Hannah, My Sister, I Feel Your Pain

First published May 29, 2010

I got my first African haircut today. A Canadian woman told me of a couple of salons that have stylists who cut straight hair, and recommended one at the fancy shopping center out here in my area, Njiro. I couldn’t put it off any longer, so today was the day. Of all the ordinary tasks that are so hard for me to figure out and cope with here, this was the one that left me feeling upset.

I liked the stylist who cut my hair, a 30-ish man who told me he cuts lots of Europeans’ hair. And while I was there, two Frenchwomen came in and waited for him. I think the cut is OK, but I won’t really know until tomorrow after I wash my hair again. Or maybe the next day, because there’s no mirror in my house yet!

The male stylist handed me off to a young woman to blow dry and style my hair. She put a “product” in my hair that greased it right into a smooth shellacked bowl. The head stylist could see I wasn’t happy, so he handed me off to a second young woman who re-washed my hair and styled it again. I wanted a quick blow-dry to fluff it up and make it wavy. She spent about 45 minutes scorching it to absolutely straight and smooth. My theory is the two young ladies work mostly with straightening and smoothing African hair.

It came out straight and smooth, all right. But I think the cut’s OK–which is what I always tell myself in Utah when the stylists give me the giant Utah pouf with all the “product.” The whole time these girls were flattening my hair, I kept thinking of my wonderful Nigerian friend Hannah, trying to find a salon in Utah that could work with her African hair. But now her daughter’s learned how to do braids, so she’s covered.