Imali does not like people to make a fuss on her birthday. She is one of those weird people who have something against celebrating a feat that was not even your own—your mother did all the work after all. If there is anybody who needs a cake and the indescribable joy of seeing an unexpected Mpesa text, it is her, not you. But no, I honestly don’t know what she has against birthdays. A quiet ‘happy birthday’ and a few heart emojis will do for her. God forbid that you begin splashing it all over her Facebook timeline. What I do know is that I am one of those other kinds of people. The ones who make sure that anybody who happens to be in their life at that particular time, and sometimes even those who are not, knows from the 1st of whichever month they were born in that their birthday is coming soon. The ones you see posting things like ‘Queens were born in May’. Dare anybody use the excuse: “Aki I didn’t even know”. If you forget my birthday, that’s wholly on you and you shall feel my pettiness coming through when your birthday rolls up and you get not even a HBD on your timeline from me. Speaking of HBD…honestly guys, it’s not even a legitimate wish; you can do better. And the ones who say Happy Born Day…Why?
So last week was my birthday week.My brother insists that it would make more sense to call it my birth week but honestly I am not here for his negativity. My birthday was on Thursday and because I have amazing people in my life, I had ‘plot’ for that day. For once. Anybody who knows me knows that I am not the person anyone calls if they are looking for an exciting thing to do. My life is just not that exciting. I am likely to be the person in the group who insists on leaving an event even before it has properly begun ati because ‘it is too loud’ or ‘there is too much hype’. But because 2017 is still my year, I had plans to turn 22 in style. Or something like that. Anticipation and everything.
Monday was as Mondays usually are. Nothing to tell here.Except that I went to some salon near school where I had had my hair trimmed before. For 50 bob, because #savethebrokecollegestudent is a real thing.My hair has this interesting way of growing where it grows everywhere except at the back of my head. Refer to this post. So because I’m not about that life, I trim it regularly. The first time I went to this salon, it had been done satisfactorily by a girl called Vio (pronounced Va-YO) whom I promised at that time that I would go back to her in about a week to get braids done. It has now been almost a year. On the off chance that you are reading this, aki Vio I’m sorry. In this our Nairobi when you know you don’t really want something but the person selling it has put effort into convincing you that it’s worth all that money that you know you don’t have, and bargaining with you, you don’t tell them no. You tell them you will go back another day. ‘Si leo’. ‘Nitarudi siku ingine.’ ‘Next time nitakuja na sister yangu’. Anyway this time, when I went there to get my hair trimmed, I found another older lady who swore she knew what she was doing but cut my hair unevenly. So I was unhappy and told myself that’s what you get for wanting to spend only 50 bob for a quality service.
Tuesday, I went to school as usual and as I was in the cafeteria using the school WiFi and waiting for class to start, I decided that I wanted to cut my hair. Not a better trim; an actual haircut. I would like to say that this was a decision I made after much thought and adequate research but that would be a lie. I once saw an article talking about how sijui which successful women had saved their money and achieved financial stability by making good decisions like ati when you want to buy something you wait three days and if you still want it as badly after the three days then you can buy it. As a way of avoiding impulse buying, you see. Clearly there is a reason why I have not yet achieved financial stability. Impulse decisions are my stronghold. The worst part is that once I have made the impulse decision it is near impossible to make me change my mind.
So based on photos on a hairdresser’s Facebook page of girls whom my sister would say were #slaying with their haircuts, I decided that I too needed to get serious with my slaying. I am told the haircut I wanted is called ‘fade’. That one where the top of the hair is longer than the back and the sides (I’m not very cool, am I?).
