Let Your Hair Down

Your hair is like a rose , so water it.

I remember the 1st time that i had my hair shaved, i was just in class five, and my mother is the one who took us to the mtu wa kinyozi, it was my younger sister and i, and masque throughout the whole journey to the kinyozi man, we just thought she was bluffing and we will probably end up in a salon to get some ‘ mlazo’ since it was still school period, and yes we followed her like the sacrificial lambs we were , i still wonder why i dint run for my life that day, like seriously , even when we reached the kinyozi…..my sister and i dint put up any fight, we just sat on those chairs still thinking she was bluffing and maybe that day tungesukwa kwa kinyozi. Most of the times I dont remember most of my childhood experience clearly, but that day i just remember it like its branded at the back of mind. My little self was seated there guilessly as the kinyozi man ran that machine on my head, and i remember a part of me was relieved ,sad and ashamed at the same time that i was no longer a girl without that hair, and a part of me wanted to scoop my hair and take it with me….to convince myself that i still had my hair .I know most of you will probably ask if i was mad at my mother, i really dont remember the feeling of being mad but i was scared of how i was going to explain myself to my friends , or if maybe i could hide my head until my hair grew…But what worried me the most was ,my life at school, it was a private school that i had just joined that year and i was already having a hard time making friends ( like i had 0 to none friends) .I really hated school as a child ( each time , school opened i felt like giving myself as sacrifice to Luanda Magere).Anyway the school was a mission school though it had indian nuns, i know you are wondering why i felt the need to say that but it is crucial in my shaved hair story.

I remember it was on a weekend when my mother made that decision to destroy my ‘ social life’, anyway her reason was that , she was preparing us for the boarding school we were going to join the next year. The next day i went to play , though i wore a cap because there is no way i was going to let my friends see me with my shaved hair , i actually wasnt worried about my friends, i was more concerned about this boy i was crushing on seeing me , he was slightly older than me, the crush was one sided (though i shuku he also liked me, so lets count it as one and half) , though i had to remind myself to keep an eye on his younger brother , we were frenemies , the guy was always looking for reasons to fight with me.Suprisingly my friends got over the shock that i had shaved , and we moved on to other things , well for my crush, i dont know, maybe he got over it.

I never really liked it when i had my hair shaved, my confidence pummeled down and i would constantly find myself hiding behind my classmates any time the teacher wanted to choose a student to answer a question, i had this fear that the teacher will point me out and say ‘ yes boy’, so i never raised my hand during such occasions .But one day i did , the head of the school came to our class, she liked to do that , so that she could monitor the progress of the students , she was called Sister Mary , anyway she asked a question , i raised my hand so fast , and wallah!! i was choosen but my worst fears came true at that moment , she pointed me out and said ‘ yes , that boy over there’ at that moment i shrunk in within myself but i answered the question as much as i felt humiliated ,she did realize her mistake because of my voice and apologized that minute ( just to point out, she dint call me a boy with malicious intent,it was a honest mistake).She went on talking and asking questions, when she was almost leaving , she asked one more question, and this time, my hand shot up as i was confident that , she now knows i’m a girl , i was choosen but once more it was ‘ that boy over there’ , she was pointing at me , i was stunned,mortified and for minute there, i looked behind me and beside me, to confirm that she wasnt pointing at me, unfortunately it was me, i answered the question but my spirit was down and at that moment,i swore never to raise my hands to answer any questions .I think at that moment i felt like my gender and identity was stripped away , and i really dint know how to explain to my mother that i needed to grow my hair back because it made me a girl, its what made me feminine and it was going to make the teachers call me a girl instead of a boy , i wanted to tell her, that i wanted my confidence back.I do remember thats how i felt.

