Are you Broke? Having Difficult Conversations

Photo Courtesy:Buzzfeed

By Tabitha Makumi,
I have had to explain a lot of things in my life, things I or anyone else for that matter should never have to explain. Like…why are you too dark? Ghee, did I have a choice? You know had a tete-a-tet with God and asked for a hue tad darker and fries to go.

Why do you talk too much, why are you shy? Why are you quiet? Why are you breathing, why are you smiling, why are you always eating all the flipping time? (ha-ha) why are you moody? Why are you here and not there? Why are you gaining weight? Why are you losing weight? …. Aaargh! Exhausting, right? (You can read my 'weighty' Daily Nation article Here)

That said, I never thought I would see the day when I would have to explain my hair. Forget about the occasional weave I once swore made me look like Gabrielle Union or the sassy Nia Long. I don’t
mind explaining that. There’s nothing much to explain anyway. It’s fake. It masks some major insecurities women do not like to talk about. End of story.

I know I am giving weave haters some pointers/ammunition here but recently BBC (a year ago, maybe) run a story of how those luscious weaves are made using goat hair in China. And the largest importer was…wait for it…Nigeria! Pretty sure Kenya was lurking just a number behind on that list.

But who really give two shits what it’s made from ...Whether it's a Mongolian goat hair or poor women in Asia who shave off their heads to make a buck or two…. You’ve got your six inch of “Brazilian weave”, you are obviously slaying, your salonist is all smiles since fixing that shit aint cheap, you look like a cross breed between Beyonce and Halle Berry…What’s there not to beam about.

But this isn’t about the hair industry…but about my hair. I don’t rock dreadlocks although I figure I would look divine if I did. What I do have though is your typical African natural hair. One that would make you pop a painkiller or two before you comb through that dreadful mess.

Which takes me back to when my mum used to do our hair every Sunday evening. What a nail biting experience my sister and I had to endure. There was nothing fancy about the style, just some plain push back cornrows my mum was convinced were the ish at the time. “Sit this way…,” she would order us, “Didn’t I tell you to sit that way?” she would snap, thumping our heads with that dreadful wooden comb. Haha! I laugh now but I cried a river back then.

I think experts call it "Type c hair” and if you have some of this goodness bestowed on you ,then you know what I am raving about. All the Becky’s with the good hair, just nod and pretend to get it.

Which brings me back to a recent conversation I had with my mum. Well, it wasn’t much of a conversation. She talked, I listened...She talked some more, I rolled my eyes because mothers have the ability to make you feel like a twelve year old again. This is how I remember the conversation.

“What’s going on with your hair…?” Was that disdain in her voice?

(Elated)Why? …. Do you like it? 

(Confused gaze as though the word like and my hair should never be in the same sentence)

“Do you think you look professional in ‘that’?”  (I know she meant well but jeeezus!)

(My first eye roll)

“Are you broke?” I hear her say. I also hear myself laugh…not “hahaha” funny but “what the hell” kind of funny.

I want to tell her that we Africans are so mentally colonized that anything African screams poor or unprofessional. Be it our hair, our colourful vitenges, plus do not get me started on our accents. But of course I don’t lay this on her. Instead, I can feel my eyes roll to the back of my head and back.

“If you need money just….” Someone drops a glass in the kitchen and before she can finish that sentence she is off  to deal with whoever is messing around with her fancy kitchenware.

“Vunja zote” (Hehe)I hear her shout.

So, next time you spot me with a glossy weave, it’s not that I like having goat hair on my head or I relish the idea of having women in Asia chop off their locks for me…. It’s just that I want to look Professional…. (insert smirk face)