So I took out my trademark braids this past May. It was a long, troublesome chore, but one I was used to experiencing every eight or nine weeks for years. Decades, to be precise. I cut out most of the synthetic braids, unbraided the rest, tossed them, then went through the exhausting ritual of washing, conditioning, and readying my hair for another 6-7 hours of rebraiding. When the ritual was over, my head felt bobblehead-light from the lifted weight. After conditioning my hair, I was halfway to the phone to make an appointment to get my usual double-strand twists put back in by my braider of five years, Fatima of Livingston Street. Come to think of it, I don’t know her last name or the proper name of her salon, yet we’ve had a perfectly fine relationship over the years. No credit cards, bring your own hair, and try not to take too many bathroom breaks.
This time though, I paused. I ran my hand through my hair. It had really grown over the winter. It was always thick but now I noticed some length as well. I gripped the tight, kinky curls in both hands. I made faux Mohawks in the mirror. I could also feel my full scalp for a change. Those with braids know how creative you need to be to scratch an itchy spot: combs, pens, paper clips…Whatever it takes. I felt so…light. And I felt as if people around me could notice the change as well. I noted that I didn’t have an office to rush back to on Monday, no corporate bigwigs to appease with an approved hairstyle. I cancelled with Fatima and instead did a quick twist-out with the crappiest grease I had on hand and water. “I’m just waiting a few days,” I told anyone who asked. “I don’t want my scalp to be so sore this time. The braiders will always be there.”