The next year came, and my two sisters and i joined the boarding school, it was located in Nyanza. I remember the day my sisters and I were admitted, when i saw the other girls had shaved hair, what came across my mind was “atleast, no one will confuse me for a boy”.The school was a girls’ school and it was mandatory to shave, it was also a mission school, headed by kenyan nuns.Anyway later on i learnt, we were shaving our hair because growing our hair will distract our learning process and we will focus more on how our hair is beautiful or how it makes us beautiful .I liked the school, because i had friends, everybody was friendly, we were all in each others business and most importantly we only had each other , most of my vivid memories is teaching each other about menstruation , how our body will develop and suprisingly we also talked about crumps, we were in class six, and at that age ,puberty is expected to hit , the best part about this is, it wasnt a negative talk, it was more like ,this are things that are bound to happen to your body and you have to embrace it. I do appreciate those girls upto now, because when i started my periods in highschool, i was more mentally prepared and happy, though the menstrual crumps was no joke .In that school, i did regain my confidence and i was no longer worried about if someone will mistake me for a boy , though everytime the school closed , i would get anxious over fitting in with kids at home, and i remember willing a miracle to happen to my hair to grow as i bordered a bus from school to Nairobi , well the news is , that miracle never happened, so i just stopped going outside to play , though at that moment i felt like i had outgrewn the notion of playing, since at school , we never played, our free time involved feeling home sick and talking about our family, bragging about our sisters and brothers (it was a competition of who had a cooler sister and brother, and you can only win that battle once your sister or brother came to visit), we also talked about life, we salivated on the foods we will eat once we got back home and how we will overeat too.

But despite all that , we all fantasized about growing our hair and how when we joined highschool, we will grow our hair , and when the time came to choose the highschool that one would like to join, we were all careful to choose a highschool that allows growing and plaiting of hair.Deep down , none of us was confident with our shaved hair and we thought we could only fit in as girls if we grew our hair.

Fast forward to highschool,my dream came true and i was called in a highschool whereby shaving wasnt mandatory , you could plait or keep it short, as long as it was neat .Suprisingly despite promising myself how i will grow my hair , I decided to keep my hair short , i guess it was easy for me to maintain and at that point i had no qualms about it , but i still had that staggering fear that i dint look good in short hair or feminine enough whenever i went home, so each time the school closed for holidays , i would plait my hair , it never really mattered whether it grew or not, what mattered the most is that , i had those braids as a security blanket, they made me feel whole and beautiful. .Well when it came to school funkies or outings , i never really participated that much, i was always more concerned where my next novel willl come from and who will i convince we exchange novels with. But during funkies or any school outings, you would see girls running around and blow drying their hair till it cooperated for her to hold it in a ban at the back of her head or in the middle of her head , we used dichuns as a slang for short hair that has been man handled to cooperate that way.This made me think of how , in our ripeful youth, we convinced ourselves , that a boy will only come for you , when he sees that you have a hair that fits into a hairband .

After highschool, i truly swore to myself that i would grow my hair , to prepare myself for university , i did grow my hair , only enough for it to fit into a hairband and hold, it never really grew past that, but i was satisfied with it anyway , as long as i could plait it anyhow i wanted or style it anyhow i wanted , and at that moment i felt i was happy but i was still insecure about it because it wasnt long like i wanted it to be. I did join university, and i felt like i had everything a university girl is expected to have in this life , to me , it felt like nimefika kikomo ya maisha, what more could i want in this life , if i had hair , i felt beautiful and feminine at that moment . My people , you couldnt convince me at that time that i’m not a woman.

The funny part about my hair at that time ,is that it used to have a lot of breakages, and i remember each time i went to the salon, i would get embarrased and start explaining myself to the salonist why my hair is long in the front while at the back, it looks like i had shaved my hair, and on several occasions , i would catch myself lying that i had actually shaved my hair at the back of my head. I did continue putting straineous hairstyles on my hair ,that eventually would always damage my hair.

Around second year , i decide to trim my hair, the same hair that i had mistreated since highschool and hence it just grew a few inches, after trimming my hair , i graduated to wigs , so that i could give my hair, time to grow , i really monitered it everyday, to make sure its growing.

When i trimmed my hair, it was very short , and each time i looked myself in the mirror, it was like i was looking but not really looking at myself , i would look from my forehead going upwards because to me it wasnt really who i wanted to be and i had this crippling fear that i would see that little girl that was mistaken for a boy , and i was fine overlooking myself for so long.

