Loss is Present Continuous

‘Pemi Aguda on Loss

My story of loss is a story of losing. It is a story of the futility of will, and the limitations of drugs against the stubbornness of genetics, of body.

I start to write this story in my head while staring at myself in the mirror, combing Cantu-covered fingers through wet hair. As yet more strands of hair with white bulbs at their roots, which confirm closed follicles, leave my scalp, I know that I want to write about losing hair, the continuous loss of it.

Balding is a word I’ve come to love. Okay, like. It is not a kind word. Like the cold probing instrument in the hands of my trichologist, it zooms in so my scalp resembles a desert on the monitor, and it leaves no place to hide. Balding lacks the soft landing of hair loss, which is gentle in its s-es. As the tongue leaves the upper palate on the second syllable in bal-ding, friends flinch, and you might find yourself recoiling from the widening patches of gleaming smooth scalp.

In losing hair, you will meet your insecurities on the street. You will come nose-to-nose with the monster of your vanity. Your fears will move into the apartment next door with ashy bald heads, ears pressed to the thinning wall, waiting for your next sigh. You might even find yourself shifting to the second-person point of view mid-paragraph. Anything to distance yourself.

I have met the indignities of fighting hair loss. Rubbing onion juice and foul-smelling concoctions on a situation that my mother’s head, my grandmother’s head, and the trichologist’s report tell me won’t change. And yet the irony is that I reacted to expensive Rogaine with a face full of hair so that for the first time in my life I was worried about too much of that furry substance—multiplying on my legs, darkening my arms, lowering my hairline . . .  it grew everywhere but where I wanted it.

I want to say that I’ve found freedom in this losing. Like the woman who empties her savings and travels the world on hearing she has a month left to live, it would be nice to say I’ve gained some irreverence in styling my hair. That I now dye it in a range of colours that would make my mother clutch her heart. But no. Within this stubborn body is still a wishful soul.

In a way, every story of loss is a story of losing; it never ends. Scalp where hair used to be; pillow where a head used to be. But in the roots of the stubbornness of body is also the resilience of body. You will maybe hurt less every day and my hand will rise less and less to my scalp, searching.

I’m losing, but I’m adapting. What I see is that despite the futility of will and the limitation of drugs, adapting is a way for my stubborn body, not yet thirty, to forgive itself for its own shortcomings.

  1. Cantu – Brand of hair care product; conditioner.
  2. Rogaine – Minoxidil; slows hair loss and promotes hair regrowth.

© ‘Pemi Aguda 2017

‘Pemi Aguda writes short stories and flash fiction that have been published here and there. Her short story Caterer, Caterer won the Writivism Short Story Prize 2015. She co-curates the website, Nik-Nak.co

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Soul Food For The Hair

hair-soul-food

My hairdresser arrives my home at 10 a.m., two hours later than I would have preferred.

“My brother, ma,” she begins by way of explanation.

“Happy New Year,” I say, waving her apology aside, my mind on my missing WiFi dongle. 

She arranges her wares on the sofa—combs, hair extensions, conditioner—priority and proximity guiding her placement. I plop my iPad, phones, and a folder on the other sofa, where a full-length mirror sits. Then I sit on a rattan dining chair, facing the sofa so my reflection is visible to me.

“This is how I want my hair to look.” I lift up my iPad for her to see the photo of a model, and then lower it, using my fingers to slide the screen and zoom in on her hair.

“But, she used a different kind of hair extension—”

“Are you sure?” It looks as if they just layered the extensions to get the look—”

“No, the extensions are different.” She points at the photo and then pulls out my hair extensions from the pack to show me.

I sigh, spilling my disappointment around the room. I am not convinced, but she is a hairdresser not a magician. Although I know the photo has been airbrushed to perfection, still, I want the look.

Her hands are gentle as she parts sections of my hair and weaves them into cornrows. She knows all the secrets my full head of hair holds and an easy camaraderie exists between us.

“How have you been?”

She talks about her dream of studying film in Australia, and then tells me about her recent work on the set of a film, how an actress accused her of cutting her hair around the temples.

