Eliza In General

Studs & Fishtails: Five Things I Learned in the Braid Shop

This all started when I chopped all of my hair off on a random ass Saturday afternoon.

I was in the middle of revising BrewGirl and got caught up in a vicious, VICIOUS bout of writer’s block.  Not only were my characters not speaking to each other, but my two kids were running around being kids and my husband was in the garage doing whatever it is that cool dads do in the garage on the weekend.

Probably this…

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In short, I was unsupervised and that’s never a good idea.

I decided to detach myself from my laptop, hoping that would help to get the creative juices flowing again.  Heading into the bathroom, I passed my reflection in the mirror and…yo, can I be honest? My shoulder-length natural curls were a fucking mess.  I’m certain the cure for herpes, AIDS, and whatever other diseases a Z-Pack of antibiotics won’t fix was nestled somewhere in my naps.  I had dust bunnies, tumbleweed, and assorted small creatures living in my hair.

Because what they don’t tell you about being a writer is how lazy you get.  Like, drop something on the floor and don’t pick it up for four days-lazy. It’s like when people without kids say to no one in particular, “Man, I’m tired,” and then some bitter ass mother of three screams, “AW, BITCH! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TIRED IS!”  Bitter Ass Mother of Three’s right, though.  Condescending, but right.  In turn, I am that mother when someone self-effacingly calls themselves lazy.  Construct the lives of make-believe people and have them invade your brain for months on end, causing you to lose sleep.  Not to mention the drafts and the sidechick reading you have to do while you write your own book (because Stephen King Sez writers read or they aren’t truly writers or something of that nature). Then turn around and try to do other stuff? Nope.  I’ll be sitting on this couch reading Jackie Collins while I occupy the recesses of my mind with thoughts about how much my first draft sucks, thankyouverymuch.

So yeah, being an author takes my Fuck Effort stock through the roof. Before I started writing, washing my hair was already a task I’d have to plan at least three days in advance to have the gumption to postpone for an additional day to do.  After writing…I went weeks without washing my hair. WEEKS.

gross_no_thank_you_supernatural

I know.  I’m a terrible girly girl and a fake water-conserving hippie, but this is what the writing process does to me.  This left my hair uncombable, unstylable, and unbearable (one of those is a real word). So, before I could stop myself, I reached for my shears in my Sephora gift-with-purchase beauty bag (because who among us unclean girly girls don’t have a thousand of those lying around?), grabbed a matted clump of formerly cute curls, and snipped.  I repeated a dozen times, breath held and jaw clenched.

Before I knew it, I had a Teeny Weeny Afro.  My hair hadn’t been that short in over six years, when I Big Chopped for the very first time after an unsuccessful attempt at potty training my then-three-year-old son (are you sensing a stress management pattern?).  I stared at myself for a few seconds, amazed at what I’d done to myself when no one was watching.  Then I went back to my laptop and they started talking again.  The characters. Those selfish bastards helped me rewrite the ending of my book and I am forever grateful for it.

Once that was done, I had to deal with the uneven Afro that sat atop my head.  Surprisingly, I did well but soon enough, I missed the length and decided I’d treat myself to braids for my upcoming February birthday.

It had been a while since I’d sat through the five-to-eight hour long braiding process, so I planned a day off and found a braid shop in town to hook me up.  You can imagine this search took me all of 0.0000056 seconds to complete as there were only three in Iowa City.  I made my appointment with the first shop I called, got there at 8:50 in the morning (tote filled with books, Kindle, iPhone, and chargers in tow), and had no idea I’d learn so much as I sat in a chair for seven hours:

1) Don’t Be Late, Fool – Anyone who knows me knows that I’m late for everything: work, Girls Night Out, school pickups.  I’ll be late for my funeral, so don’t be alarmed if my casket’s empty during the wake; I’m stuck in traffic.  But on the morning of my date with Kanekalon destiny, I was ten minutes early! Yes the fuck ma’am, I was not about to miss my seven-hour reservation.  About an hour into my appointment, an irate woman came into the shop, looked at the three filled seats and said, “My appointment was at 9:30.” (it was 9:45) The owner told her – in the smoothest Igbo accent ever – “You fifteen minutes late. Come back in four hours.” Ol’ girl was so heated, she stomped out and slammed the glass door behind her.   Once she was gone, the owner conversed with her fellow stylists in French between fits of giggles so I’m sure they were roasting the hell out of this woman.  You never wanna be that chick, so show up on time.  Because you never want your hair to look as bad as it looks the day of your appointment…and then be told ‘Welp’.

