Recently, I was in the shower washing my hair and I got a surprise: My hair has grown to the length where it reaches about mid-biscuits when it's wet. This means that when my hair gets wet in the shower, it slaps me between the cheeks. The first time it happened, it startled the heck out of me. It's just not something you're expecting in the shower during a routine hair washing.
At the same time, it was a huge moment in my hair saga. That soggy smack was like an announcement that my hair was finally long. My hair is now long enough to give me a friendly slap on the cheeks as if to say a cheerful "hello".
This made me think of one of my many misguided hair attempts from long ago. When I was wearing my hair texturized in my mid-twenties, as always, it never grew past my shoulders because of the chemicals. And I really wanted that long hair to swing over my shoulders dramatically. In my weave days I discovered I wasn't coordinated enough to pull off a whole head full of weave: I tended to put weaves in wrong, so my head was Elephant man lumpy. And when I put all my hair in extensions, it tended to mat up by the time I got a chance to redo them. So my big idea at this time was that if I added hair that matched my color and curl patten—but just in the back of my hair only—that would give me realistic-looking length. I reasoned that the extensions would give the back of my hair time to grow long itself, and when I took out the extensions, my own hair would be the same length. That was the theory, anyway.
I spent hours, days, and many trips going to various wig shops and reading hair magazines looking for hair to match mine. Real hair that was curly and sold in bulk generally wasn't available in a long enough length for me. So I ended up checking out the bags of nylon hair. I tried to be clever. I'd buy two differently colored packs and textures of nylon hair to try to make them seem more realistic. Then I'd braid them in the back, and sort of comb the nylon hair to try to get it to lose the fake doll-hair shine. The plastic hair hated that. It matted together into odd, multi-colored puffs, giving me a tortoiseshell-cat fur appearance. I had to replace the extensions frequently because they snarled so badly.
Still, for it to look realistic, I couldn't venture very much longer with the extension hair than my own broken hair's length. For the most part I kept the fake length just long enough to peek out from beneath my texturized waves. But one time I became frustrated and hair hungry. I wanted me some long hair darnit. So I bought some new, tightly s-waved nylon hair. And in the very back, I put in about five of those long extensions, just in my kitchen area. These few strands were long enough to brush my lower back.
The thing is, as I remember it, this couldn't have been a good look for anyone. Hadn't I basically given myself a terrible, terrible mullet made of scraggly nylon pieces? From the back view, my head must have appeared shaped like a bell of texturized fuzz with about five octopus tendrils of fake hair hanging down from out of it. I must have looked like either a crazy hair person, or a person who had forgotten to remove the last few pieces of her extensions. At the time I was giddy with hair and it impaired my judgment.
I remember taking it out for a test drive. I walked around in downtown Louisville during a summer visit with my mom. I remember having two opposing feelings as I walked around: As I moved, I could feel the nylon hair gently swaying against my back. I had never felt that before, and I was exhilarated. It was the nicest feeling I could imagine at that moment. What I wouldn't do for real hair like that! Yet, on the other hand, I knew those extensions were too long. I knew there was no way anyone was buying it. I kept waiting to be called out. I almost wished someone would say something to yank me back to reality.
No one said anything to me, but I took them out that night anyway. I consoled myself with the bittersweet memories of feeling the soft swish of hair against my back; the stuff of dreams.
So when I felt that cold wet smack of hair in a very personal area the other day, I realized my real hair is now much longer than that fake hair I couldn't pull off wearing years ago ever was.
And now, things are so different. In a tank top I can feel my real curls gently swish against the exposed skin on my back between the top and the bottom of my pyjamas. And though it's now been several years that I've been able to enjoy the swoosh of my hair against my back, I still get that rush. Like having been hungry for so long, and now I'm eating my favorite food and I'm still grateful for it. Like I still can't get over that I don't have to go home and take out all that phony hair in shame. That I don't have to walk around obsessed with whether my fake hair could be detected or not (that one was easy—it could be). And that I actually get to keep this hair, and it didn't come home with me in a crinkly plastic bag.