“Ma,” she says, “can you imagine? Me that my fingers are so light, I’m even afraid of holding hair tight!”

I nod. “So what did you tell her?”

“I was so angry! Hmmm. I didn’t say anything!”

I laugh and she laughs too. It is not odd that she swallows injustice and later regurgitates it to a listening ear. The customer has might and is always right. My validation is the closest thing to fairness that she will get.

“Don’t mind her. Your hand is feather light. I hope she didn’t get you in trouble.”

“No, the director knows I never touch her hairline while styling.”

After she completes the cornrows and starts crocheting extensions on them, I get lost in reading.

“It’s too much,” I remark when I look up to examine her work.

“It’s not too many. You will like it. Just wait and let me finish.”

A good hairdresser deciphers the subconscious desires of her clients. My hairdresser represents the part of me that bucks against conformity with random strands of blond extensions that she calls highlights. I squirm at my reflection because I want conservative hair and I do not want conservative hair. Zig Ziglar says that if people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you. 

When she is done, I turn my head from side to side and smile at the result.

“How much do I owe you?”

We should have set the price before she began and I can insist on the amount I last paid. She looks at the ground before reluctantly meeting my eyes in the mirror.

“Ma, the price has increased because of the recession.”

We both laugh at our intangible exchange. I am proud of her because she has crossed a hurdle. She found the muscle to put her business before the indistinct blend of sisterhood and friendship that we share. I pay the new price without haggling.

She is young and her dreams are tall. I hope she does not one day respond to the vagaries of life with cold cynicism. Her combination of innocence and honesty is increasingly rare.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2017

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For Coloured Girls Only? No, I think not . . .

 

Hair hair

I refused to get into the natural hair “debate” because, because, hmmm . . . , because, the fear of backlash for unnatural hair is the beginning of wisdom! Moreover, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah, is still lying on my bookshelf unread. What can I add to the conversation biko?

My friend wears her hair natural. I wear weaves and extensions on top my relaxed bone-straight hair, but you figured that out already. When we meet,  she oohs over my hair-do and calls me, hot mama. I look at her kinky-do, and say, “You’re gonna kill someone today!” Then we share what we’re doing in our respective spheres to change the world, buying and selling in serious currency—ideas. We talk about the kids, our men, and all the things that went wrong in Grey’s Anatomy. In other words, we revel in our friendship.

I wish this were true with all my natural-hair friendships. With some of them, after “the sermon,” I want to say, “I am not less of an African woman for choosing Brazilian, Indian, Peruvian, or synthetic hair, and I have nothing to prove or disprove. Touch my hair and I’ll touch yours. Oya, let’s be friends who agree to disagree.” But I keep mum. If age has conferred any wisdom on me, it is this: choose your battles wisely; hair may fall or may grow, turn brown or turn grey, but relationships transcend it all.

Nkem Ivara captures some of my sentiments. I won’t reinvent the wheel, I will just hide behind her natural hair . . .

I read a post on one of the natural hair forums on Facebook yesterday. The lady posted some photos of her hair and claimed she had been natural for 36 months. Turns out she started transitioning in September 2012.

Now I realise Maths is not my strong suit but even I noticed the numbers didn’t add up. My first thought was to point out that she has actually been natural for just 24 not 36 months and I was going to say as much when I stopped myself. I stopped because I had visions of all the comments that would follow. Comments that would accuse of me of not being supportive of a fellow natural. Continue here . . .  

So, while I’m at it, I might as well share this: I am tired of this hair, hair, everywhere.

 

Take lemons, make life & jump for joy!

timi

 

 

 

I am Africa and No, You Cannot Touch My Hair

africa woman globe

“Can I touch your hair?”

How did we get to this point? How did this stranger get the nerve to ask this personal question?

You see, I am at the park, with a book I will not read because watching people is so much better. Behind my sunglasses, I can stare for as long as I want. No one will know, so no one will care.