My hair eventually grew but it still had the same problems as last time, it had alot of breakages, but this time atleast i could hide it in a wig and i dint have to go to the salon to explain myself .

Then that day came, the day i awakened , the day i saw myself, the day i really looked in the mirror and fell in love with that girl i had been punishing for so long , it was a sort of euphoria , i felt high like i have never felt , i felt relieved of all the burden i carried in form of that hair that i used as a security blanket .All this happened in a Kinyozi in Wanyee Road .Prior to this i remember being fed up of having to wear a wig and putting up with a hair that had a lot of breakages . I was angry at my hair ,and as my sister (bless her) accompanied me to the kinyozi , i had this hope that maybe my hair just needs time to recuperate.But when we reached the Kinyozi , i dint want to back out .At the back of my mind i knew this is a step i needed to take so as to get in touch with that inner child , i needed to concur it.

As i sat in that chair , it felt like i was redoing the past , but i still wasnt confident , i was still worried of whether i would look like a boy, so i did what i was good at , i overlooked myself once more , but for the last last time because when the barber was done ,i accidentally looked up and saw myself for the first time, and i was shocked .I touched my face and kept turning my head from side to side , smiling like a lunatic . Only i could feel the turning point in my life, my sister and the Kinyozi man were just an unaware audience to all this . In that moment , i took a part of my confidence that i felt i had left years ago in the Kinyozi .

My inner child was so proud of me , and as i walked out of that Kinyozi , i left holding her hand feeling relieved , happy and complete for the first time in my life , because years ago i had walked leaving her sitting in that Kinyozi’s small corner as she scrambled to save her hair, and for years she sat there with those hair as she just waited .

It was just around September last year when that happened , and i’m still on a journey of loving myself with or without hair, learning to care for it , being patient with it ,and also learning to get to know my hair .The thing is ,all this time i never realized that i even had that insecurity .I have managed to concur most insecurities since i was a child, but this is one insecurity that i never managed to notice.

I’m not writing this to tell you to shave your hair so as to get in touch with yourself .This is just my story , and for so long i have realized that majority of girls and women have this insecurity with their hair, and as hair products keep evolving ,the more we keep rejecting our natural hair , the more we feel it doesnt fit into that equation of evolution . Evolution of hair has come a long way, i remember when i was a child, i would admire my big sister’ s hair because it had chemical in it and i couldnt wait to grow up a few inches so that i could also beg my mother to put chemical in my hair . But as an adult , i have come to love my hair just the way it is , its kinky , it has a soft texture,its low density and it is not fully back, it has this dark brown colour to it.

As Kenyan girls, we have been taught that our hair is beautiful only when its in braids , weaves or wigs , and our natural hair only qualifies to be beautiful if its straightened and long . But i’ m here to tell you that , you hair is beautiful whether its short , long or medium . Love your natural hair before you go ahead and love that weave , wig or braids .Understand your hair as it is and stop taking unsolicited advises from anyone about how to tame your hair. Treat your hair like a living thing and not like its not part of you, its just there,along for the beauty ride . Know what products works for your hair so that it may look healthy rather than just striving for it to be long . Use sulphate free shampoo and conditioner and more natural oils like shea butter , coconut oli, argan oil , almond oil etc, use that wooden comb instead of plastic comb and use that satin bonnet instead of that cotton stockings when sleeping .Care for that hair because its part of your body and identity , so that we may not pass such insecurities to our children unawarely . Last but not least , care for those edges sis!! and stop letting salonist pull every part of your hair in the name of being neat.

This is for that little girl who is waiting to grow up, this is for that teenager who wants a relaxer for her hair , this is for that young lady who is admiring that wig and this is for that woman who strives to get that salary every month so that you can plait or weave your hair so as to fit in at work. Love that natural hair , short or long before you love that wig , weave or braid.

Ain’t Got No, I Got Life – Nina Simone

Thank you for reading my article. Always stay tuned for more.

Have a nice day.

4 thoughts on “Let Your Hair Down

  1. Am touched by this and am not feeling lesser woman like before you are amazing and am proud of you and everything you have done to come out this depression you had of looking or being called a boy.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s