Thursday, March 4, 2021

The pain of beauty

When you see a woman looking alluring, face glowing and hair neatly styled, plaited or cropped, you can’t help but admire them. After all, a woman is as good as she looks.

At least that is what society dictates. Investing in appearance is normal for most women. From the shoes, bags, nails, clothes to the hair ÔÇô most women believe in letting their appearance “do the talking”.

Yet looking beautiful is expensive and painful. Inn Setswana it’s often said: Bokgarebe bo a itshokelwa. Loosely translated, it means you must persevere if you want to always look good like a lady.

“Nothing worthy comes without a bit of pain, sweat and struggle. Looking good is one of those. You just focus on the bigger picture ÔÇô which is stepping out looking like the prettiest girl in town,” says Rose Keoreng, sporting a stylish weave.

The hair is the woman’s crowning glory and many women invest in their manes knowing that it has the biggest impact on their overall appearance.

While the kink may be more African and natural, it’s also difficult to manage. Most women resort to hairstyles that are easier to manage. Cornrows, braids, up-do buns, bob-cut, weaves are the rave nowadays.

However, these hairstyles aren’t only time consuming, they are also expensive and, painful.
I learnt this as a little girl, seated in a hair salon’s high chair, feeling like an adult. My kinky hair, a sizeable afro, stared back at me from the mirror.

Above me, the hairdresser stirred a potent mixture of creams in a small bowl. After mixing, she lined ample petroleum jelly around my hairline. She then part my hair into fours, and slapped dollops of the cream relaxer onto my head like a builder throwing cement on a wall.

This was done with a stern expression. And then comes the combing, especially of natural hair, which is a sore exercise that can make a grown lady sob.

The hairdresser is never sympathetic as she sweeps the wide toothed comb through the hair.
Once satisfied that the hair is smoother she leave you for several minutes for the relaxer to settle in. This is a chance to take a breather…until it starts to horribly itch.

If you put your finger to your head, you will get a verbal beating from the hairdresser. You must call her and tell that “you are burning”. She will then determine if it’s time to wash.

Sometimes she will wait a bit more for the relaxer to work its magic. If you aren’t patient, you will lose your mind! After what seems like forever, the hairdresser will finally wash your head.
The moment the water touches your head, you can’t help but give a sigh of relief. After about four washes, and with three different shampoos used, your head is then dried.

The journey doesn’t end there. You have to blow dry it. The blow dryer is supposed to be a woman’s close friend but it’s more of a frenemy (a modern slang term used to refer friend who pretends to be in your good books but is in fact your enemy).

The heat that emanates from the blow dryer can make one feel like a piece of meat on a braai stand. You have no choice but to grit your teeth quietly while your ears burn and you feel a migraine coming on.

By now the hair has lost the kink and is now soft, supple and smooth. The comb glides through with little effort. After the hair’s combed and styled, you can’t help but look this way and that as you admire yourself in the mirror.

According to hairstylist Punah Kereilwe of Magic Touch hair salon, it’s important to give the hair a chance to ‘breathe’ by not styling or braiding it for a certain period.

“It’s best to leave the hair natural for a few weeks in between hairstyles for it to be relieved of all the pressure and strain of chemicals. Of course many women don’t follow that rule considering how common the receding hairline (commonly referred to as mma chiepe is), brittle hair and breakages we see out there,” she points out.

She advices women to take care of their hair with the same dedication and care they do their skin and bodies.

“A healthy diet, reducing stress and using quality products can work wonders for the hair. It’s also important to build a relationship with a reputable hairstylist who will offer sound advice and treat your hair regularly, knowing the kind of hair you have,” she says casually.

Being beautiful is not for the faint hearted. Many women take it in their stride and after the pulling, tugging, snipping, sobbing, itching or burning, they emerge like swans and smile to the world, showing off their lovely look, all the pains of earlier forgotten!


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