X is for X-pressions
Hair, for me, is a form of self-expression. My hair can tell you when I'm frustrated, tired, sick, sad, angry, happy, and when I feel like it’s just me against the world. Working with hair therefore requires a lot of imagination and crisis resolution, because sometimes your hair may not say what you want it to. This imagination is necessary in a place like Kenyon which — quite frankly — does not have a lot of resources available to support a varied amount of self-expression with hair. I've heard that a lot of people go to the Walmart in Mount Vernon to get their hair trimmed, but the hair stylists there did not know a thing about afro-textured hair when I paid them a visit.
Before I got my big chop, I had to call several hair salons until I located one in the Mansfield area. They charged me nearly $50 to cut off my straight ends! The experience scarred me so much that I quickly invested in a pair of hair shears (and watched a lot of YouTube videos) to trim the rest of my straight ends myself. The tiny downside to that is, now that my hair is a lot longer, it’s a little uneven from the self-inflicted trimming episodes. However, the knowledge I've gained from watching YouTube celebrities like Naptural85, Jouelzy, My Natural Sisters and Breana Rutter has enabled me to truly enjoy taking matters into my own hands.
I always tell my natural sisters here that the advantage of being at a school like Kenyon is that no one else can tell that you're still in the process of figuring it out. I've had (kind) people walk up to me — on days that the Lord knows my hair was on a ratchet streak — and tell me how gorgeous I looked. In a way, the lack of a more prominent African/African American representation takes away the pressure of getting your hair did for the sake of always looking "fly." A lot of my friends here get their hair done in braids mainly to protect their hair from constant manipulation and from the climate. I mean, it was -3 degrees Celsius when I woke up this morning. Who wouldn't want to protect their hair from that?
In my time at Kenyon, I've failed at twist outs, excelled at twist outs, gone to the dining hall with half of my hair straightened, walked around campus for weeks with my hair half-braided or half-twisted, spent countless hours poring over YouTube videos, discovered styles that fit me and styles that irritate me, and built strong friendships with people over conversations about hair. I've been able to learn more about myself throughout this hair journey, and this has deepened both my love for my hair and for myself, even on the ratchet hair days. One can say that I've truly enjoyed being a part of the strong culture of acceptance here that allows you to really figure out who you are.
And, as senior year winds down, I've resorted to consoling myself with the idea that if college doesn’t work out, there's always cosmetology school. With all my experience with hair (or shall I say, hairxperience), I could easy transition to the salon specialist life. However, at Kenyon, I'm not motivated by the thought of a monetary reward for styling someone's hair. I do it because I love working with hair, I like to figure things out with other people and I love to try new ways of doing things. (Additionally, as an international student, I can not legally accept payment for my services.) My clients supply my materials and reward me for my efforts with hugs and a small donation to a charity of their choice. I'm glad that I have been able to turn the lack of salons here into a skill that could prove to be very profitable for me in the future (if this whole college thing fails).
Here are a few of the styles I've rocked in the past two years:
Cornrows (with extensions)
Perm rod set: