If you are like me, you have probably heard this a couple of times:
“Let your hair down.”
“Mbona huwachiliangi nywele yako kama so-and-so?”
“Si ublowdry nywele then uwachilie? It must be so long.”
Okay. So, first things first, my hair is not that long. Don’t be reading this imagining some Maria-de-los-Angeles-Mexican-Philippines soap opera here. Wishful thinking is nice lakini my tresses will get growth-anxiety if I place such expectations on them. Tuseme tu it’s just past shoulder length the last time I checked.
Anyway, I’ve noticed that once you always have your natural hair, people get curious. I imagine that they get tired of seeing your curls, twists and flat twists and just want to see how your hair looks straightened or untied, free-flowing, if you may. It’s like people want more excitement. The “Ooooooooo”, the “Aaaaaaaa.” Or maybe they want to prove or disprove that shrinkage is real. I don’t know. All I have are theories. From experience, you can easily get caught up in people’s expectation of your hair.
So, I have been super extra extremely lazy or busy (I can’t tell which) of late. I wash my hair and the last thing I want to do is to commit to twists or anything that does not require at most five sections on my hair. Why five sections, you ask? Because five braids are the best I can do when my hair-caring tolerance level is shaky; three braids at least. The great thing about braids is that they take two to five minutes to do. They also stretch out your hair and you get more length in the course of the week. Another good thing is that I can style my ‘open’ hair however I want to, especially when I have an unplanned week and work meetings are sprung on me out of the blue. Let me tell you, there’s nothing as stressful as when you are rocking a bomb twist-out only to get a call that you are meeting some ‘who’s who’ in the morning at Strathmore or any other super official setting. The bobby pins that go into feigning an official hairstyle that complies with Kenyan corporate standards is overwhelming. This is how you end up finding bobby pins hanging from your head days after you undid your hair. Aki it’s not funny. Anyway, I digress.
So, remember those questions up there? The “why don’t you let your hair down” questions?
Haya, so my stretched hair and I decide we can fly in the wind today. Pocahontas much? To be honest, the hair does look nice stretched and free from the restraints of hair bands and bobby pins. This is what freedom feels like. This is what stopping traffic (yeah, right) looks like. Lakini the day that follows…..
You would think that humidity and wind would be my biggest enemy. I’m sad to report that they are not. The matatu industry is. It does not matter whether it is a Nissan, a big matatu or a bus. Half the time, people are walking when the jav is moving. When you smell your stage coming up in the next hundred kilometers, you start wobbling and staggering to the door to tell the kange over the blaring music “Shukisha kwa Maina.” Let’s be honest: it does not matter whether you are old or young. That stagger from your seat to the door is always pitiful. Hehehe. Alafu you have to keep holding onto people’s seats or those tu-chumas trying to keep yourself from falling. We are always thinking “I hope I look more graceful than that when it’s my turn.” Lakini I’m sorry. We are all in the same boat…..unless stage yako ni mwisho. I understand the struggle too well, but my ‘open’ hair does not. When people are reaching for support, entering the jav with their gigantic handbags or backpacks, watches with loose metal, etc, guess what gets caught in all that? My hair. When I am seated by the window and my backseat neighbour keeps opening and closing the window like they are our own regulating man-made air con, what gets caught in that push and pull? My hair. When someone has carried a toddler on their lap and they are reaching for anything that can be grabbed, guess what those tiny little adorable but strong hands grab? My hair. When the kange is leaning against the seat picking fare from the guys seated behind me, guess what gets squished, leaned on and pulled? My hair. At the end of the day, having used at least two matatus, I cannot help but ask myself, “Was it worth it?”
So, in short, what am I saying?
- That my riding-with-the-top-down convertible moments (I wish) are often lazy hair days
- That you can never look graceful alighting a jav.….hehehe
- That the matatu industry is the enemy of progress. So stop asking me why I never have my hair stretched, blowdried, untied and flying in the wind. That cost is too high, and I haven’t even gotten to the process of detangling at the end of the day.
Kama you have similar experiences or more dramatic ones, comment below so we can sing ‘kumbaya’, unified by our struggles and convinced that there are worse things than humidity and wind.