I remember seeing a shampoo advertisement on T.V. when I was twelve and being in utter amazement. I was drawn to the hair of the models used for the advertisement. I thought wow! I would do anything to have hair like that. The idea of buying the chemicals shown in the advertisement to alter my hair seemed like the wisest most urgent action.
Imagine the ordeal of a twelve years old male child, with shaved head, in a Catholic Nigerian home, wanting his hair to look like this:
I took consolation in a black round neck shirt I had. I would fit it into my head. Feel utter transformation. Relish the feeling of being a vixen ready to take on the world. Even Beyonce was no match for my fierceness when I donned my black round neck shirt.
I am now in my mid-twenties. I fantasize about leaving my hair to grow. It’s unsurprising that when I imagine my grown hair, I feel it’s silkiness on my cheeks, neck and face. Moments when I’m am on a motorbike, piercing through the air, have gaps of pure joy. I feel the full length of “my grown (imaginary) hair” dancing in the pushing wind. Like the hair on Disney’s depiction of Pocahontas.
It’s a curious case. Because I am an African. The strands of hair on my head tangle with one another into what looks like a mass of black cotton wool. The kind of hair that would never, in it’s natural form, flow with the wind.
The desire for silky hair became a source of perplexity around the time i was sixteen years. The idea of altering the nature my hair took on an air of ridiculousness (because men I came across who used chemicals to alter their hair ended up having hair that looked like fur of a wet cat).
A simple explanation for the feeling of joy from imagining silky hair on my head is I was inundated with a media of girls (and guys) who seemed to have fun with silky hair that fell to their cheeks and flew in the wind. Girls who celebrated their hair without making a celebration of it.
Growing into my identity has allowed for a sort of distinction. A crystallization of the real reason I desire(d) silky hair. I wasn’t drawn to the hair or it’s amplified beauty. I was drawn to the fun. I was drawn to the freedom that guarantees such fun. The hair seemed to me, at the time, a source of fun and freedom. I was wrong.
Something as inanimate as hair can’t be a source of fun and freedom. It is just a tool used to celebrate the true source: power. This power that ensures, that to this day, my hair stays shaved.
One can be quick to say to me: you can keep your hair if you want to. But it’s not that simple. At one end of a spectrum, artists can get away with it. Style it the way they choose and still get away with it. On the other end of the spectrum, the “absent minded” professor can get away with it. It’s presumed he is too busy with intelligent stuff to remember the dark (or gray) forest that rests on his head. But for a regular dude, like my friend, who had an interview and the first thing he thought of as his line of business what not to style his hair but to get rid of it.
We can applaud his sense of grooming. But when you think about it – the origin of grooming and the essence of it. You realise that the get-rid-of-it approach to hair is more popular that it need be. Even approved of far more than it needs approval for.
I am reflecting on this issue. At the top of my mind is the notion of what makes a mature adult. The idea that says regardless of your age or condition or experience, as long as it is harmless to you and those around you, the sooner you find out what you want to do and do it the better. A useful quote from Marcus Aurelius, a great roman emperor, reads:
if you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
Most times when solutions to a problem that ails us seem evasive it can be helpful to at least realise the pressures that arise as a result of the problem. To know oh! No wonder I was feeling jealous, anger, anxious. So it’s not my fault. It’s from a system I didn’t construct. Something outside of me. The truth is if we are able to reflect the best version of ourselves, with or without hair, depending on our choosing, we will be able to give this version of ourselves in a way that best benefits those around us.
Remember. You are Awesome.