Hagen Engler. Picture: Supplied
An epigram I learnt as a child was that “the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys”. By extension, I would like to contribute the following insight: “The difference between men and young girls is the price of their curls.”
Clever, right? Of course.
My learnings in this space have been garnered over several years spent warming the parents’ barstools at the back of Kurlz & Kutz, my seven-year-old daughter’s salon of choice.
She’s of mixed-race, my lovely daughter; a black girl. And black girl things include the wonders, mysteries and glory of black hair.
Now before I was blessed with my daughter, my knowledge of hair was rudimentary at best. I have cultivated a hairstyle that can sustain intervals of three months between haircuts.
“Charmingly scruffy” is how I describe it to myself, while avoiding eye contact in the mirror of a morning.
I obtain these sporadic haircuts from a stylish Pakistani gent named Steve. We chat football and cricket if we can even squeeze in the time to chat, and I’m out of there within half an hour. Good for another three months of scruffy charm.
My daughter’s hair is another kettle of fish. Or another box of braids, to coin a phrase.
For a start, I budget three to four hours for the process, and I’m not wildly surprised if I still find myself there after five. The determining factors are whether we are doing a treatment and then letting the Afro fly, getting cornrows put in, or going the whole hog.
The whole hog is braids, with extensions. That will add a couple of hours to your time on the parents’ bench. It will be leavened somewhat by the Kurlz & Kutz service offering. The salon has DStv, free Wi-Fi, a small kids’ library, digital tablets, and a freezer selling ice-creams for both kids and adults.
So it’s far from a living hell. In fact, you may remember my story of watching a Springbok World Cup match at that salon last year. If I’m honest with myself, that was as much by choice as circumstance. I mean why not! Take in a rugby game and get the kid’s hair done at the same time!
All good, but I am conscious that my daughter’s hair costs three to four times as much to get done – or “did” to use the street term – as mine does.
It also needs to happen every four to six weeks, if you don’t want to suffer too much. It’s likely that my lovely daughter will be doing this every month of her life. I’m not sure that “Scruffy charm” is a thing among women.
If we push the limits and only return to the salon after a two-month interval, the impact is significant. Her “kitchen” – the back part of the hair by the small of the neck – will be riddled with knots and there will be more than an hour of tears to remove them. No, with black hair, you need to do the time, pay the ticket and do it regularly.
But I also get to see the results. The sight of my gorgeous, confident daughter, bounding out of the salon! Swishing and swaying, whipping her hair back and forth, her crown of curls restored to its full glory. The curly braids, shoulder length, number-four colour that she had been visualising for a week or two – those are now in place – and she struts with all the joy and happiness of a newly employed graduate, or someone who’s TikTok famous!
Truly, it makes a difference. The social commentary around black women’s self-image being tied to their hair, I will leave to the experts. But I do know that going to the salon has a deeper, more real and powerful impact on my daughter’s life than my 20 minutes at Steve’s barber shop has on me.
My daughter’s succinct take on the process is probably most accurate: “Four hours. But it’s worth it!”
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
BACK TO CITIZEN
BACK TO PREMIUM
The Citizen. All rights