This post is long overdue!
My biggest insecurity is my hair and if I wasn’t so insecure about it, you would have read this post a long time ago.
In primary school I was a star student and by star student, I mean I aced all my tests and exams without even trying. My parents never paid for extra lessons and I had exactly the textbooks I needed, nothing more; still, I managed to come top of my class year after year. I soon became popular as one of the top students of the school and naturally teachers paid a little more interest in me. As a result of this interest, one unremarkable day, after handing out our test scripts on which I had scored the highest mark, the class teacher had said to me in front of the classroom
“God made up for your looks by giving you that brain”.
I was 7 years old.
I like to say that I grew up a normal child because it seems like the reasonable thing to say. I like to assume that everyone has had their insecurity and challenges throughout their lives that they’ve constantly had to deal with. Therefore, I grew up a normal child and I had my fare share of challenges.
Since I could identity myself in the mirror, I’ve been painfully aware of the fact that my hair didn’t look like everybody else’s. Most parts of my head bore normal healthy hair, but the front….. is bald in a really really weird way. It’s like someone took my head and carved out another hair line behind my original line such that when you look at my hair, all you see is a distinct hairless line across the front that shines. So there’s a little hair, a bald line, then lots of hair. You’re probably making a face. It’s fine. I make faces at my hair too.
When I got to junior secondary school, “What happened to your front hair?” became the most common statement people made to me. They couldn’t understand why a young girl would have the hair of an old woman and I don’t blame them. I didn’t understand it either. As was becoming the norm, I became popular in this new school. Partially because I was known as the intelligent student who read the news at the assembly every monday and partially because I was friends with the most beautiful girl in the school; Isabel. Isabel and I were both in the dance club and partook in all choreographies (is this a word?) together. The senior boys all fought to date her and her flow of love letters was unending. As you can guess, I was the ugly best friend. Don’t get me wrong, I owned that position with my chest. I gave her advice on boys and sometimes helped with school work. Everything was dandy. Until one day, when a classmate whom I’d never really spoken to, came to tell me that another classmate (a girl) had said to him about me
“Why is she friends with Isabel? Does she not know that Isabel is beautiful? With her hair that looks like rat ate it”
I was 11 years old.
For the first time in my life, I cried myself to a headache. Getting paracetamol from the sick bay was extremely embarrassing because when the nurse asked why I’d been crying, I broke down into a fresh stream of tears.
Perhaps the weirdest part of my “partially bald” hair story is that I come from a good hair family. My mother used to come visit me when I was in boarding house and she was known as the lady with the golden hair. Yes. Her hair was literally golden. My sister cuts her hair whenever she pleases because in a few months,it always grows back into a full head of hair. Even my brothers and father walk around sporting full heads of hair and matching beard. So what went wrong?
After Junior secondary school, I transferred to a boarding house and I was getting used to the stares and questions. I told people the truth; which was that nothing happened to my hair. I was born normal and started to grow abnormal hair. I don’t even know what my face would look like with a full head of hair because I’ve never had one. My answers satisfied them and they got used to me. Soon enough, I gained popularity for winning essay competitions and leading my school to the debate championship in Abuja; just like that, I became the headgirl. The most self-conscious, insecure, reserved girl suddenly became in charge of controlling other students! It was hilarious! On an unrelated note, the school re-branded all its uniforms and we went from wearing normal berets to wearing a sailors cap (the kind that runs from the front of your head to the back). I sucked at everything “head-girly” and the juniors were never eager to follow my orders because let’s be real, I was scared of them! One Saturday, the school called me to be present at the commissioning of the new computer library and while we waited for the representative from the ministry, Mrs Akin, the house mistress of “ogun house” adjusted my sailors cap and said
“Our special head girl. We had to make a special cap for everyone just to cover your front hair”
I was 15 years old.
I got to the university and something weird happened. I began to see myself as beautiful and so did everyone else. It was the strangest thing ever. I looked into the mirror one day and said “wow! I’m beautiful”. I didn’t know what to blame it on. Puberty? Hormones? My curves? My beautiful teeth? My smile? My walk? I don’t know! And I still don’t know what changed. I was still insecure about my hair and immediately I removed a weave, I installed another one immediately in the salon. People rarely ever saw me with my natural hair. Many people haven’t.
One day, I was sitting in my friends room reading a novel and I overheard her roommate say to her “Igbo girls aren’t really beautiful”. Naturally I became defensive and said “Don’t say that. Igbo girls are extremely beautiful”. She looked at me and said
“But you’re igbo and you aren’t beautiful”
I was 17 years old.
I finally got the courage to tell you about my insecurity today because I just loosened a 2- week old braid and my scalp suffered severe damages. It cut, sorry, uprooted my damaged hair even more and when I looked in the mirror at that glowing line of baldness, I cried a little.
I didn’t know where to begin and I must admit I haven’t told you half the stuff on my mind tonight because I’m a bit disoriented . Would you understand if I told you I don’t go to hairdressers because I’m tired of getting advice on products that I’ve already used? Would you understand if I told you that my mother used to always ask me kindly, if I was cutting my hair myself with a blade because it was always looking worse? Would you understand if I told you that I’ve always been told to make “special hairstyles” that could “cover up my front hair”? Would you understand if I told you that I am the most confident woman I know until I take off my wig? Would you understand why something as fickle as hair could bother me so?
I’m 20 years old.
and still insecure ….
What’s your biggest insecurity? Please leave a comment!