Baby fuzz with baby hairs.
A wealth of thick black hair, detangled and brushed into big, puffy twists. Adorned with glossy beads and wide ribbons and, sometimes, shaped, pastel barrettes.
Relaxer that did nothing in Georgia’s or Maryland’s humidity.
Cornrows, to give off a mildly gladiatorial edge for tennis matches. Relaxer.
“Texturizer.” Relaxer? Relaxer. With a Manic Panic Vampire Red you could only catch the sun glinting off of at lunch, in the courtyard. Relaxer.
Relaxer with bleached-and-then-dip-dyed hair. Fire-engine-coloured ends. Bleach, relaxer, colour? On top of Syracuse’s winter? Looking like death.
Big chop, new growth. A small, fuzzy fro.
Looking like a boy out of classical Greek art. Trial and error with Carol’s Daughter, Shea Moisture and Miss Jessie’s.
Bigger fro, more growth.
Fro so big it has a life of its own.
Fro so big that you have to block off an entire day to wash, condition, detangle and twist it. Order a big sushi roll and some fried tofu to the dorm, and get ready to rip through “Scandal.”
Shave it off.
“Yeah?” “Yeah.” “Let’s do it, then.” “Okay, Friday night, we’ll meet up. I have the clippers.”
“… I’m feeling under the weather.” “Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
I don’t have clippers, but I have scissors. I don’t have courage, but I have frustration. I twist my hair, cut off maybe three inches across the board and emerge simply with a shape-up.
It’s cute and it’s fresh. I stop in at my parents’ house, determined to finish what I started. I want my hair close-cropped and icy blonde, like early 2000s R+B star.
Instead, I get laid to the gods, Dominican-style (which I don’t hate, but didn’t ask for) and a blonde-and-brown highlight situation bringing some sun to my face.
I radiate for the summer.
I go back to my parents’ house and it’s by chance I catch a black lady (in this intensely white and uppity suburb of D.C.) with the hair I want, sitting on a bench outside a salon downtown. She’s got a black polyester vest on.
I approach her. We exchange information. When I come back for my appointment, she talks me out of my blonde pixie cut dreams. She does do a killer job of touching up my roots, though.
I get compliments on it across the pond.
I regret that I can’t help a British sister out with a good stylist recommendation.
My fro isn’t demanding days off yet, but it’s been a year now. We’re back at that point.
If I don’t act fast, nevermind the split ends: my fro is going to download Deliveroo or UberEats and I’ll be sat at the flat, binge-watching “Skins” as I twist my hair for the next few weeks instead of studying.
Of course, this isn’t my only motivation. I love the sleekness of the shaved-head look. The simultaneous sharpness and smoothness of it. You look like something carved from marble, onyx, opal. You look supernatural. You move differently. Your facial features jut and slope in unfathomable ways. And that excites me.
Moreover, I couldn’t think of any good reason not to do what I set out to do all those months ago.
Your hair is so long. Don’t cut that! // Why not? Hair grows back.
You worked so hard to get here. Cutting your hair would be throwing all of that hard work away. // I survived ombre hair with relaxer. I think I can make do with a head full of new, strong, healthy, lustrous hair.
Your hair is so beautiful. // Yes, yes it is. But wouldn’t it be great, too, to embark on a different kind of beauty?
You’ll look like a boy. // The prettiest boy. The most angelic boy.
What if you have a weirdly shaped head? // I can’t wait to finally spend all of my money on these excellent dad caps I’ve been missing out on. Also, Kanye West’s head looks a bit like a chocolate-covered raisin (which is a delicious, healthy snack!) and he’s doing just fine.
What will people think of you? // I don’t know. Let’s find out.
You’re going to miss your hair. Everyone does when they get a haircut that’s so short. You’re going to regret it. // Regret what? Looking fierce and sexy and fabulous? The only thing I’m truly going to regret is wasting time and not shaving my head sooner.