Why I will NOT do your hair

Back in the good old days when I had a full head of long, happy, mature locs, I used to do my own hair. I had my locs started by a loctician, but I quickly figured out how to wash and retwist them myself ($65 every two weeks is one helluva incentive to figure it out). It's not rocket science and locticians aren't doing anything fancy in a basic loc grooming appointment. I would reserve my trips to the loctician for color and trims, and maybe the occasional special occasion style. After awhile I started to figure out how to do more than just retwisting and loc grooming. I read discussion forums and watched YouTube tutorials (Shawnta715 has some good ones) and just started playing in my locs. Roller sets, crinkles, flat twists, up-dos....I taught myself to do all that. Because my hair was hardly ever worn straight down the way most people are used to seeing locs, I would get tons of compliments with people asking who my stylist was. They were astounded when I said I did my own hair.

And then the dreaded (no pun intended) question would inevitably follow from any guy (and a few women) who himself had locs: "Can you do my hair??" I've always seen it as a lame attempt at a pick up line, but even if it's not and you really just want need someone to do your hair, the answer is still the same: NO.

And here is why:

1. I don't KNOW you!! I'm not about to be all up in your house or have you all up in mine doing your hair! I don't know what sinister plans you may have for me at your place, or whether you'd believe that the lame pick up line actually worked and assume that I'd accept payment in sexual favors. I'm really not cool with just anybody knowing where I live either. I have stranger danger, and that's just.....no. McGruff the Crime Dog would be disappointed.

2. Whatever you're gonna pay me isn't worth it. There's an element of economies of scale with stylists. They are getting $50+ per head all day, every day. They have all their supplies there and ready to go. And in bulk. I would have to take time to go to your house (but see #1), bring all my products (because obviously if you are needing someone else to do your hair, you don't have much by way of your own), and work with some ill equipped bath tub or shower (I have a WaterPik.... it's great, but still not a shampoo bowl), which is way more time and hassle than the average stylist who is set up to do hair. Add to that the fact that you will probably want a hook-up on the price, and after all that $40 just wouldn't be worth my time.

3. I only deal with the dirt of people I love. Being that you don't know how to groom your own hair, I would be willing to guess that it doesn't get done as regularly as it should. And by regularly, in my world that's once a week to every 1.5 weeks. Washed, oiled, retwisted, everything. I have a 15 year old son who plays football and lives with his dad, so I've seen (and smelled) what neglected locs are like (as much as I'm on him about doing his own hair regularly). I will get down and dirty and use some elbow grease (and clarifying shampoo) to get all the dirt and buildup out of my kids' hair, but I birthed them and have been dealing with their disgustingness for 15 years (diapers, puke, sweaty uniforms, etc.) Yours.... um, not so much.

4. Doing hair is kind of.... well.... intimate. My weakness.... the thing that will have my knees weak and, um.... well yea..... is for someone to play in my hair. There is nothing like a good scalp massage. Stylists are different because they tend to be very business-like with their hands (i.e. heavy handed) even though it still feels good. But when I do hair, I have to get a little more involved in the process because this isn't just another day at the office for me. First of all, think about washing.... I don't know too many people with a shampoo bowl in their house (except for my friend's momma who still did curls for those who just couldn't let go), which means that I have to be leaned over the tub scrubbing locs (because, see # 3 above, it probably needs it). I'm not too comfortable with having my DDs hanging 5 inches above your head for 20 minutes while I wash your hair (even though you might be). Plus it makes my back hurt, so add that to # 2 above. Then the retwisting..... keep in mind I've been doing my kids' locs for 5 years, and for 5 years my goal has been to cause the least amount of pain (i.e. crying) as possible. No matter how frustrated I get, doing their hair has always been approached as a labor of love. And for that reason I only do the hair of people I care about, because I really have no other motivation.

5. There's a mirror image problem. This particularly is an issue when doing styles (which are most often requested by women). Styling my locs with my hands above my head while looking in a mirror is a totally different thing from doing a style with someone sitting in front of me. My hands, arms and eyes are used to seeing and feeling my hair in a certain way. The different approach is disorienting and it just doesn't come out the same. I can throw some flat twists in my hair in 5 minutes, but doing the same thing to my daughter's locs takes a bit more effort. I would hate for someone to come to me thinking they are gonna get the same style they see on my head and end up with some travesty of a style instead.

So what's the lesson here, loved ones? Just because a person has locs does not mean we do locs. Stylists chose that profession for a reason, and on the flip side I did not choose it for a reason. So if you ask if I can do your hair and I hesitate or outright say no (my usual response is "I only do my and my kids' hair... that's enough"), don't take it personal. Unless you are my friend-- and a good friend at that-- do not ask me to do your hair. And even in that case, see # 4 above.

