About six weeks ago, I made a major change to my appearance — I got extensions put in my hair!
People are always curious about my hair and this change has been the source of even more questions than usual. So if you’ve always wanted to know more about black women and weaves…you’ve probably come to the wrong place! To be honest, I didn’t/don’t really understand all the intricacies of black hair or black fake hair or even half-black fake hair. (This is what happens when you are only half-black…you not only have weird hybrid hair but you also have to deal with the fact that there is no one in your life who knows the first thing about it.) But I can at least tell you what my experience was like!
The Long Road to Long Hair
As I’ve explained before, my hair has been a source of stress my entire life. I’ve been getting relaxers every two months since I was eight years old and despite trying different shampoos, conditioners, and many other products/methods (including a Brazilian keratin treatment this summer), the best it’s ever gotten is just…manageable. In the past few years, I’ve gotten to a point where I can deal with it. I don’t love it — I want it to be longer, easier to style, etc. — but I can deal with it. I’m used to planning around it.
When I was younger, I didn’t understand that all black celebrities have weaves and I couldn’t understand why my hair never looked long and pretty like theirs. When I discovered this fact, I wanted a weave too. My hair just doesn’t seem capable of growing very long. Even when I’m doing everything right and it’s really healthy, it just never seems to get past a certain length. (All hair does this, by the way.) When my hair grows, it just seems to grow up and out, forming a round, puffy halo around my head, so that I often felt like a magic mushroom a là Super Mario Brothers.
I’d talked to two of my past stylists about getting some sort of extensions put in. My stylist in Michigan said she could do short-term extensions that would last a few weeks. Well, that wasn’t really what I wanted. A couple years later, I asked my stylist at Ted Gibson salon in NYC about it; she had the most amazing thick, long weave that just looked so good. She told me the hair would cost about $600-$800 and then it cost $200 per hour to have it sewn in…and it would take a couple hours. And it would have to be re-done every few months.
As much as my hair is a pain in the ass, I just can’t drop thousands of dollars a year on perfect hair. As time went on, though, the outrageous price I’d been given really bothered me. I’d see black women and girls with weaves all the time and they didn’t appear to be rich. How did everyone have these extra thousands of dollars in their budgets for fake hair? Was I just not prioritizing properly? Seriously, how were they doing it?
I just assumed I was never going to be able to have a weave, at least not until I got a sugar daddy, so I didn’t even mention it to my new stylist in Houston.
Then I got that stupid Brazilian keratin treatment and even after I got my hair relaxed again, I was just over it. My hair grew really fast over the summer so I needed a relaxer again after six weeks, not my typical eight. I hate getting relaxers and I hate paying for them, so when I realized I was now entering dangerous territory, I was kind of over it. Like maybe-I-can-just-wear-wigs-a-lot-of-black-women-like-Oprah-wear-wigs-right? over it.
I mentioned this frustration to my stylist, Kim, as I was getting my relaxer in August and then I asked her about weaves. I didn’t really know what I was even asking. Luckily, Kim has a half-white daughter, so she really gets my hair and my general ignorance about my hair.
Kim was actually really excited; she told me that she’d always wanted to put a weave in for me but she didn’t think I wanted one. I didn’t want to get my hopes up for no good reason so I asked her how much it cost, fully expecting that she’d need $2000 and the blood of my first-born child. Instead she told me that it wouldn’t be that expensive — about $100 for the hair and $150 for her to sew it in.
From there, I asked a ton of questions, expecting to finally figure out the catch, but as she answered them all, I realized…there wasn’t one.
- To put in the weave, she’d put the majority of my hair in tiny braids. Then she’d sew the weave — real human hair — to the braids. Some of my natural hair would be left out.
- While I had the weave, I would only have to relax the part of my hair that was left out…which would be nearly nothing. My bangs, mainly. The rest of my hair would avoid the harsh chemicals of the relaxer, as well as heat styling. So basically, the majority of my real hair would get a break.
- The hair would last about four months, and after eight weeks, I would have her take it out and re-sew it back in.
- The hair would be real human hair that would style exactly like my real hair does. I could curl it, twist it into a bun, put it half-up, and — because she places her braids very strategically — put it up in a decently high ponytail.
And yes, Kim told me, there was hair out there that would match my hair’s color and texture. This was the hardest part for me to believe, as I’ve never met another human being who has hair quite like mine. Not only does it have this weird texture, but it also isn’t the color most people think it is. From photos, you’d think it was really dark brown, but the reality is, it’s a light brown with a lot of natural red and gold in it. I could not believe that she’d find hair to match mine; I was convinced that I was going to come away from this with super flat, shiny hair, and then I’d have to add Asian to the ever-growing list of races people think I am.
