a hairstory


lately my hair has become an issue. my aunt says i will never marry, at least not a nigerian man, if i continue to wear it in dreadlocks. she was fine with them last christmas, when i arrived in uyo with locs halfway down my back--it had been years since she'd seen me--but this year, coinciding with my 29th birthday, she wasn't having it.

"can you see the front of your hair? it is not neat," she says, her eyes pinching together as she inspects the kinks at my hairline. we are sitting on the couch in the parlor watching tv. she has spoken out of nowhere, as though the matter has been pressing on her heart. i am stunned, mute, do not dare mention that my hair was twisted only a week before and actually looks better than it usually does. that would only encourage her.

"it is not the same here as it is in the states," she says. i nod. at least she hasn't mentioned my nose ring (again).

"do you see how her hair is?" she points to an actress onscreen, a nollywood beauty, with a head of freshly braided extensions. "see how smooth it is?" i'm not sure whether she means silky or fake, but i take smooth to mean all that my naps are not, and nod again.

"i can see that you have tried. the back is neat, but the front will not do." her eyes are sympathetic. i am ashamed, wish to hide my face, my hair.

"but how long will you continue to wear it this way?" her eyes are full of concern. she speaks as though i am afflicted with a mental defect and cannot see the level of disrepair to which i have fallen. "all that is left for me is to find you a husband. your mother is gone and you are my daughter now, so i must tell you these things: beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

i take her to mean that no man will ever find me beautiful this way. that i would have a better chance with straight hair.

my hair is nappy, but so what? i wear it as it is and it feels good. had gotten tired of relaxers and extensions and pain. when my mother went bald from the chemo, after trying out various styles, she refused to wear a wig. i realize now that she taught me a very great lesson.

if my hair is unsightly compared to those naija princesses with the impossibly long weaves (and blue-tinted contact lenses), i still prefer it.

but i would like to test out my aunt's theory. vow to wear dreadlocks until (at least) the day i marry.

and if that day never comes, she wins. --AL.

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  1. I absolutely love it-especially your vow! Let me know who wins :)

  2. It's possible your aunt might not be around to see you win.

  3. Marrying for the way your hair looks is marrying for all the wrong reasons. She had good intentions, nevertheless. Lol.

  4. i can picture you now! beautiful, naptural bride! that is, if marriage is something you choose to do. i have a feeling whether and when you get married will be much more about your personal choice and much less about your (for the record beautiful) hairstyle.

  5. i had those same reactions with my family when i had me hair in short brown rough dreads 2 years ago but they got used to it and it has opened doors for me with them. no one complained when i get new intersting piercings and what not. visit by mine and follow if you like

  6. thanks for all the heartwarming comments, though this was more of a creative writing exercise than a personal treatise. in the end, i love my hair, i love my aunt, and we'll both be just fine. (@nanasei: hopefully for many more years to come! ;)


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