Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hair's the Thing...

Warning: This is a particularly female-friendly post. If you've never had to hold your hair back with bobby pins and a headband or you've never dumped out your gear bag in a mad search for a scrunchy before class, you may, of course, still read this, but some of the references may leave you scratching your head.

A few months ago, I read a post on a martial arts message board about what female practitioners do with their do when training.The original poster asked if others always wore their hair up/back or always wore it down and free when training and why. The answers were pretty thoughtful, with most women either cutting their hair short or wearing it back to keep it out of their faces on the mat. A few said they generally kept it down, just like they do during other parts of their day for the sake of "realism" - meaning that if they found themselves in the middle of a confrontation on the street without a hair-tie, they didn't want to have to worry about how they would deal with tangled or grabbed tresses.

Realism for me is that my hair most often behaves during class but becomes an absolute hard-to-manage mess after. That makes converting back to Corporate America Jane the next day that much tougher because my hair always seems to look like I've just been in a fight. Not the look I'm going for at all.

I've got what my dojo family hears me refer to as BGH - Black Girl Hair. It's thick and dry without a consistent curl/wave pattern in its natural state, although I haven't seen that natural state in a while thanks to the chemicals to relax the curl that I've been putting in it since I was about nine years old. It used to behave when I was dressed in anything but my PJs - until I started training on tracks and in weight rooms at age 15. Moisture (that includes sweat) tends to make my want to curl again - which is why washing it is such a major ordeal and something that just can't be done every day (once weekly is the goal).

But it's not just the washing that's the thing; it's the relaxing and the styling. And since I'm getting older, it's also the coloring to cover the grey. Suffice to say that as I've..umm...matured and my training has grown to include more days each week, my hair has become more and more of an expensive, stress-inducing, time-leeching aggravation - and that just ain't cool.

Since college, I've been the one doing all the work on my do as regular visits to the salon - other than to get it trimmed - were not something I could afford (for those guys still reading: a salon trip for a wash/"set" or relaxer/perm and cut costs $50-$80 and can be closer to $100 if you add coloring). I have a few friends who say they couldn't be bothered with all that hair-doing - so they spend hours and hours a pop in the salon. Highlights, braids, extensions and coloring all take major maintenance, which means you sort of get to know your stylist pretty well because you see him/her so often. I simply do not have time for that.

I dyed my hair last weekend. It literally took three days before it stopped looking like a Brillo pad and began to look like it did before I whipped out my box of Dark and Lovely. That's three days of scrunchies, folks. It was just. sad.

This past Thursday was a long, 13-hour day for me - culminating with an evening meeting that pre-empted class. By the time I got home, my hair was flying every which way and looked quite tore up from the floor up. Had I dyed my hair Rihanna Red instead of jet black, I would have seriously looked like a brown Bozo the Clown.

So yesterday, after a few suggestions on where to go for a good cut from some friends, I hit the salon. My goal was to get my coife cut into something that was easy to manage in the mad dash that is my morning (I'm talking finger-fluff and go) but could also hold up under a sparring helmet without looking like a spiky rat's nest after a two-hour class. I found a picture of style I liked in one of my old Essence magazines and was off to meet Christina at Fantastic Cuts.

"So" she said when she picked up the scissors after I'd been shampooed and dried. "Are you sure you want to cut it so short?" And I was. I only second-guessed for a fleeting moment when the hair that used to be attached to my head started piling up on the floor around us.

But the finished product was amazing - if I do say so myself. The back is scalp short, but the sides and top are long and even (no layers that will take forever to style). It dips over one eye so I can look serious and serene in my work uniform (glasses and kitten heels) and ready to roll in my other one (a gi). I didn't really sweat too much in class last night (it was a "thinking" night), but it wasn't flying everywhere and wiry at evenings end. When I got home, I dabbed it with some leave-in overnight product, wrapped it in my trusty scarf and called it a night. This morning when I untied the scarf and fluffed with my fingers, it was good to go!

The tally:
Shampoo, cut and tip: $50.
New teeny-weeny flat iron from the beauty supply shop down the road: $25
Time spent getting my do done: two hours
Having one less thing to stress over each morning: Priceless :-)

I should have done this years ago...


  1. It's great that you've found a cut that really works for you. I've worn short hair several times over the years, but right now it's as long as it will grow (about four inches below my shoulders). I almost never tie it up for karate class, mostly because it doesn't bother me, or obscure my vision worth noticing (it's both fine and thin). I do put it up for competition so that it looks neater. And in a complete reversal from you, I rather like the look post-sweating. The additional curliness gives me a little body for a change!

  2. Glad you've found a great new hair style. I tend to keep my hair fairly short, mainly because it suits me better rather than for any practical reason. However, I do have to wash it every day but that's just part of my morning routine now - it takes about 15 mins to blow dry. In the dojo I tend to think that women/girls with long hair should tie it up when training, I think long loose hair is a potential hazard in the same way as jewellery is and looks untidy.