When she arrived with her multi-coloured handbag, wearing a blue dress with little white daisy patterns, underneath a light green sport coat, a bright pink scarf around her neck, and navy tights in brown leather ankle boots, I thought of church on Sundays in Nigeria, the profusion of colours but without the gaiety.

She began looking at me not long after she sat on the bench opposite me, occasional stares, polite stares, with a small smile, the kind that invites conversation. I should have said something; maybe something about the weather, about how annoying it was that the sun chose to play peek-a-boo.  Instead, I averted my gaze. But I could not keep my eyes away because she has earrings all over her face—four earrings on her right ear, two on her left, two on her nose, and one on her lip.

If I did not look back perhaps, she might not have asked. I thought about one fallout of not being native Dutch as she kept staring, her curiosity shining through—being at the mercy of people’s assumptions about why you are here. I see it in their eyes, a self-indulgent kind look that presumes I know how lucky I am to be here, as if I had escaped starvation in Africa by the skin on my bones.

However, I could not dwell on the challenges of immigration. I could not analyse how racial prejudice swings back and forth from citizens to migrants like a bicycle that pedals forward and backward because that was when she walked towards me, looking at my cornrows in wonder as if they were listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

Maak ik uw haar aanraken?”

Ik spreek Engels.”

“Oh, is it your hair?  Please can I touch it? How long…”

I should be used to it. I am. I am not. I am … tired.

She continues to look. Looking is free.

Why have I never asked to touch the hair of any Caucasian woman including those who are my friends? I have a theory. I had many Barbie dolls growing up. I brushed and brushed the rubbery silkiness of their blond hair; twisted it, plaited it, wrapped it, pony-tailed it, cut it, washed it, pulled it, until I was “un”fascinated by it.

“Hello, I’m Africa, and no you may not touch my hair! If you had played with African dolls when you were younger, you would not need to touch my hair.”

The words are at the tip of my tongue, but I do not vocalize them.

How can I? How dare I sound indignant when I remember that some people in Nigeria stare at foreigners as though they have never watched TV? Others ask to touch their skin and there are those who solicit funds with their sad, sad, stories, as if every oyinbo is World Bank, willing to give aid to Africa.

I exhale deeply. “Yes, you may.”

We can recoil from what we do not know, we can pretend we know, or we can seek to know. Maybe understanding will foster peace. Maybe understanding will dispel superstitions. Maybe understanding will reduce stereotypes. Maybe understanding will bring acceptance. What do I know? I close my eyes as she touches my cornrows, lightly, hesitantly, and then with firmer motions as her confidence grows.

my cornrows

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image credit: Woman holding Earth globe by Microsoft

Photo credit: my cornrows © Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Effizzy

Effizzy 1

Since I returned to Nigeria, I seem to be bumping into people I know from the past everywhere I go. It is a delight to cross the initial hurdles, “You look familiar. Which school did you attend? Where do you or did you work?” and finally make the connection.

Somewhere in between catching up and exchanging telephone numbers, they inevitably say something like, “You have not changed a bit; you look just the same!” That remark makes me wonder if they are blind or trying to be kind. Now, I admit that I am colour-blind to the shades of grey that should be painted on the canvas of friendly conversation. Trying to be truthful, but frantically digging into my shallow well of diplomatic graces, I guardedly reply, “Well your face has not really changed either,” forcing my wandering eyes to focus on the face and not the torso that shows telltale signs of a lingering love affair with food.

It is a thrill to hear what they have been up to or what they are currently involved in. I listen in child-like awe as they highlight past achievements, summarize current assignments, and state their aspirations with convincing conviction. If I bump into two or more male acquaintances, I am amused because their antics remind me of a book title I’d seen years ago, My Mercedes is Bigger than Yours. Nevertheless, I marvel at just how well people are getting on with their lives.

My bubble burst when I recounted my various run-ins to friends who were not impressed. “Effizzy, it’s all effizzy,” they replied. Responding to my blank stare, they informed me that effizzy encompasses a wide range of attitudes, mannerisms, and lifestyles that make one appear to be The Jones that others are keeping up with. I disagreed and commented that people have carved niches for themselves in consulting and others have resigned from well-paying jobs to become entrepreneurs.

