Cornrows, a True Story

Do you want to lose weight? Improve your posture? Do you need to practice that supermodel scowl? Would you like a nonsurgical face and brow lift? Then get your hair braided or cornrowed. You won’t be able to turn your head too far in any direction. You’ll be in too much pain to move the facial muscles required to chew. And you’ll look at least 10 years younger.

My braider did an excellent job, and she said the braids should last six to eight weeks. However, these braids are tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over an oil drum.

I understand that if the braids aren’t tight, they will loosen quickly and start looking sloppy. But do they need to be so tight that I can see the individual pores that the hair is growing from? So tight that now the eminence of my forehead is even more eminent? So tight that a ridge is forming along my hairline, which is most likely swelling due to my tight “do.” So tight that my skin is “glowing” (let’s keep it real – shining)?

Most braiders are very good at what they do, as is mine. But you should know that if there is even one-eighth of an inch of hair on your head, they can and will part that patch into at least eight more braids. If you want to empathize with me, have someone take three strands of your hair and braid them. Tightly. Then, tell that person to pull that braid perpendicular to your head as hard as they can. Hold for one minute. This is only a tad of what I feel until the braids loosen naturally and the pain subsides.

The following actions that we take for granted will also become excruciating. Driving (straight ahead only; no turns). Parallel parking – forget about it. Squinting, smiling, frowning, talking, thinking too hard, expressing any emotion on your face.

Bending over. Walking too fast or expressing surprise. Pushing your glasses up on your face. Eating potato chips.

Looking around (or sideways) to see who’s looking at your new braids. Looking at any shelves in the grocery store other than the ones at eye level. Chewing gum.

Any sudden movement. Breathing with your mouth open. Swallowing the pain meds you will need before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth.

If your jam comes on the radio, you’re screwed. Try bouncin’ and shakin’ your head with that tender scalp.

I felt a sneeze coming on and I knew I had to make a quick decision – do I risk rupturing something to stifle the sneeze, or bear the pain of it? A no-win situation.

I don’t like braids hanging down because it’s too damned hot for that shit and they’re too heavy, so I asked her to French braid the back with a small, one-inch knot at the top. I bumped that sucker getting out of the car. Inch High almost made me cry.

As I was leaving Wal-Mart (no, I didn’t get my braids done there), I felt the wind on my scalp and a single strand of hair waving in the breeze. How did she miss it? She must have blinked.

And how will I survive washing my face?

I tried running an ice cube across my scalp, but the rows between the braids are too small. Guess I’m gonna have to take an Advil, sleep sitting up, and hope I don’t have a bad dream.