Really, what everyone with locs should do is learn how to do them yourself. It's not mission impossible. Locticians aren't doing anything magical up there. Twist and clip, that's basically all it is (maybe I'll give you a step-by-step blog post later). I did the equivalent of throwing my son in the swimming pool by refusing to do his hair again until he learned how to do it himself, and eventually he did (and I agreed to do his hair for him again, but now he can keep it up in between seeing me). In this economy it would behoove you to take an evening, pull up a YouTube tutorial and just try it. That way when you have that extra sweaty workout, or walk through that raging dust storm, or want to go swimming, you don't have to wait til your next appointment and drop $75 to get your hair back looking right. Then eventually random people in the mall will be asking you to do their hair, too.


And so it begins..... again

That's it....I couldn't take it anymore. I desperately miss my locs. Yes, that first set had to go, and I'd had all intentions to "enjoy" my un-loc'd hair... the curls, the two-strand twists, the afro puffs. But I've come to the conclusion that I hate doing my hair every morning locs are just more.... Me.

I went to a new loctician/natural hair stylist this time named Eboni. For reasons I'm not going to go into here, going to my old stylist just wasn't in the stars (but mainly because he never responded to my messages). It's cool because it fits with this whole notion of "change" and I'd seen Eboni's work on one of my good friends, plus she did my daughter's locs (my stylist wouldn't do kids' hair). I had her start them smaller this time and she did them perfectly... the size seems to conform much better to my natural curl pattern and (so far) seems to stay better. I'm still taken aback from time to time when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror because it's just so short.... the shortest it's been in over a decade. But.... oh well. It's hair. It'll grow back.

So for anyone out there who has ever been curious as to how locs "work", I'll enlighten you with a few of the basics of the loc cultivation process:

1) You don't have to "do" anything to locs to create them.

One of the most common questions I used to get was "how do you get your hair to do that??" The simple answer is... nothing. Locking is a completely natural process in which the curls of the hair intertwine with each other over time to form locs. If all you did was simply quit combing your hair, you would eventually end up with locs (albeit rather lumpy and uneven locs, better known as "freeform" locs). Yes, I go to a loctician for the initial twisting to form the base pattern for the locs, but after that it's all about time and proper care. Retwisting and palm rolling are grooming techniques, NOT locking techniques. You may do a search for locking techniques and come across sites that talk about backcombing and such.... this is NOT for black hair. Locs on caucasian hair (or any other extremely fine hair texture) is a totally different thing. Black hair locs on its own.

2) People with "good hair" have locs, too.

In the month since I took my locs down, I've been telling people that I eventually planned to start another set. The response across the board has been "Whyyyy?? Your hair is so PRETTY!" or, the response that makes me cringe, "Girl, you've got that 'good hair' why would you want to loc it?" (the term "good hair" makes me see red). When I went to my appointment, Eboni tried to talk me out of starting my locs, even jokingly refusing to twist my hair. Yes, coarser hair textures tend to loc easier.... in fact, that's the main reason I started my daughter's locs, because combing her hair was torture (for us both). But locs aren't just a last resort for those who are happy to be extra nappy. But "good hair" will loc, too. It may take a little more patience, but that aspect actually appeals to me. Everything worth having is worth working and waiting for.

3) Locs can (and should) be washed..... but just not at first.

This is my least favorite part of the locking process. I'm used to washing my hair at least every 3 or 4 days. Eboni said not to wash my hair for the next 2 MONTHS, meaning basically I can't wash my hair until 2010. Not to get all Mr. Wizard on you, but water breaks the molecular bonds between strands of hair. This is why curls (and presses) die in humidity and rain. When locking, you want those strands of hair to stay as close and intimate as possible until they start to intertwine and tangle together. Before you say "ewwwwwww!" let me stress that not washing does not mean not cleaning. During those initial few weeks (and in between periodic washings) the scalp should be thoroughly cleaned with an astringent like SeaBreeze.

(Tip: if your boo-thang has locs, sitting and helping them SeaBreeze their scalp is a great way to ensure that your night ends happily. Trust me.)

4) When it comes to products, more is less.

You don't need any products to form locs. It's very common for new loc-ees to get excited and join all kinds of forums where people are telling you to try this product and that product, and before you know it you're a product junkie. People will espouse to using bees wax or pomades or gels that are supposedly designed to form locs.... wholly unnecessary. Not only will this stuff build up in your locs, but it also attracts dirt. Think about what happens when you spill something sticky on the floor and don't clean it up all the way. You know how that spot gets dirtier than the rest of the floor? Yea, same concept. This was one big eff up that I made with my first set of locs. I used way too much Organic Root Stimulator Loc 'n Twist gel, noticed it was building up, then tried a regimen to remove the buildup. Well, in the process I basically removed the budding locs.... or rather, the buds (the part that starts to tangle) came unraveled and slid down the locs, making them lumpy and uneven. Eventually they looked ok, but my hair never really recovered from that initial screw up and they were always lumpy in some places.

