So I'm at the hair salon, an eclectic Brazilian-owned place where I see an African-American stylist to whom my Lebanese-American fairy godmother introduced me. We're multiculting-up my curls - copper, blonde, and brown highlights, while I surf film schedules on my CrackBerry. (I'm consoling myself at not being at Sundance with San Francisco's Film Noir Fest 9 and Indie Film Fest, and the African Film Fest at the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley.)
The last time I was here my stylist nearly died laughing when I told her about trying to get my hair cut in Nigeria over the summer. Flashback: I got my current twisty-curls style there in 2005, though they were baby Buddha snails back then. My sister took me to a male barbershop, where 2 guys eyed me skeptically, then scooped honey onto my head, covered their hands with plastic mesh, and vigorously rubbed my honey-hair in circles until clumps formed and I had a mild concussion.
I looked like the village madman. In time, as promised, my sugary crazy-clumps separated into tiny swirled buds that I twisted each evening, much to the distress (inexplicably) of American friends. Within 6 months, the curls were permanent, reassembling themselves as soon as my hair dried.
This summer I flew to Nigeria the minute I filed year-end grades, looking sorta ragged. My favorite cousin Nkem, a tall, hilarious law student and killer dancer who instinctually understands my strange American ways better than anyone in my family, took me to a fancy salon. More dubious looks. The stylist picked up the clippers. I shrieked. Nkem leapt up. More stylists came in. The first one was demoted, another deputized. A flurry of Pidgin English was exchanged. Then finally the pronouncement: "She has to pay the White Price. This White Hair is a headache!"
Nkem roared. "She's not white!" he shouted indignantly. "Her people are from down the road." So I was granted Honorary Black status and got a trim, closely monitored and directed by Nkem.
"Tell it again!" my African-American-but-same-color-as-me stylist begs, wiping away tears of laughter. "Tell the one about paying the White Price!"
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