Hair Apparent

Confession of the Week: My last haircut (drum roll, please) was October 2, 2008.

My sister Barbie was getting married in the fall of ‘08. That was my reason for getting my haircut. I am one of those people who need a reason, a purpose or an event to prompt me to get a haircut. I had only seven days until the wedding and there was no time to schedule with a salon. So I drove to my friend’s (she’s asked for anonymity) house to let her snip away at my curly brunette, shoulder-length locks with her scissors. She snipped me right into a cute bob that framed my face—just beneath my ear lobes. I really loved it and she did a great job, but that was it—my last encounter with a hairstyle.

Sade in the dayYou should know that as a teenager it was my desire to replicate the image of Nigerian-British songstress Sade (shah-DAY), with her fabulously slicked back and smooth ponytail—she was and still is very much like her famous 1984 song, a “Smooth Operator.” So when I was in high school I would slick back my hair and never let a strand fall out of place. To this day, I still wear my hair in that style. Old habits are hard to break.

However, I’d like to break my habit of a humdrum hair routine, or lack thereof and try hard not to pass it along to my daughter, Marissa, who turned 10 over the weekend. She is a girl’s girl—hopefully not an heir apparent to my hairstyle ways. Unless I make a fundamental change in the situation, Marissa can’t be displaced from inheriting them. Lucky for her I have made a change and I took the first step to giving her the experience of what it means to get a haircut: To sit in the hair dresser’s swivel chair, to feel the drop of the cape cascading over her shoulders and to feel the relaxing touch of a stylist doing what they do best—creating a “do.” I made her first hairstyle appointment at Okapi, an authentic African braiding salon in East Liberty last week to transform her five little pony tails into a fresh new braided style called double-strand twists (take a strand of hair —the size of yarn—in each hand and twist them around each other).

Correction, this was Marissa’s second visit to the hair salon (her first visit came at the same time of my last visit in October ’08 in preparation for her Aunt Barbie’s wedding). And to have an Aunt Barbie with My best Sade impression. (Photo by Becky  Thurner Braddock.)the namesake of her favorite doll—Barbie—is a very cool thing to Marissa. She has loved her collection of Barbie dolls, created over the years from birthdays and Christmases. We’ve done their hair together, hours on end. There’s something therapeutic about the brushing and pinning and just spending time with your little girl, planting “roots” of fond memories.

The memory of her sitting in the chair at Okapi will always be kept as a crowning achievement for me as a mother who never ventures into a salon. I’m just a few seats away from Marissa as she sits in her swivel chair, draped in a leopard print cape, hair puffed out and full in the front (where it’s not yet been braided) and starting to see a few twists falling along the back of her neck. I have carrot sticks, apple juice and Doritos stashed in my bag for her in case she should feel faint (double-strand twists take 4 hours to style). African music is playing; the hairdressers are wearing two-piece garments in bright hues of purple and lime, with head wraps neatly tucked around their foreheads. One patron looks up from her chair and says to me, “Your daughter looks just like you.” I smile back at the kind woman; but I am distracted by the receptionist who has just handed me my bill for the twists. A thought bubble pops up above my slicked-back head of hair which reads: “If that look is a look of disbelief and shock that this hairstyle is costing me eighty-dollars (plus tip), then YES my daughter looks just like me.”

I had to pony up with the payment. Needless, to say October 2018 might be the next time I’ll be able to afford another haircut. Hey, anonymous friend? Got those scissors?

Visit Okapi, 5968 Baum Blvd, East Liberty; 412/361-6527.