Hair love

6 min read

Our hairs are our history and our lineage. Hair, indeed is everything.

I had never really liked my hair. It is embarrassing to admit this. Because it is the era of self love and appreciation but no one really tells you how difficult it can be. Like, am I really beautiful? Or should I say it because you are ‘supposed’ to say that. 

I have lived a hair trauma. I came from a family of ‘good hair’. What does good hair mean? Manageable hair. Tameable hair. 

My sisters had good hair. My mom would fix their hair in a very short amount of time. It wouldn’t need a re-fix even later in the day. But my hair, woow, required a lot of work and wouldn’t look as good. Whenever I see our childhood pictures, I remember the amount of times my mom spent over my head and complaining too. 

I hated Sunday afternoons. That is when my mom would braid our hairs and it was a lot of work for her as there was the three of us. And my hair, embarrassingly, would take a lot of time. My sisters would be mad as they are waiting and my mom would be too exhausted. 

I had big hair. I still do. It used to make my mom dizzy and myself as well. There was a time that one of the family’s dear comb broke as my mom combed my hair and I was really sad. My hair, I thought, was an inconvenience.  

Even as an adult, hair care was one of the things that was daunting for me. I never really mastered it. I couldn’t find the right hair products. The right comb. 

In medical school, I had almost, completely stopped washing my hair myself. I would always get it washed and curled there and forget about it for two weeks or so. Then repeat. I got my hair silk pressed a lot.During the lockdown in 2020, I didn’t know what to do with my hair. My mom braided a few times but after that it was completely ruined. I had to cut it when we got to the hair salons again. 

The concept of ‘natural hair’ didn’t really make sense to me. I would say, no one would take me seriously if I do that. What do you even wear with it? 

My worst fear: I am in a heated intellectual argument and I am making good points but my hair is kind of ugly so no one takes me seriously. 

I don’t engage in controversial conversations on my bad hair day, which is quite often to be honest. 

I deeply relate to the monologue Phoebe Waller Bridge so beautifully delivers on Fleabag. 

‘Hair is everything, we wish it wasn't so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is. It's the difference between a good day and a bad day. We're meant to think that it's a symbol of power, that it's a symbol of fertility. Some people are exploited for it and it pays your f***ing bills. Hair is everything.' 

When I came to Rwanda for three months, that was one of my fears. What will I do with my hair? How will I remain important in the serious program if I can’t manage my hair. How will I manage my hair? 

I dreaded the day I washed my silk pressed hair. I was so scared and I kept on trying to prepare everyone for what was to come: beware! Big Ethiopian hair! 

Then I did. Helen helped me arrange it a bit and I went for dinner with my big curly hair which kept on growing by the minute. I was scared. 

But, to my surprise, everyone loved it. Someone even asked me if she could touch it. And I silently watched as the Rwandans and Kenyans talked about how Ethiopians have curly hair like this and how they can’t even dare to let their hair dry without a blow dryer and many things I normally said about my hair. 

I thought. 

A week later, a Kenyan girl was braiding my hair. 

We were outside in this blinding green-ness. And she stood above me, as I sat down, combing my hair and twisting it all the way. 

And she tells me of the styles she had over the years. She tells me about her sister’s hair. And I tell her about my sisters’ hair. 

We even talk deeper things.

Then back to talking about the weather, the country, business and all. 

Then she finds my white hair. And her surprise makes me laugh. (Girl, I have white hair. I have been to medical school). 

She says it is pretty. It reminds me of a friend, one of the people who first saw my white hair. The entire strand is white and it just surprised him. 

It is weird how the very act of her plaiting my hair made me homesick. She kept on saying things people I really love said about my hair.

My hair is big and it just didn’t seem like we would be done soon.And this random Kenyan girl said something my mother used to say to me as she plaited my hair as a child. 

‘It feels like your hair is giving birth’. 

It was my mother’s constant complaint. And I clenched my heart when hearing it again. 

Hair… is mysterious. It carries a lot of our identities as well. The people we love and the cultures we grew up in. The least we can do is love it.

And I do.


Mar 28,2024

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