For years she did everything she could to transform her frizzy hair into a bunch of smooth, wavy locks. But at thirty, Agnes Hofman â€“ of Brazilian descent â€“ has had enough. â€œI have come to love my hair. And, interestingly enough, more of myself as well.â€??
Cosmopolitan 8, 2010Â
It came like this. My last weave didn't fit well anymore. But I didn't have time to spend a day at the hairdresser - because that's how long it takes to make cornrows (thin braids, tight on the head) and then weave strips of fake hair into them.
The months fly by with caps, scarves and hair bands on my head. Before I know it I will not be walking for two months, but for half a year with my Brazilian hair. When I'm finally in the salon and my Nigerian occasional hairdresser (my regular hairstylist is in Angola and no one else dares to do it) loudly announces that I've walked too long with my weave, I start to get seriously worried.
Especially because she hisses demonstratively and calls out the owner, who taps his wrist with his finger and takes out a pair of garden-and-kitchen shears: â€œSorry lady, time is money. We have to cut the weaves out.â€?? Protectively I put my hands on my head. While the tears well up in my eyes I yell: â€œNoooo, not my hair!â€??
And so, thanks to fate and a somewhat aggressive hairdresser, I have come to love my own hair. And, interestingly enough, more of myself as well. I recognize myself in the statement that rapper/actor Ice-T makes in Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair: women with a weave show off other people's feathers. I did that too. But why? To be someone I'm not? A better version of myself? But who decides that? Others or myself?
I think the answer is a combination of those elements. For years I've wanted to be someone I'm not, which is a white girl with good hair. Because I didn't have good hair, my mother always said. By that she meant that the curl was too strong and that it was unmanageable without expensive products and a lot of care.
Always after washing, she took the baby oil, combed my hair firmly and I got two braids. Like a sort of Afro Pippi I hopped through the Betuwe countryside. In the hamlet where I grew up, I was seen as an exotic attraction.
I remember that time when I was 11 years old I started playing tennis with a real sweatband around my head. We're talking about the eighties, so I was totally fashionable. The night before, I had made eight braids with the utmost concentration. All by itself, with lots of oil. I slept with it, so that the next day I didn't have frizzy, but wavy locks. It was the tournament of the year, with a bbq as the end of the season. Finally I would have hair dancing on my shoulders instead of that static bunch of frizz or those two stupid braids.
I waved goodbye to my father, who was washing the car. I kept a close eye on the garden hose. Moisture is disastrous because of the risk of scorching. He wouldn't budge anyway… I tried to get away as fast as I could. In vain: the cold drops descended from the garden hose on my head. No dancing hair, but the haircut of a troll. Two years later I bought my first Dark & Lovely kit - a chemical 'relaxer' to straighten my hair - and joined the order of dark women who only use one want one thing: good hair.
Naive white boyfriends
The step to a weave was small. First a half, where I only had a few rows of hair sewn at the bottom and draped my own locks over it, but soon I took a full weave 500 euros. I felt like a diva, a princess, a supermodel, a real vamp. My mother was emotional that her daughter was so beautiful. And the sjans also went well. More than ever, the shopping street was my catwalk.
Dancing, dancing and even sexing is better with fake hair, although there are also disadvantages to a weave. Especially with white friends, who naively think it's your own hair. And to your chagrin to caress your head. The first time he dares to do that, knock out his hands
â€˜shynessâ€™ softly away. The second time his hands go to your hips under your guidance, but on his third attempt you are rudely the Sjaak. You feel pressure on your scalp. His fingertips press against the cornrows your fake hair is sewn into. There are a few variations on his comment, but in almost all cases a serious conversation ensues. You have to be careful with this at all times, to avoid the comment â€˜Wow, I didn't know you were so insecureâ€™. That always irritates me. Because almost all men look at women with an artificial front and/or buttocks, but I â€“ his object of affection â€“ has to be completely natural.
Worrying at the dressing table
Looking back, I think my desire to have white hair stems from the fact that I've been taught for years that I'm different, not like the crowd. Instead of embracing that, I tried to adapt. Not because I wasn't proud of my Brazilian roots, on the contrary. But as a teenager I no longer wanted to stand out, to be no exception. And not be judged on it. That color was bad enough as far as swear words were concerned, and I was the tallest in the class too. And yes, then in this white society I chose the white half in me.
As if I had to pick a side at all. And only now, in my thirties, do I finally realize that this is not necessary.
My maternal grandfather was a BrazilianÂ
cowboy and as black as soot, while my Dutch
grandfather on Daddy's side, dressed in a suit, worked as a lawyer in a ministry. Unfortunately I never got to meet either of them, but recently wondered what they would think if they saw me brooding at my dressing table. One preached liberty, the other justice. And I, their granddaughter, have been limited my whole life by those curls on my head.
As far as I'm concerned, that's done.
Not because my date confessed to finding me super sexy with my real hair (â€˜You are like Erykah Baduâ€™) nor because I am now radically opting for my black side. No, I choose for myself and although I still have to get used to that huge bunch of curls every day, I'm also slowly starting to love it. Because, just like me, they are strong, stubborn and untamable.
Agnes Hofman, a writer by profession, was one of the panelists during the Sabi Wiri Weekend.Â Click here to learn more about the author.