A picture of the close crop...pre copper colour. I was going to revise this, but nah. Here it is as written (to date by hairstyle,ten years ago)

Hair - The word conjures images of Rapunzel's flowing tresses, long locks, crowns and coils of dreadlocks, coloured punk Mohawks.

India Arie sings "I am not my hair" but many women would disagree. Women of all types have hair issues and like skin colour, having ‘good hair' as opposed to ‘nappy roots' is a real means of separation among women of colour.

When the Black Power movement hit in the seventies the issue of whether you pressed or relaxed your crown, whether your Afro was a style statement or an ideological proclamation, was a point of contention. People would stop you on the street and ask. A look back at the fabulous eighties will inevitably lead to talk of Jheri curls, and the attendant rag necessary to mop up the activator.

Thirty years after Black Power, we have come back to a place where women are seeing natural hair, short hair, and no hair as options. When you walk into the bank and your teller has cornrows, you might not be sure what's going down, but you know that something is happening. And it would also seem from casual observation that more teenagers find natural hair to be an option now. Back in the day, when you passed for ‘big school' you relaxed your hair. The same casual observation seems to reveal more men with longer hair as well, but more on that in another place...

Women will tell you that they relax their hair because their natural hair is difficult to manage, they can't do anything with it, it's just too hard or it doesn't look good without relaxer. They know (and will be less likely to say) that the life of a woman with chemically treated hair requires dedication, commitment and a sizable chunk of funds. Pantene hair doesn't ‘just happen' and doesn't involve only Pantene. Be very clear that I'm not advocating heading to the barber and shearing off your crown, Empress. I'm just taking a look at the treadmill we can put ourselves on.

Typically, to maintain a straight look, hair needs to be relaxed every six weeks. More frequently makes the hair over processed and weak. Any less means unless hair grows slowly or fairly straight, your curly roots will begin to be noticeable. You don't want noticeable roots. This is why you are straightening in the first place.

Talking about relaxer, I have yet to find someone who finds the process of straightening hair relaxing. Washing may be relaxing. There may even

be that odd duck who enjoys time under the drier. But actual application of about a misnomer.

To return to the schedule: straighten every six weeks. The first week after hair is relaxed it cannot be wet. Scratch impromptu trips to the beach or vigorous exercise. The first hint of rain or spray will cause instinctive covering of relaxed heads. The week before it is to be relaxed you shouldn't wash either. Irritation of the scalp or not enough oil at the base of the hair can make the application of straightener a painful process, even if the hairdresser bases the scalp properly.

In between processing, relaxed hair needs to be steamed to ensure that there is enough moisture on the treated tresses, to prevent them from looking like so much chaff blowing in the breeze. Some women steam at home, but for many of us this requires a trip to the hairdresser every week or every other week.

That's the basic maintenance covered. If one would like to do something extraordinary, jogging or swimming perhaps, one will need to wash the hair between steams. It will then need to be set. Straightened hair by and large cannot simply be left to air dry, unless the desired effect is an Edward Scissorhands interpretation. One must wrap, blow dry or set hair to ensure it dries straight and smooth. This involves various devices - rollers of all types, blow driers, hood hair driers, or one can opt for yet another visit to the hairdresser.

A good hairdresser is one person you do not want to fall out with. Not at all. You do not want the person standing at your back with various chemicals, sharp or hot objects annoyed with you.

The trouble about hairdressers, however magical their touch, however proficient their styling and careful their scheduling, is that there will come a day when the hairdresser is not at the shop. This will be the day that you have some do or die meeting, a wedding, company function or hot date to go to. While you may not be you hair, whenever this day arrives, you will rue it.

Natural hair comes with its own attendant issues. I used to twist my hair myself and dreaded the eight hours it took every time. I've recently arrived at a short, processed resolution that suits my style and my life like hair down my back never did. I can decide to go to the beach, and don't have to worry about needing three hours and an electrical outlet between that and going to a nice dinner. No curlers means more space in my travelling bags (though I'm not sure what I'll find to jettison now after I shop).

I am experiencing some withdrawal from my salon time and have found myself just popping in to say hi! They know me there. They've seen my head in states that defy explanation, understanding and sometimes apparently, the basic laws of physics.

I don't know how long this ‘do will do me for. I don't know that it matters. Maybe I'll decide to rock a Diana Ross-esque Judette Coward ‘fro. Or I might decide to release my inner empress and let my royal locks reign untempered, but who knows.

Does it matter? Am I my hair?

As for Rapunzel, she should have sent Prince Charming for an extendable ladder. Let down meh hair? Yuh mad or what!

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