2) My Instagram Feed is Trash – I like to joke around and say that my IG feed is nothing but Mariah Carey, books, and boys but ZOMG.  I didn’t realize how true it was until I was forced to swipe through it for hours while women tugged at my hair in different directions. I wonder what these braiding experts were thinking every time they saw a shirtless man with an exaggerated bulge down yonder in every two posts. No one needs that much photoshopped peen in their social media diet, not even me.  Out of utter disgust with myself, I made a change and unfollowed two accounts.  Baby steps.

3) Tattooed Edges are a Thing – By lunchtime, the shop talk was gearing up.  I didn’t participate much because my nose was in my raunchy IG Feed and in my Kindle reading Jackie Collins.  Then I heard someone mention ‘tattooed edges’.

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Man, listen.  My Kindle and Chill was interrupted as I listen to the woman in the seat to my left explain this Negrodian phenomenon.  Allegedly, women are going into tat shops, pulling off their musty bonnet caps, pointing to the balding sides of their heads, and getting fake hairlines tatted on.  Seriously?  Is this what it’s come to?  This is a real thing? (SPOILER ALERT: Yes.)

4) Studs and Fishtails – I’m a simple girl.  Out of all of the braided variations I could select from, I went for good old-fashioned box braids.  It provides some styling options and it shaves about ten years off of my face – or so people say (“Why yes, I have been told I resemble Brandy: The Wanya Years.  Thanks for the compliment!”).  To my right was a woman I’ll call Tracy (because I don’t remember her real name…and anonymity, I suppose).  She was a lesbian – a stud, hold the femme – and was getting cornrows braided in, natch. Tracy went on and on about how she loves a woman with fishtail braids.  When Tracy asked the four very Catholic stylists (there were crucifixes all over the shop, as well as around each of their necks) if they could hook up one of her lady friends, they all said in unison – UNISON! – “We no know how to do those.” It took everything in me not to cackle wildly.  Hell, it took everything for me not to put it in a Facebook stat at that very moment. Applaud my restraint.

5) Diana Ross is Pregnant – No one loves a piece of good celebrity gossip like me.  I get 90% of my news from my aforementioned trashy ass social media feeds.  So when the shop talk eventually turned to pop culture, I was ready to dive in.  Before discussions of Love & Hip Hop and the presidential candidates began to sprout, the most important figure in entertainment (no, not Prince, much to my dismay) was dissected first: Beyoncé. Beyoncé is so famous that the WordPress form I’m typing on automatically places the accent over the last ‘e’ in her name. Beyoncé Beyoncé Beyoncé – it’s like Illuminati magic.  Anywhoo, they began talking about her Formation video, the SuperBowl, her possibly faking her pregnancy – the usual.  I participated in response:  I dug the video, the SuperBowl thing was blown out of proportion, I’m 85% sure she carried her own baby but who cares because the kid looks just like both she and Jigga.  The pregnancy rumor led to speculations about other bun-in-the-oven noise and then my fishtail braid-loving friend Tracy insisted – INSISTED – that 71-year-old Diana Ross was with child. Her evidence was a picture of the diva’s protruding belly underneath a skintight yellow top, which she quickly pulled up on her phone.  Well, I just shut the fuck up then because what do you say when a clearly confused person says that one of the world’s most famous senior citizens is pregnant?  Silver lining: she managed to fluster the stylists for a second time, which gave me another fit of internal giggles.  Tracy is the gift that keeps on giving.

I left at around 4:30 that afternoon, box braids swinging and feeling myself.  As a writer, it was a fulfilling experience.  We were a small group that day but I’ve wasted seven hours under way worse circumstances.  Parts of my perspective changed. I learned that I need to get out more and get writing inspiration from strangers.  It’s truly a gift for the creative. Now, every time I see a girl in town sporting fishtail braids or see a picture of Diana Ross without Spanx on, I’ll think of the loud lesbian that silenced a group of French-speaking braiders in seconds. Twice.

(c) Eliza David – FacebookTwitterInstagram

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