Me, My Hair and I

Front Row Seat To My Dilemma

Photo Hilary Etoma Mba
Photo Hilary Etoma Mba

INTERIOR — Top bathroom of a suburban house, facing the mirror. (2016)


I am fed up with how my scalp is irritated. I don’t know what to do about my hair being two textures, but I know that I hate it. I decide to cut it, in a frantic moment of mixed feelings of fear, excitement and anxiety to walk outside with a look that I never envisioned on myself before, nor on anyone I know. I’m used to hiding my damaged relaxed hair with braids. I don’t know how to care for this new coily hair. I still wish my hair was straight, but I just can’t take the relaxers anymore. It’s too late anyways because I already cut it. I have to get out of the bathroom. What did I get myself into?


EXTERIOR — main street downtown, stopping in front of a fashion ad with two Black models in long straight wigs (2019)


How can I be pro-Black and wear straight wigs and relax my hair? Be serious,it doesn’t add up! How can I talk about self-acceptance with bone straight hair? I keep asking myself that, because I have to admit, I think about going back sometimes. I do miss a good sleek ponytail, sometimes,or often actually. I get why some still relax their hair, but I need a rational explanation to ease my hair anxiety. I feel like I need to pick a side. I know, my hair doesn’t define me, but the way I present myself matters…right?


EXTERIOR — subway station, in line waiting for the next one to come, locking eyes with noisy strangers (2023)


Why do I keep getting stared at? Have you never seen kinky roots before? Maybe I do need a retwist, my hair might be getting a little crazy, but so what if I don’t do it?


I still wonder why I started my loc journey sometimes. But do I even need a reason? It feels like no matter what I choose to do with my hair, it always needs an explanation. Perhaps, it doesn’t and not forcing myself to live up to the and the world’s expectation to not expect a polished look on my kinks is as good a reason as any. 


“Why did you cut your hair?” “Why wear the afro?”, “Why wear braids?”, “Why did you start locs?” I don’t know people, I just did it! Plus, it looks good. My hair doesn’t have to always be political. It just happens to grow out of my scalp that way, and that doesn’t need an explanation.

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 13, published March 7, 2023.