So after class on Tuesday I traipsed about Nairobi looking for a salon that would do my hair well without me having to pay for it in installments. Where I really wanted to go was to that Facebook hairdresser. His Facebook page identifies him as 254 hairdresser. You should see that page; you will also want to cut your hair immediately. I honestly blame him and his people for my woes. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I went to the place where I think he is based in Barclays Plaza, knowing very well that I probably could not afford it, but we walk by faith and not by sight. The lady at the reception told me they cut hair for 1500 and if you want it styled it’s 2000. Me with my broke ass I smiled and said thank you and was on my way, trying not to give away that I had felt a bit light-headed when she said 1500 for a trim.
I hunted for a while longer on a lower side of Nairobi until I found a place. The guy whom I was told does haircuts began speaking to me in a variety of sheng that I did not understand and so we stood there for a while trying to understand each other first. I show him a couple of photos of what I want to look like, and I confirm three times that he has understood. He has, he insists. I sit down and he begins.
The first time I cut my hair four years ago I felt nothing. Because my hair and I had no relationship.But this. This was different. This was like a break up. Because this hair had been expensive as hell. You think coconut oil is cheap when your mother is the one buying it. And then when she refuses to see her money going into sijui sulphate-free shampoo that costs 1000 bob, and you have to start maintaining your hair from your own almost-barren pocket, you realize that growing natural hair is like raising a child. And do you know how much time it takes to do twists? When you are done doing them you realize that you are also done with the thoughts you were entertaining of ati going to the gym. For what when you can have arm day in bed while watching a series? When that much money and time goes into your hair, you have to form some sort of bond with it. So I felt it and I almost cried. I was looking dumb in that chair holding a ball of hair in my hands and fighting balancing tears. And then that guy has the nerve to tell me, ‘Na hii nywele yako ni ile ngumu kabisa!’ As though I have not been deep conditioning every three days for the past three years. Still, up until then, I was good, eager for my new look and everything.
I’m telling you people. There was a defining moment when I knew that I had made one of the worst decisions of my life by trusting this man with my hair. I regretted everything. I looked at his reflection in the mirror and told him that I thought he was cutting it too short. He said, ‘Hapana, hii nywele ni mingi’. Guys. When a person is doing your hair and it isn’t looking like you want it to look, stop him/her. You will pay for it. Despite what they say, no, they do NOT know what they are doing. And you will end up with a head that does not look like your own and he/she will still ask for your money. I have never despised my meekness as much as I did when he was done and I looked at just how longish my face is when I have no hair. In situations concerning what anybody is doing with any part of you, the meek are absolutely not blessed. You need to tell that person to get their hands off you immediately.
I walked out of that salon with tears in my eyes, looking like I’d just been punished for somebody else’s mistake. Two hours, many many tears and a couple of lies later (I met some people soon after I left the salon who thought that something utterly life-altering had happened to me because of how devastated I looked, and I had to give them a story because how could I tell them that in this world where people are living through things like war, poverty and cancer, that I was looking so broken because a guy cut my hair too short. Eh, no.), I was on my way home and I was convinced that my life would never be the same again. I spent all of Wednesday getting startled by my reflection on any surface because it looked like somebody else. I even wanted to cancel the birthday ‘plot’ because sijui I needed time to heal. I didn’t cancel—I came to my senses soon enough—and thank God because the day turned out to be a ‘lit-uation’. Did you guys know that was a word? Lituation? When something is lit? My God, I have the wrong friends aki.
This is the take away: as a now older and wiser person, I can tell you that those things people do, following one hairdresser or barber to Rongai because they cannot trust anybody else to do their hair—those things are the truth. I’m sure y’all thought this was going to be a deep reflective post of I don’t know stock-taking, looking back on this last year and awaiting what 22 has to offer. Eh. Guys. The only thing I am looking forward to is finding a person whom I can trust with my hair. If any of you has full confidence in their hairdresser and knows that he/she won’t charge me the price of my school fees for his/her services, and can give me a referral, help a sister out. I will follow this your hairdresser to another county if I have to. Meanwhile, somebody tell Lupita that the fact that my hair is now the same length as hers is the only thing that is helping me adjust to my new lifestyle.