My name is Adaeze, please don’t call me bald. Mama said I was born with gorgeous locks to crown my caramel skin. She remembers me being beautiful.
It all began with my rather too frequent visits to the salon to get my hair straightened using a relaxer. ‘Ada ya hair dey too strong o, if you relax am,e go fine well well, Mama Ibeji my hair stylist sang that chorus for as long as I could remember. And of course, I, just like any other girl my age had learnt that good hair makes one beautiful. It was after one of those visits that I noticed the clumps of hair on my pillow. I could not make the shedding stop and neither could Mama. My first bald spot had appeared on my temples, despite all my efforts to hide it, it reared its ugly head like ……. I remember drowning my scalp with methylated spirit day and night, after all Lucy, our maid had taught me that it was the secret to long hair. I would lather my hair with large chunks of sulphur-8 cream mix with methylated spirit. Weeks turned into months and my temples hadn’t still recovered from the un-concealable bald spot that . Losing hair was too much trauma for an 9-year old girl and so mama thought it was best I shaved my hair off. I cried so much that day that papa vowed never to let razor touch my head again.
Not so long after, hair began to grow like flowers, I cherished them. I would often pull the hair against my face to check its distance from my brows. As if that was not good enough, Aunty Ijeoma said my hair was long enough to plait puff-puff. The tension and the pain I felt as she pulled my hair and twisted it around the thread was nothing compared the joy and the pride in my heart, at last, I was going to show off my new style to Jennifer and Uju and they would stop calling me bald and ugly.
My sweet victory came to sudden end barely four years later when my edges became sparse and thin. I was 15 at the time, blooming with youth and vigour until alopecia creeped in once again, this time snatching my edges and my esteem along with it. I became an easy target to trolls and name-calling was the order of the day. I eventually got used to being called ‘chop-chop hair, lapa-lapa’ ‘arugbo’ was the most common of them all. I can’t forget in a hurry the smirk and the sarcastic tone when they asked ‘what happened to your hair, what is it so patchy? Rumour had it that rat ate my hair in the night because I didn’t wash it often. I tried all the magic hair portions and followed all the advice from hairdressers and even strangers.
Getting into the University was a game changer for me; I did not have to worry about what people would say about my hair or what my next nickname would be because they never saw my hair. I would hide behind fancy weaves and wigs, hats and scarfs and once more life was good.
My life-long struggle with alopecia might have taken my strands but it did not take my soul. I have learnt to see beauty in myself regardless of whether people see it in me or not. I have learnt that what is on the inside is greater than my reflection. As women, we go through stages where we do not feel good enough, pretty enough or even smart enough. We feel constantly judged by people and even ourselves. We constantly yearn for perfection, tuck our bellies in and push our butts out. We crave attention from everybody else but ourselves. In the age of the slay queens, it’s pretty hard to look in the mirror and accept ourselves wholeheartedly for who we are; the double chin, flabby arms, acne-prone skin, the rather too dark complexion etc.
My name is Adaeze; I am not bald. I am beautiful.
This article was written by Edema Roselyn