“Ha!” they scoffed. “I consult for several schools, is effizzy for I take my portfolio round schools and try to convince them to buy my goods.” “I resigned from my job to start my company and we are into telecommunications, oil prospecting, you name it, is effizzy for I almost got fired so I quickly resigned. My office is in my living room and I am trying to swindle any unsuspecting!” I wondered if they were not being too cynical, after all, what is wrong with working hard to score a good impression?

I did not give our effizzy discussion any more thought until recently. I had gone to the salon to have my hair done and a smartly dressed young man introduced himself as the resident trichologist and chief stylist. He reeled off other credentials that I cannot remember and wanted to fix my hair. I declined preferring instead to have my usual stylist.

He commented on my eyebrows, which I had carefully tweezed that morning and thought looked great. He insisted that a beautiful woman like me needed to complete my look by having nicely arched brows. He wondered quite loudly if I had ever had them professionally done. I began to feel small and unsophisticated in this posh salon before this proficient beauty expert. Inwardly praying that he would stop the verbal harassment, which portrayed me as unglamorous, my voice dwindled to a whisper as I maintained that I was happy with my looks.

A few moments later, a client walked in. Mr. Trichologist wowed her with his resume and he proceeded to fix her hair. I was startled from my silent introspection over the arch of my brows by a scream from across the room. The new client was upset with Mr. Trichologist because he had damaged her hair and weave. Mr. Trichologist remained unapologetic while insisting that he knew what he was doing.

As I gazed at her over-processed, nearly burnt tresses, two words floated from my subconscious: articulate incompetent, oh I mean, effizzy!

Timi Yeseibo © 2009

image design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

On Getting Older

I am getting older and I do not mind. I have embraced my age. I do not want to be a tottering teenager again, watching my father scrutinize my list of provisions and wondering what his response “okay, I’ve seen it,” means.

I am pragmatic. A few years ago, I folded my wedding gown and put it in my bottom box. It seems like a small thing now, but it was not at the time. My dream of slimming down enough to wear my wedding dress after life and children, died that day—I embraced the truth about getting older and weight. I have a sister who can probably still fit into her wedding dress; she distorts my theory. Are we not sisters, from the same mother, no less? Why did she have to have all the slim genes? I digress; this is about getting older! All my highs and lows have made me the woman I am and am becoming. Yes, I embrace my age. It is the greying that I have not fully understood.

When a few years ago I asked my hairdresser for a shampoo to tackle the dandruff that caused the persistent itching in the middle of my hair, she told me that dandruff was not the culprit. “You have so much grey hair there; that’s what causes the itching.” Information overload (amebo); who asked her?

Nevertheless, when I got home, I parted my crown of glory in the middle. And there, standing tall like irokos, streaks of lightning amid my black sky. I pulled a handful, twirling them around my fingers. When and how did they get there? Thankfully, they did not march forward from their hideaway; however, their strategy to gain new territory caught me unawares. Stealthy warriors, overnight, they appeared at the hairline around my temples. Aha, my hairdresser styled my hair with side parting and we won that war. The last time I was in the salon, we struggled to decide which “side” to part the hair. “We will soon have to resort to centre-parting,” she said after grave contemplation.

When the first few grey strands appeared on my eyebrows, my tweezers came to the rescue. And so it was that I was plucking a strand or two from my eyebrows the Saturday before Easter, when I saw it. Grey hair had sprung up in places I did not know they would or could grow—in crevices that my mother did not tell me about! But this? Haba! How far? A grey eyelash? You’ve got to be kidding!

I moved my mirror to catch the natural light from the sun. There it was—not ashamed of standing out in the row of black and as long as its fellow lashes. Is this what it means to get older? Accepting with equanimity the things you can’t control? I went to the shops to find a solution.  I smiled when I saw jet-black mascara. Who knew that black had different shades? I am older, and I will change the things I can, one grey eyelash at a time!

shades of black

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

images ©Timi Yeseibo 2013; photography: Sam Bird & Timi Yeseibo

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.