There is this blackness that crawls all over me. It is soft in places. Hard in others. It clings onto my clothes and blows in the wind. It regulates from short to long. Thick and thin. Curly to straight. This black tangled mess buries itself deep into my skin. It is a living, growing thing that takes the shape of what I want it to be. This black creature is my hair. Well…
… Was my hair!
A single hair is a protein filament that grows in follicles on your skin. It is a distinguishable characteristic of mammals. When we are born we come out smooth. Skin untouched by the coarseness. As you grow so does your hair. Some grow fast. Others though, not so much. The hair on my head has been granted the generosity of good genes. Black, curly and thick. My father and uncle both sported massive Afros growing up that could be dipped into a tin of paint and used on the walls. Yet now my father is bald. A route I will have to walk in these genes. I have already traveled a long way and the scenery has changed very often but the road still has long to go.
Being Indian by stereotype and for most of my pre twenties my hair was either spiked, Mohawk spiked, short and spiked, and overall as sharp as knives. Capable of slicing though steel, the best weapon in any fight. I had friends who would spend more time than most women styling their manicured spikes. Thick handfuls of gel smeared into works of art. Or you could be like the typical Phoenician, Durban dwellers, day walkers with their long spikes and frosted tips. Thankfully I never had to suffer that kind embarrassment. My spikes however sharp were still softer on the eyes.
But my hair went through phases. For a time during my first years at varsity I would outfit the chiskop proudly. Every month I would take the machine and strip my head down to a shiny brown bulge. I shaved it regularly to keep it fresh. It made me look more like a Joburg gangster than anything else. When your hair grows after being bald for so long it goes through that awkward stage. Where nothing you did to it actually worked. It just sat there like a weird mess. But I knew patience was a virtue and I wanted to grow it out.
After two years without any trimming my hair became the mighty powerful locks I always wanted. It had Samson’s strength to it. It was wild curly and reached below my shoulder blades. As much as I cherished my locks more than gold I only washed it once a week. I liked keeping its freshness intact. Something my mother hated. One time my brother decided to be a prankster brat and snipped of just a lock. I lost it and threw fist after fist into his gut until he knew that no one, and I mean no one touches the hair.
Then came the part of my life where I transformed my locks into Rasta enthused dreads. Well kind of. The aunty in Yeoville assured me this was the way to do it. Because Indian hair is so soft it takes longer to dread properly. That’s why Indian hair is such a valued commodity on the black women market. They pillage and riot for such a treat. But after a month of regular treatments my hair still was not getting that dreaded feel and she became a stealing lie that just gave false hope to a gullible guy. I had to put a stop to it and within a matter of minutes my powerful locks were gone and succumbed to a weak pile of scattered hairs blown away from a dream.
I grew it out again but before arriving at my new job here at Men’s Health my girlfriend urged me to make it look more professional. Thus my hair went through its most prolific phase, the working one. I fashioned a comb through, comb over, comb something that gave me a professional demur. A look to say I mean business and I am here to work. After being here for a while. Learning about the kind of environment I was now submerged in I decided to resort back to old roots, well no roots and sliced away the hair once more. Inspired of course by my online editor. Hey I am part of the online team so one must do what one must do. My girlfriend says I look like that gangster again but I at least have more facial hair than before.
Facial hair. Beards, stashes, and stubble are fairly new words to me. Growing up my baby face didn’t bloom until my third year in varsity and even still grows in uneven patches. The first stash I had got me into trouble at school and my mother dragged me to a beautician for a wax. Bad idea. Women you got my utmost respect. And you guys wax everything. I had a tiny fine stash and it felt like my life was being ripped from me. Shaving is a bust. Any guy knows that. But we do what we must. I like to sport the box. It defines my face flawlessly.
I learned throughout my years that body hair grows more as soon as you start shaving it. I went through a phase and shaved my legs, chest and underarms for months. Now my legs look like permanent leg warmers, my chest a tangled piece of steel wool and thick curly black vines swing from under my arms. Cavemen never had fancy three blade shavers or technologically advanced trimmers. Cavemen never cared if their hair was dirty. I am to embrace that. I caveman. I have hair. I caveman. And I really don’t care.
Pointer: Don’t shave off your eyebrows. Period! It was matric vacation and drunken fun ended with me trying to gash my eyebrow like a prison thug but blurred vision and after miscalculated strokes I had half an eyebrow missing. So try even the other side and that looks stupid. Eventually they were both gone. They called me facial expressions because without eyebrows it kind of is hard to tell how you feel. Luckily I had good friends who for the next month drew on different shapes, styles and kinds of eyebrows for me. In permanent marker. Which ran down my face when I swam in the sea. People ran from my ghastly look. I would find it funny! Great memories but no one could tell if I was sad or happy.
Hair grows on the weirdest places. My toes resemble that of hobbits trekking through the wastelands of Mordor. Freakishly long hairs sprout around my nipples. So long you could use it as fishing line. The most weirdest and irritating place it grows, that I think, is between your cheeks – if you know what I am saying. Making things a little uncomfortable if you still know what I mean.
But hair is everywhere. Having hair is a part of you. Your hair is yours unless you have bought it from the store. All colours and all shapes and sizes. The variety is infinite. So I have been walking down this road. Soon I will reach the point my father has. For now I will love all my hair. This black mess atop my head and under my arms and on my face and in my ears, nose and even down there. I will treasure it for who knows, hair today, gone tomorrow. This is/was my hairy story.