Basically all you need is a light oil (shea butter or olive oil based oils are good, as well as a few others), water and some setting lotion. The only product I might recommend is the ORS Loc 'n Twist gel, but even this should be used very sparingly. Run your finger over the surface of the gel to put just a thin coating on your fingertip. Again, I will stress.... locs form on their own. The products do NOT form the locs, just groom them.

5) The main key to locs is patience.

There is no way to speed up the locking process. It's all about time. It takes at least 9 months to a year for locs to form, and even after that they continue to mature and firm up. The locking process starts about an inch or two from the root with "budding". Small masses of tangled hair start to form that look like... well.... buds (yes, those types of buds). These buds continue to extend down the loc as the hair further intertwines and the locs mature. If you want to read about the 5 stages of locking, you can find a good blog post here. For me, locs are a labor of love, and it's something that many people admire but few have the patience to actually do.

So, ready to see the beginning of my new crown? *drumroll*

*claps hands excitedly* (and yes, that is my kung fu uniform, and yes, they actually held up pretty well through my workout)

So there it is. I'll keep you periodically posted and updated on the progress (for anyone who's ever wanted to know how all this works). With my first set of locs I had a whole blog dedicated to my loc journey. I think it's gone now, though.... it may be some poor abandoned zombie blog out there in the blogosphere.


The Aftermath: Life Without Locs

A few weeks ago when I decided to lop off my locs, there was one teeny tiny consideration that I didn't fully think about: I actually have to do my hair everyday now. For seven years all I basically had to do to my hair every morning was take off the scarf. Anything elaborate or time consuming was usually done the night (or several days) before....the most I'd ever have to do is unbraid/untwist/unroll it. Even when I'd forget to tie a scarf on it, I'd still wake up looking presentable, which was great during those times when I needed to rush out real quick or be an early morning vixen.

But now..... entirely different scenario. I actually have to DO my hair. I've been told I have that "good hair" (which makes me cringe every time someone says that and restrain myself from hopping up on my natural hair soap box) which basically means I wet my hair, throw in some curl defining gel (mixed with some good ole Ampro Clear Ice for hold and shake. Voila! Little ringlett curls. Which are nice and all. But it's getting to be winter time, meaning that I'm perpetually leaving the house with wet hair, and my inner mommy is screaming at me to 1) not do this so I don't catch pneumonia, and 2) put a hat on, but the hat will mess up the still drying curls and get all wet and gross from the gel. Ok, so you say blowdry it first..... but then I'm still left with the hat hair problem. Then I hate the fact that I have all this product in my hair that I have to wash out all the time and how it makes my hands sticky. I miss one tub of Loc n Twist Gel lasting me 6 months.

At night, I either have to wear a scarf to bed (very un-sexy) still with no guarantee that it will look like much of anything when I wake up in the morning, and if I don't I wake up looking like Buckwheat and Darla's long lost love child. Sure the ringlett curls are nice during the day, but at night it's just another lopsided fro. No more sexily pushing my locs out of my face or running my fingers through them.... now I'm just trying to smash it down into some half way presentable shape so my dude doesn't feel like he's waking up next to Don King. And if there was any wild rumpusing going on the night before.... forget about it. It's definitely NOT looking good.

I have rediscovered the two-strand twist as a way of styling my hair, either wearing the twists or untwisting them into crinkles. That seems to be a little more lasting (for 2 or 3 days anyway) and slightly more rumpus-proof, but not totally because of this "good hair" problem which makes my hair not quite coarse enough to keep its hold. But now I'm back to the same problem that lead me to loc my hair in the first place..... two strand twisting is so effing TIME CONSUMING! I spend at LEAST two hours on it, whereas retwisting my locs took all of about 30 minutes and lasted at least a week (even factoring in rumpusing). However, I haven't tested out its ability to withstand martial arts (twists yes, crinkles no), which I have a feeling is going to totally destroy any two-strand twist induced style from all the sweating.

Ok, loved ones..... this was merely a rant. I'm not trying to discourage ANYONE from going natural, because at the end of the day I'm still doing a HELLUVA lot less than what I had to go through when I had a perm. I love being able to wash my hair whenever I want to and not have to plan out a block of time to wash, dry, straighten, curl, etc. I love the fact that my hair isn't damaged and breaking off due to heat and chemicals. I love that I can walk in the rain, go on water rides, and go swimming without fear of the water's effect on my hours of work spent pressing it out.

(Sidenote: That the thing I never really understood about perms. You STILL have to press it with heat!! Sheesh.....)

All I'm saying is..... I miss my locs. A lot. And this just further demonstrates and reiterates what a sacrifice (in the killing goats on an alter sense) that was for me. I don't regret doing it, but I'm looking forward to the day when I can get twisted back up.

And then that's going to be a whole 'nother long difficult process......