But despite my disbelief that it would actually all work out — 20 years of trying products that never work as well as the commercial and packaging makes you think they’ll work will make you kind of cynical — I made an appointment for two weeks later.
Getting My Hair Did
When I arrived at my appointment, Kim handed me a bag containing my new hair. It was the moment of truth…and it looked exactly like my hair.
And it was only $77 (so fuck that $600-$800 quote I got in NYC)!
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that there was another person in the world with this hair color/texture, and I really couldn’t believe that someone would think anyone else would want more hair like this. Surely, I had to be the only person in the world willing to pay money for this kind of hair!
I also couldn’t believe that in a few hours, I’d have hair that long.
Kim got started. First, she braided my hair in circles around my head; that took about an hour. Then she started sewing the hair in to the braids, literally weaving it to my head with a needle and thread. It was a slow process, about two hours, and I read on my Kindle while she did it. I could see myself in the mirror the entire time, but because she started at the nape of my neck and worked toward the top of my head, I couldn’t really visualize how it would look when it was all finished. After all the hair was sewn in, she cut it into nice layers and then went over it with a flat iron.
Approximately four hours after she began, I looked like black Barbie.
Seriously, I was speechless. My hair was like movie-star hair. It just looked fabulous and even though I was in yoga pants and a tank top without any make-up on, I felt more glamorous than I’d ever felt in my life.
HOLY SHIT. I was so excited.
I walked out, not quite used to it yet. I am just not used to having hair that moves. My hair is the perfect example of Newton’s First Law — when it is at rest (or really, in any position), it stays that way. I don’t own hairspray. If it’s in a ponytail, I don’t have to redo it throughout the day. It just stays put until acted upon by an outside force (mainly water). Now, though…now it swung.
I loved it. I snapped this picture on my phone in the car and texted it to my friends and family. These are the people who have known me — and my hair — for years and through so many bad hair moments were all so excited for me.
When I got home, Eric was sleeping on the couch. He had been against the weave whole thing; he just didn’t really see the point (“Your hair is fine”) and I think he thought it was going to look really fake and cheesy. I leaned over him and woke him up.
“Wow,” he said. “Wow.”
It was good wow, not bad wow.
My coworkers — mostly male; there is only one other woman in my office — loved it too. (They are like family, so it’s not weird for them to tell me they really like my hair.) And they have told me repeatedly that they like it — oftentimes out-of-the-blue, weeks after I had it done, so I know they mean it.
And I love it.
It’s…Full of Secrets!
My hair will never be without hassle, not even when it’s not my real hair.
The first downside came after a few days when I found my hair getting super tangled. I have never had to deal with snarls in my hair — like I said, it doesn’t move — so the little knots that started appearing frequently in my hair really confused me. After a couple days of trying to work them out with a comb/my fingers, I realized…I need a brush. Then I realized I had no clue what sort of brush to buy; I never brush my hair and don’t know the first thing about it. I stood in front of all the brushes at Target for 10 minutes trying to figure out what I needed. Eventually I chose one that has become my new hair’s BFF. I brush it a few times a day which is so new to me.
Overall, I love the new hair and will probably continue to keep doing it for a long time. In terms of management, it’s pretty simple. I get up, brush it, and curl the ends under with a fat curling iron. I’ve been sleeping with a satin sleep cap on, which makes a huge difference in how it looks in the morning. I can put it up or do fun things with it, but I don’t very often, just because I don’t want to get bends in it that I’ll be stuck with because I can’t wash it very often.
I now wash my hair with water/shampoo every two weeks; on the off weeks, I just use dry shampoo. (I’m sure this sounds crazy to you if you’re white, but it’s not a big deal for me because my hair is not capable of getting greasy. Before the weave I was washing it about once a week.) I actually went three weeks without using water/shampoo this time around because my hair/scalp still felt/smelled clean, and honestly, washing it is the biggest hassle. It’s super heavy and gets even more tangled when it’s wet. I can’t twist it up in a towel or even really towel-dry it so when I do wash it, I’m stuck with dripping wet heavy hair for a few hours. I’m so glad I don’t have to do it too often.
When it comes to yoga, I just twist it in a loose bun and secure with a soft scrunchie when it’s bugging me, but I can actually get through a lot of my sessions with it down the majority of the class. Again, I know this sounds crazy to a lot of people but I’ve been working out with my hair down for a while because it makes it easier to not wash it as often and it doesn’t move. The only time it’s annoying is during inverted poses or if the class is really hot. After classes, I just brush it out, let it dry, and then re-curl it.
Speaking of inverted poses, my hair is probably most annoying during girl-on-top sex. Eric was often complaining about it falling in his face and choking him, so nowadays reaching to the nightstand for a scrunchie is kind of my new “I’m in the mood” signal.