My hair affair is very long and if you know me well, you’ll know part of it. Now, I’m wearing it low and loving it
“You have an appointment with the hair stylist tomorrow,” my mum announced. I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer as I started looking forward to that appointment. I had been making my hair in a bid to grow it more during the long vacation as we used to call it then. I wore short hair during the school session but when I was told I would be on Aunt Peri’s wedding bridal train, I started growing my hair for the occasion. It would be Aunt Peri’s wedding in a couple of days and that would be my first time in a hair dressing salon. So the next day, I was taken to the salon by my mum’s friend, whose sister owned the salon and had my hair treated with a creme relaxer for the first time. After washing the cream off, I touch my hair and smiled, it was so luscious and soft to the touch. The stylist towel dried it and I sat in front of the mirror to set in rollers. “Wow!” I exclaimed. “Do you like it?” asked the stylist. “Of course, I do,” I said with glee in my eyes. For a pre-teen who had always woven her hair and most times wore her hair short that was a moment.  It was straight and different. Although, I felt uncomfortable staying under the hair drier for almost an hour, I loved the final outcome and style when the rollers were taken out. It was with head held high full of shiny and curly hair I went to the wedding the next day. I felt bad I had to cut the relaxed hair before school resumes.

My hair has always been me. It has a mind of its own but I control it. Growing up, my mum used to take me to the “hair weaver,” who would practically put my head on her laps to make my hair every weekend to prepare for school. My mum sometimes make it in two or more weaves if she had the time. I saw a picture of me when I was like four or five years with very long hair and asked what happened to it. “You didn’t want it,” my mum replied. I looked in askance because it was quite beautiful so why wouldn’t I want it. I can’t remember if she further explained but I eventually knew what happened when I started seeing the dynamics of my hair.  While in third grade elementary school, my grandma Maami, took me to the hair weaver, who also happened to be my grandma’s friend and neighbour and she made a style called “ipako elede” for me. I told her I didn’t like the style but she insisted it would be nice. On getting home, I looked in the mirror, “I don’t like the style,” I cried. No one could pacify me not even my dad that had a way of doing that. Anyway, I tried to wear the style for a couple of days but I hated it the more, then my dad asked, “If you don’t want the style, do you want to cut your hair.” “Yes, I don’t want…” That day I was taken to a barber for a cut. It was another story with the barbers who had a way of giving you a cut you never approved.  That was how one barber spoilt my mood for our annual New Year party with one “Ponbe” style. I cried my eyes out but of course it couldn’t be remedied. I had to wait a couple of weeks for it to grow back. I tried making my hair once again by stretching it with hot comb but after I got my ear burnt, I decided against it. Each time I made an attempt at growing back my hair, my dad would remind me of how I would cut it off after a while and concluded that “it won’t allow you to be studious.” So I decided against wearing long hair throughout my secondary school.

After my O’ levels, I started making my hair again as a teenager. By the time, I was in A’ levels, I was fully making it by relaxing and weaving it for school. This time I had full control of what style I wanted and how I wanted my hair to be touched or made. A neighbour who was about my age but physically challenged took the task up. Silifat was mute and deaf but very creative especially with making hair. She was a student and made hair as a hobby not for a living but my mum insisted she must be paid. She muttered her disagreement but she was eventually persuaded by my dad who communicated with her through the sign language (he had taught special education). She would sometimes accept and other times not. Most of the styles Silifat made were outstanding and a lot of people admired them which afforded me the time to explain that if one had a disability, it was not a hinderance to ones ability. Some of my friends wondered how I talked with her; the time she made my hair, dad taught me some sign language that enabled me to communicate with her and walked her world.  She was my friend till my family moved out of the area.

My hair was curly, thick, coarse and full. It could be painful if I combed it too hard and it was in a class of its own. For a long time, I thought I was the only one with such hair in the world. I had a habit of making my hair or pulling it when reading, since I read a lot, I tend to do that a lot of times. My hair didn’t  relax easily when treated with creme relaxers which made hair stylists to take extra time on my hair and that came with a lot of disadvantages. Most times, I was told I needed a retouch by friends when I actually just had one. I chose my stylists with care because not everyone could handle my type of hair. Some times when I got fed up with its antics, I just went for a cut. Not surprised when Banibe, a childhood friend of mine wrote an autograph for me, “Bunmi, do let your hair grow.” Funny as that was then in our teenage years, I always remember that admonition but would smile and say, “sorry to disappoint you Bani, I have to cut it off again.” Though I enjoy wearing my hair to full long length or very short, I’ve worn the latter more than the former. One occasion, I sent a picture to my husband when we were still single and he was wondering why I wore a wig. It took me a while to convince him it wasn’t a wig but my real hair that was how long I grew it then. He took it for a wig probably because he thought I could not grow it that long or knew me to wear medium length hair. 

After the birth of our first daughter and living in Europe, the weather hit my hair but I was able to salvage it. To care for my hair as I would meant traveling 50 km from my house and with a baby to care for, it was becoming a chore. So I started self care of my hair and it worked for a while. Then a colleague’s wife who made hair for a living started braiding my hair, which I chose as my convenient style for a long time before I… you guessed right cut it off. Over the years of living in cold temperatures, I’ve learnt to make my hair suitable for my lifestyle, culture, comfort and the weather. I had braided, woven, plaited, stretched with hot iron, relaxed, coloured, twisted and what have you? I started wearing my hair natural about 15 yeas ago when it was not popular. Many of my friends dissuaded me and asked why. My hair is me and I am my hair. Some of my Caucasian friends would ask, “What happened to your hair or why did you change your hair?” Most times I don’t answer those questions or just mumbled a “yeah…” My hair is not up for discussion. My hair affair is very long and if you know me well, you’ll know part of it. Now, I’m wearing it low and loving it, especially with the pandemic, I can’t allow any random stylist touch my hair and my stylist Frida can’t come over. So I let the cool breeze just blow over it and enjoy it in different shades, especially now that the black and white are competing. I’m thinking of making it blonde some day but not bold enough for that or maybe try dreads. Anyway, I’ve received a lot of compliments on the current style and I’m loving it.

Actor Lupita Nyongo also wears her hair natural