Her' Care

Her embrace was warm, laced in the nostalgia and longing of times that had come to pass. But when she took a step back to really look at me, her mouth gaped open as if she had seen the ghost of someone she once knew. She stared at me with a look of utter shock, disbelief, and even disappointment; I knew what was coming next. 


“What did you do to your hair? All that beautiful hair that everyone wished they had, why did you have to go and ruin it?”

 

I lightheartedly chuckled at my aunt’s accusation– one that many others had also made– and tried to think of how I could respond back in the 30 seconds that were left in the conversation. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For as long as I could remember, my hair had always been a defining characteristic of who I was. By the time I was 6, it nearly reached my waist and possessed the volume of a full lion’s mane. Along with its visible characteristics, my hair also portrayed my ancestral roots as it was an exact replica of my paternal grandfather’s during his youth. 


My hair had been in braids for most of my life. The summer of 9th grade, however, I refused to let my mom braid my hair any longer; I was ready to style it differently on my own. My new eagerness to find my independence and self-identity filled me with a sense of adventure and euphoria. 


I soon found that this was no easy task as a tremendous dichotomy began to emerge; a part of me wanted to gain the acceptance and approval of my peers while another just wanted to let my unruly, frizzy locks fly free. But a new desire to conform to the “in-crowd” began to take over, manifesting itself as I excessively straightened and dyed my hair, as many of my friends did. With each stroke of the iron I made to my now chestnut mane, I lost a sliver of my individuality, all in the name of being well-liked and upholding a false notion of beauty. 


Towards the end of sophomore year, I noticed that my hair had become very brittle and dry, with ends split like a long diverging road. Much of its volume had also diminished, another outcome of the hours of straightening and harshness of dyes. I soon began to realize that my life had split ends and deficiencies of its own. My so-called friends didn’t seem to have my best interests at heart, constantly bailing whenever things got tough. By blindly following their lead, I lost myself to caring for the mundane, losing sight of the independence I sought as a naive freshman. I even began to feel a strong sense of regret and disconnect from my heritage, as my hair no longer depicted the aspects of my history that I carried with me for a majority of my life. 


And so I began to cut. 


I cut my hair, I cut off my toxic friends, I cut my desire to be someone I clearly wasn’t and my, did it feel good.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My aunt was still waiting; the 30 seconds were coming to an end.


How was I supposed to reveal to her that my short hair held a far greater significance than its mere length, transcending to the journey I had trekked in order to come to terms with my uniqueness?


I flashed her a big smile. “Well I like it, it’s very ‘me’.”



Beles Abebe