If a woman’s hair is her crowning glory then lockdown is making some of us feel less than regal. Nontuthuko Ngubane ponders the mane concern of our times

One of my favourite artists, India Arie, wrote a song entitled I Am Not My Hair.

I love the song, I relate to it on so many levels.

The first thing I did when the lockdown was announced, I went and did my hair.

I thought to myself, the salons will be close. I need a plan, because I can’t afford to be locked in and have bad hair.

As Arie’s lyrics say, what you have on your hair does not define who you are.

But girl, I still have to look representable.

Yes our hair, or what we look like, does not define who we are or what we are capable of doing.

That being said, I am just so used to doing my hair every month. It is one of those things you just do, you budget for.

It seems like such a minor thing.

New look

So I went with a look I have not tried before.

I sent a picture to my hairstylist, who has been doing my hair since high school.

Of course, she said, she would hook me up.

She has her own hair salon but since early March when the president declared a disaster period, she has not been coming to her salon.

She has been losing money as more people were staying at home. Business has been bad, she told me.

We agreed we would meet at 7am on Wednesday, a day later we would be under lockdown.

So I got there, did my hair and I left.

I had also hooked up my mother and my sister to come do their hair later in the day. So that my hair stylist Thoh, did not have to travel from her place to her work just for one customer.

I was quite happy with my look. I did obviously get compliments here and there.

At work female colleagues started wearing a doek or hats to hide their bad hair. Some said they did their own hair, relaxed it or cut it.

hair lockdown
CUT ABOVE: The writer, Nontuthuko Ngubane, has been supporting the same hairstylist, Thoh, since high school.

Extensions of the wrong kind

My problem started when the lockdown period was extended.

I had planned for two weeks.

My hair style was falling apart.

This became an issue for me.

Was hair really an important factor in my life?

How I look, did it really have that big an impact on my day-to-day business?

It’s just hair.

People were dying and being infected with coronavirus and here I was worried about my hair.

I started realising that almost every month I have been changing my hairstyle.

I have had so many hairstyles in my lifestyle.

All change

I remember once a colleague said to me, I always see you at the office, I can remember your smile but not your hair. For the longest time you always have different hair styles.

Sometimes purple, red, blue or black. Some big, small and dramatic.

I smiled.

I don’t even plan these hairstyles. Depending on my mood. I would go to the salon and just do my hair.

The funny part is that most women spend so much money and time on their hair.

I remember at Christmas time I spent almost 8 hours at the salon. It was full and I had to wait my turn.

When I look back that was ridiculous. I mean I spent the whole day on hair alone.

There has to be so much more to life.

Coiffure up

I started asking people around me how much they spent on their hair and time doing it.

My sisters alone spend almost R500 a month. That’s three sisters, myself and my mother. So it is R500x 5= R2500.

It was only during this lockdown I realised how important it has been for me to take care of my hair, to have it done.

It got to a point where I asked my younger sister to assist me.

Yes, during the lockdown I changed my hairstyle.

My 20-year-old sister is very talented with her hands. She is ama-2000 (a Millennial) after all.

Kids born during that period, I always say, there’s nothing they can’t do.

My sister is like that. She can fix the kettle, clean the yard, sew, plant, cook and do anything with her hands.

So she did my braids.

hair lockdown
PIRATES QUEEN: The writer, Nontuthuko Ngubane, got her baby sister to put in braids. Nothing Bucs up a girl during lockdown more than sorting out her hairstyle.

Essential service

I was happy with the outcome. I wanted red braids but I could only find black ones.

As I write this I am thinking should the lockdown be extended further I would have to travel to my hair stylist to assist me with a new hairdo.

I see on social media, some people have complained about the same issue.

Something so unimportant as doing hair, cutting hair might as well become an essential need.

The government must open the salons, at least for a day.

Until I write again, stay home. Be safe, try to do your own hair.


hair sytles befor lockdown
BANNER IMAGE: Our columnist Nontuthuko Ngubane has hair done on the eve of the lockdown. It looked good for a while, but later things fell apart.

Now read… That empty feeling

Click on the image below to read more stories in our series of Coronavirus Chronicles