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Struggle Hair

If you have it, then you know what I am talking about. IT is also known as ethnic hair.

It is known as struggle hair because one, you struggle with it, and two, we did not make it out of apartheid to be left with the burden of the past on our heads. We are better than that. Women who have weaves may also be familiar with a struggle hairline, but I don’t feel adequately qualified to delve into that. This is, of course, not to be confused with my receding hairline, but let’s not go there right now.

Women don’t seem to understand that men struggle as hard as they do to find a good hairdresser. I believe that the salon is a popular place for catching up on gossip. Well, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I want a barber who shuts the hell up. I want to sit down, get my mop to a point where I won’t be given loose change when I bend down to tie my shoes. It has also been referred to as Chewbacca’s Pubes. 2004 was not a good year for me.

I recently found the perfect barber who would lift me out of the struggle and liberate me from the depths of my firm locks. He was older and had this little setup in the shed in his backyard. Best of all, he hardly said a word, except to comment on the irony of having a president opposed to rape. Again, I refuse to delve into that.

Unfortunately I shared this man with my ex (yes, I realise it sounds appropriate. No, I shan’t change it). Now I feel like it’s inappropriate to go there. He got hair whiz kid, or adult, in the custody hearing and I’m still struggling with struggle hair.

The problem is that my previous barber would yap on forever, and at one point, I swear he cut my hair twice in the same session, just so he could finish his story. I had hair falling down around my face and he kept asking me questions. For those of you who don’t know, you have to answer or nod or shake your head. He was not asking questions which warranted a yes/no reply. When he started speaking about his workout regime I was so close to running out screaming that I realised that a half-cut head of hair would get me even more judgment that a lunatic rant.

So the question remains, why do we care about hair? It has been the stuff of endless exposes on SA television, yet no one seems to be able to explain why it’s such a hot button issue.

My best bet is the link to culture and race. We associate certain traits so strongly with culture and race that we cannot undo them in our thinking. My friends who have dreadlocks are inevitably approached by marijuana smokers with a fist bump and a greeting of “Irie”, leaving the friends dumbfounded.

Recently at a talk at the Human Sciences Research Council, a colleague spoke about how her sister was scolded by a teacher for having an afro. The teacher, it turns out, was also a Xhosa woman, which infuriated this woman who could not understand how it was a problem. This reminded me of my own school going days when the rule book gave clear instructions on the length of boys’ hair. There was even a diagram which the amounts of centimetres that was allowed above the ear, in the neck and the fringe. I didn’t realise at the time, but I would have any of these concerns: my hair grows up.

Even though I never grew my struggle hair longer than a few centimetres, I never contested this rule book and the fact that it had not caught up with me yet. Society seems to have too many ideas about what is accepted and decent. It seems that we have a lot of catching up to do with our open mindedness, the rule books will follow. Meanwhile I still struggle to find a good barber to tame my nest.

Having hair is a struggle, especially mine.



<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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