“I want them out, now!”
“Have you tried witch hazel? Why don’t you wash them first?” My daughter waits patiently for me to respond, although I can see the exasperation in her eyes. Or maybe it’s sleep, it’s 5:30 a.m.
“Nope. Maybe I’m just one of those people who can’t wear braids.”
“Okay, but there’s some witch hazel under the sink.” Andrea turns to go back to bed; it’s barely light outside, and she is not a morning person.
“When you get up from your nap I want you to help me take them out.”
She grunts and gently closes her door, signaling that this conversation is over. I head toward the bathroom, intending to take a shower, get dressed, and then head to the kitchen to wait for her to get up. Instead, I rumble around under the cabinet, find the witch hazel, pour some into the little blue spray bottle I bought to wash these twists later in the week, and spray my scalp. Ahh, sweet relief! I bend down to turn on the water for my shower, and once again, it feels like a dozen tiny needles are pricking my scalp. The itching is almost unbearable. I gather the twists up into a scrunchie, noticing that they’re a bit easier to manipulate than the day before. No matter, these puppies are coming out today, I don’t care how good they look.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to try braids for the summer. I’ve been wearing a short hair cut for the past two years and have grown bored with it. My daughter has worn braids, (Senegalese twists), a few times, and I loved how they looked on her. I declared that this summer, I’d try them too, and we started looking for a salon near my home in North Carolina. My daughter lives in Georgia, but she’d been with me for a few weeks and we wanted to get our hair done before I took her back. We tried to book an appointment with the stylist she’d used last year, but she was busy. I did a bit of crowd-sourcing on Facebook for recommendations and such, and only one person mentioned a bad experience with the process. I figured the odds were in my favor. A friend gave me the name of three salons that had her seal of approval, and I called them all. One of them never returned my call, another couldn’t take us both on the same day, and the last salon took three days to call me back.
In the meantime, my daughter was doing her own research, and she’d scheduled an appointment for Friday (6/9/17) at a salon in Raleigh. I was excited, but also a little scared. I’d never worn braids or extensions, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew there might be a bit of soreness, so I decided to take two Excedrin migraine pills before the appointment to help out with that. This place wasn’t on our list of recommendations, and they didn’t have much of an online presence, so we decided to do a drive-by to check out the salon. They seemed nice and the place was clean. I was ready.
It took nearly eight hours for them to finish our hair, but I was pleased with the results. The hair felt strange on my head, but folks seemed to like it, and I thought it looked pretty good. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it though; there was so much hair and my head was too sore to try to style it. “Give a day or two,” said Andrea. “Then you can do all sorts of things with it.”
The first night, Andrea showed me how to use tights (I used a pair of old Spanx) to tie it down and told me to take two Motrin so that I could sleep. It was rough, but I survived. The next day, my head was still a little sore, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
The itching didn’t get bad until Sunday night.
We were now in Georgia at my parents’ house, and the first thing my dad said when he saw me was, “I thought you were getting the little twists.”
“I think that might have been a better option.” I said, wondering how he knew that I wasn’t altogether happy with the state of my hair.
At first, the itching wasn’t so bad. I was familiar with the “weave pat,” so I implemented this technique to afford myself a bit of relief. It didn’t work. I didn’t want to scratch my scalp, so I used the pads of my fingers to rub the itchy places a little. Still no relief. Yesterday, we went to the store and I bought an oil spray designed to soothe an itchy scalp. It seemed to help a little, although I was still itchy off and on all day. At 10:30 p.m., I put my hair up and went to bed.
Around 12:30 a.m., I awoke with my head on fire. The itching was relentless. First, I took off the Spanx to let my scalp breathe. That helped a little. I knew I wouldn’t sleep with my hair loose, so after a few minutes, I wrapped it back up, and tried to go back to sleep. I remember dreaming about Nicole Dennis-Benn; I’m sure it was because the last thing I read before dozing off was that she’d won the Lambda Literary award for lesbian fiction (yay!). About an hour later, I was up again. I rearranged the twists and tried to get back to sleep. By now, I had a headache as well as an itchy scalp. A few minutes later, I heard Mango scratching at the door, so I let her in. I figured I might as well have some company. I played Candy Crush, Words with Friends, checked my Facebook. My head was still itching.
After what seems like a few more minutes, I heard the grandfather clock in the living room chime: dong, dong, dong, dong. It can’t be 4:00 a.m.! Oh, but it is. I decide to call T.D.; she works at night and will surely make me feel better. She hops on the internet and looks for remedies for itchy braid scalp. She rattles off a list: witch hazel, Seabreeze, Sulfur-8 braid spray, tea-tree oil, wash your hair, etc. Finally she says, “Well, you could just take them out.”
It is in that moment that I realize what’s been bothering me, (well, besides the itching), I don’t like them. They look good enough, although they’re much longer than I wanted. I really don’t know what to do with them, and I’m not sure that I want to learn. I love how braids, locs, and twists look on other people, so I thought I’d like how they’d look on me.
Part of me feels bad about this, but I also know that I’m not willing to suffer any more itchy scalp or sleepless nights just for the sake of holding on to these twists a little longer. Maybe one day I’ll try again. Maybe not.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table starting this essay when my dad walks in to make his cup of coffee. I tell him that I’m taking the twists down today. He laughs. A big ol’ gut-busting laugh. When he stops, he says “I kinda figured you would. I think the shorter twists would look better on you.” I want to ask him when he became an expert on twists, specifically how they’d look on me, but I hold my tongue. He’s absolutely right, and I know it. “Well,” he continues, “It was just an experiment that went wrong.”
“Yes,” I say, “Everything ain’t for everybody.”