This Christmas, I celebrate that my Afro has turned four years old. A milestone. I have managed to walk by relaxers without succumbing to the promise of “straight easy to handle hair” for 48 months, 208 weeks, 1, 456 days.
After these years, kitchen ingredients are no longer just cooking ingredients, they are hair and skin products. Who knew?
I moved to Sweden in the summer of 2006 and my hair survived that winter solely due to all the treatments it had received in Nairobi. In the beginning of 2007, I started shopping around for an Afro salon. Between 2007-2010, there were two recommended Afro salons near where I lived with one recommendation each and I couldn’t recommend any of them, both being expensive nonchalant and tardy. There was a different hair dresser every time I came to the salon and I had to start over every time. Explaining my needs, my likes and dislikes, my sensitive scalp, my fragile hair. I had to find and try other salons.
Once, in desperation, I went to a Brazilian hair dresser at the recommendation of a new found Brazilian friend. They didn’t believe I had sensitive skin and scalp so the woman who treated my hair used the same products as she used for everyone else. After the salon visit, I came home and washed my hair again. With conditioner for sensitive skin.
I am neurotic and nutty that way.
The last hairdresser I visited in Stockholm had to close down a perfectly good salon in the end of 2015. She was caught cheating on the taxes and received a tax bill with all the tax arrears that had to be paid in the coming years. That would ruin any good business.
In Sweden, I have had to answer the question: “Is that your hair?” in all the gracious ways I can master. And then some.
No, it is not my hair, it is a weave. My hair is braided under there.
“Why can’t you just have your hair?”
Good question! I would counter, is that the natural color of your hair?
“Did you know that in India, Indians girls are scalped for free and the hair sold to weave wearers?”
No. I didn’t. . .
WTF is wrong with folks?! I have to read about that. How and where is hair dye made? Anyone know?
When Sebastian and I met the first month at the university and became quick friends, I was a bony bald thing. I had just gone through chemo, lost patches of hair and shaved the rest at Jill’s salon, around the corner from my first apartment in Stockholm. Jill’s was owned by a nice Ghanaian couple. Soon after, they had to leave for England. Sweden didn’t work out for them, they almost lost their children to welfare.
Sebastian and I started dating about a year later and for some reason, he liked me and my short-haired head. By the time we had been dating for a little over three years, he had seen me bald, short haired, permed, weaved, braided and other nameless Afro styles that reveal themselves in the morning. In my childhood, my grandmother used to call these miscellaneous styles porcupine style. Hair with a will of its own.
In Kenya, and later in England, I was at the salon every week, spending any penny I could spare on my hair. Arriving to Sweden, a good weaving could cost up to 2,000sek ($230) and this is after paying a similar amount for good enough human hair. Simple medium braids cost as much. In Kenya and England, I chose salons through personal recommendation. I was sure of the quality of work. Knowing no Africans, or blacks in Sweden in the first years, I could only find recommendations on the internet.
Have you ever had a weave sewed in so tight you removed it in the night? I did that in my second year in Stockholm. Sebastian sat by and massaged my scalp after the fact. Braids too tight, braids too big and/or braids too short. I never used to remove my own braids, I went to the salon to get them removed so my hair could get deep conditioned and washed right after. In Stockholm, I started first, to remove my own braids and weaves and then after a couple of disappointing years, I started to braid my own hair.
I had never worn a wig before I moved to Sweden, but three years in and I had ordered a Brazilian on Amazon and requested an Indian from my cousin in France. Things were looking up! Instant hair.
“Is that your hair?”
No. . . . I couldn’t do it any more.
In the end of August 2013, I graduated, got a job and I threw both my wigs away. I ordered 5 packets of Expressions from eBay UK, just to be on the safe side. I raided Taj Mahal, the Kenyan owned shop on Queens Street Stockholm, and bought ORS shampoo, conditioner, hair oil, the works! I already had coconut oil, Aloe Vera, olive oil and almond oil at home and felt quite confident that it would do.
I was in for the greatest transformations of my life. I was not beautiful at all, my grandmother had lied to me in all kindness, God bless her soul. I was an ordinary woman, confident and loved.
But this hair of mine, it is truly beautiful!