January 2010 – Dakar, Senegal
When I decided to move to Senegal for five months and work with missionaries, I immediately focused on what really mattered: my bangs. I am extremely sensitive about my hair, a body image issue that formed during the hell that was middle school. Despite the daily visual experience of seeing my wavy short hair fly away from my forehead in horrific cloud patterns, I kept cutting bangs for two years out of some misguided hope that tomorrow they would be different. Later I vowed to never again be so naively optimistic. If I was not going to have guaranteed access to a straightener, then I had to grow out my bangs to a normal hair length.
My roommate in Fatick had short bangs. I watched her hair every day, looking so stinking cute. It took less than one month for my resolve to crumble. After all, the electricity was never off for more than a couple hours, and I could just not leave the house if I hadn’t had the chance to straighten my bangs. In a fit of vanity and joy, I chopped off my newly elongated bangs and danced around the house.
“You look so great,” Liz said.
“We are bang twins!” I said, running back to the bathroom mirror to gaze at my beautiful hair.
I was especially excited because we had planned a trip the next weekend to Dakar, the capital of Senegal. In the smaller town of Fatick, I wore ponjas (floor-length wrap-skirts) and no makeup. In Dakar? Oh man, in Dakar I could wear blue jeans. I could coat my eyelids in color and feel American. What better place to show off my newly amazing haircut?
Here is my blog post from that weekend:
My straightener imploded. I plugged it in, and it clicked. Then it would not turn on, no matter how many outlets I tried and how hard Liz laughed.
It has betrayed me to my doom. It worked fine on at least four occasions in Senegal. But now it is no more.
And of course it would be just after I cut SHORT BANGS that don’t really clip back because they are SHORT. Spontaneity is evil! Messing with hair is evil! My whole world is upside down.
The whole time I was falling around moaning and whining and yelling, Liz was laughing her butt off. What a nice kindred spirit I have, to mock me in my pain! Mocking me with “helpful” advice to wet them and comb them straight, only my hair is evil and refuses to bow to the rules of gravity. They are not straight! They CURL! And the rest of my hair! Is it wavy? Is it straight? Is it STUPID?
It was a stressful time. And those people who teased me about focusing on my hair in preparation for working with missionaries instead of, oh, praying or doing something spiritual, well, screw them. Clearly I was right to overthink my hair choices, and rest assured that I will never not plan a trip around my hair length ever again.