kind of sad that Sophie does not have curly hair (well not like mine)…I thought I’d be such a source of hair knowledge. But alas, I now have straightish hair to figure out (and have even contemplated buying a blow dryer – of all things!) Not for me, but of course you already know that . 🙂

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