New Hair, New Me by Tofunmi Akinlalu

A Black woman smiles in front of a yellow wall.

Last night, I turned to my roommate with a deadpan stare on my face and declared “I don’t like trying new things”.

I was joking at the time, she was trying to get me to watch an objectively good Netflix show about thievery and I was trying to inform her that I was pretty certain that crime shows are not my thing. I later realized that no lies were told that evening. I really don’t enjoy change. When I do open Netflix, I usually pick between the same handful of shows. I’ve watched Gilmore Girls (my favourite show of all time) all the way through at least five times.

 

This is isn’t just a Netflix thing though, I love routines and consistency in all aspects of my life, I find it extremely comforting when I know exactly what’s coming. I listen to songs on repeat, I bet if I tried hard enough, I could probably sing every line (offkey) from the Hamilton soundtrack.

When I find a good thing, a good show, a good album, a good friend, a good hairstyle, I typically stick with it (or them) for a very long time.

I thrive with routines and structure and so as you can imagine, 2020 was a very difficult year for me. From Friday March 13th 2020, when my university announced that classes for the rest of the term would be online, to today as I write this ten months into the panorama, change has been the only constant. 

Live footage of me realizing the world shut down on Friday the 13th!
Just when I was getting into a new routine, a new curveball was thrown my way. The first of these curveballs was the temporary shutdown of all hair salons in my city. Up until this point, my hair routine wasn’t much but it was familiar and it was mine. Every 2-3 months, I would go to the same hairdresser for a relaxer and a blowout. After a few weeks of rocking long straight hair, I would wash my hair and get braids with the same black Colour #2 mid-back length extensions. I would keep them in probably a week or two (or three!) longer than was socially acceptable (student life, am I right?) and then I would schedule a weekend to undo them, wash my hair and then eventually repeat the cycle. 

I was a few weeks away from being due for a relaxer at the beginning of the Panasonic when all the hair salons closed. So I did what likely a lot of us did for the first few months of quarantine: absolutely nothing. I let my roots grow out unhindered, I deep conditioned, I DETANGLED, and I wore my hair in a topknot most days. The initial plan was to eventually go back to my old hair routine but one day over the summer, I thought “Why don’t I just keep going? Why don’t I just keep letting my roots grow out?” And so I did. I found a new routine, I got my hair braided at the end of the summer when restrictions had loosened and everything was going great… until I took my braids out.

I will spare you the gory details but let’s just say I spent almost my entire Sunday in my shower begging my knotted hair to detangle. My natural curly roots had grown out quite significantly and my relaxed ends weren’t as excited about these new visitors as I was. 

 

After I finally detangled my hair, I realized I had come to a crossroads: I could cut off my relaxed ends because this transitioning phase was getting really hard to deal with or I could go back to my old routine. To provide some much needed context, I have never cut my hair. Sure I’ve trimmed it a bunch and I’ve had some pretty SIGNIFICANT breakage at times but for as long as I could remember, I’ve been ‘Tofunmi with the long hair’ and I was terrified to change that.

After one week of anxiously pacing around my house and staring at my hair in the mirror, I opened up my laptop and went to BeBlended’s Hairstylist page and booked an appointment with @the.nessahs.touch. I decided to cut my hair but not without the familiar safety net of a braiding appointment immediately after.

With India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” on repeat and lots of support and encouragement from my roommates, I headed to my hair appointment. I remember fixing my eyeballs on the Netflix show Vanessah had graciously put on for me while she did my hair. Unfortunately that didn't drown out the sounds of her scissors as locks of the old me fell to the ground.

It was oddly anticlimactic though, I walked in with shoulder length transitioning hair and after a few minutes I had hair that looked like this:


Tofunmi wearing a mask at her hairdresser's appointment

I’m not going to lie to you though, this seemingly simple change was very difficult for me. The adrenalin of the big chop wore off as my braids came off and the fear of the unknown of dealing with my 4B/4C natural hair replaced it. I didn’t know how to look after or style my natural hair and so I spent many mornings frustrated that I couldn’t do the simple hairstyles that I was so accustomed to wearing. I willed my hair to be longer or to have a different curl pattern that would be quote-unquote easier to handle.

Time and numerous YouTube tutorials have brought me to where I am today: still learning but being able to look into the mirror and smile at my thick kinky hair. I’ve learnt how to do a couple of easy everyday hairstyles that I like, I am fascinated by my curls most days instead of being annoyed by them, and I’m actually open to expanding my once very limited repertoire of protective styles.

I don’t know what the future of my hair journey looks like. I don’t know what will happen when the lockdown ends and I can no longer put on a hair scarf and stay at home when I’m not feeling my hair.

But when I get scared and overwhelmed, I remind myself that I can love my hair as it grows out of my head, I remind myself that my beauty is not dependent on the opinions on others, I remind myself that I am not my hair, and when I forget, I remind myself again. This is my new normal and I’m learning to embrace it.

For the next little while, our BeBlended Blog Contributors are going to be sharing experiences of their ‘new normal’. We are not in any way trying to minimize the hot mess-highly problematic-Netflix season finale of a year 2020 was, but one thing we can all agree on is that 2020 caused us to take a step back and re-evaluate our lives, our habits, and our goals.

Here at BeBlended, we want to go into 2021 leaving the mistakes and unhealthy habits of 2020 behind us. We may not know what 2021 will look like but let’s embrace a new normal of accepting our flaws AND seeking self-improvement and growth. For me that looks like trying new hairstyles and yes maybe even new Netflix shows.

It looks like loving my Type 4 curls and learning to take care of them. It looks like opening my arms and my heart to new experiences and new people instead of just trying to hold onto all of the past’s treasures and memories. It looks scary but it’s beautiful at the same time. I think the best things in life are, don't you? 

We're so excited for this new #BeBlendedBlog series!

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About the Blogger: Tofunmi Akinlalu

Tofunmi standing in front of bush of green leaves

This article was written by our Blog Manager, Tofunmi Akinlalu. She is currently an engineering student at the University of Waterloo. When she's not drowning in engineering assignments, she enjoys writing and performing spoken word poetry. She is passionate about using all her creativity both as a writer and a future engineer to encourage, uplift and share her Christian faith with those around her. To read more of her work, follow her on Instagram @poetrybytofunmi and Facebook at Poetry by Tofunmi

 

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