Friday, November 13, 2009

Good Hair - I have it (but it's not mine)

Although I have yet to see Good Hair, the documentary by Chris Rock detailing black women's quest for "good hair" (aka straight, luxurious hair), it  brought memories of my own hare-brained quests to get my hair done while living outside the U.S.

While I lived in Okinawa, Japan (a small island south of mainland Japan) teaching English, I went to great lengths to get my hair done. How did end in Okinawa? It is the birthplace of my mother and her family, where my parents met and where my sister and I spent the early part of our childhood. Back then, my hair was short and I had a curly perm (no, not a jeri curl.) As anyone who chemically enhances their hair (black or white) knows, you need to maintain it every few weeks. So imagine, living in a village of 800 people, 2 hours from the largest city and having to figure out where to get your hair done. My only option was the military bases. Okinawa is the home of a gazillion military bases and  it has been a strategic military location for the United States since the end of World War II.

So how does one get on a military base without being in the military. You walk up to the gate and wave your passport. I can not tell you the hysterical conversations my friend T and I had with military police on why we needed to get on the base. The guards just could not fathom how we ended up there on this small little island in the Pacific that wasn't Japan. Why were  teaching english in Japan, etc. But the crazy part of this entire wackiness was not just getting on the base but having my dad deal with finding products in the States and then shipping it to me.

Mind you all of this took place pre-9/11, so I am pretty sure there is no way this could happen now.

Before I headed off to business school, I just could not deal with working so I ended up in Florence, Italy studying Italian. Again, imagine my fate, Luckily (that depends on who you ask), since the 1980's, Africans have been immigrating to Europe and Italy is no different. Somehow, I discovered a beauty shop in Rome. I think I asked some African women at the train station where they go there hair done. So every few weeks, I would take the train to Rome which is 2 hours South of Florence. Yes, I spent 4 hours every few weeks to get my hair done. And let me say that the train station back then (I can only hope it's changed) was in a scary neighborhood and while yes, I am a person of color, I still have the demeanor and walk of an American. We so stand out. I do have to say that I did enjoy my trips the beauty salon as it was another view of life in Italy.

That brings us to present day. Yes, I have a weave and why you ask. It started out as a way of growing my hair out. Seriously after years of chemically enhancing my hair, my bangs were little nubs and my hair just wasn't growing. It was a chance to get it back into healthy condition. So here I am 6 years later with a weave even though my hair is actually down to my shoulders now but even though I truck out to Flatbush (so much cheaper than Manhattan) in Brooklyn every 4-6 weeks, it is still in the end easier to take care than dealing with perms.


Nicole said...

LOL I loved this post! I have sift fine hair, and my grandmother relaxed it when I was thirteen. I'm going natural now..I'm just tired of it. I deep condition it, and I plan on getting it braided. When you described you bangs I almost choked! lol

I know so many black women who are dealing with breakage and hair loss. It's good to give your hair a rest. I wrote about going natural @ my other blog

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