Strange things happen when the husband of a happily married woman goes out of town. She calls up her girlfriends and begs them to come over, plying them with champagne and cupcakes. She spends inordinate amounts of time online, staring at dresses that if her husband were home, he would mock derisively.
"I hate those dresses," he says about a Pucci print, "My grandmother had one just like it."
And there will be no explaining the merry-go-round of fashion, how what is old is always, inevitably, new again. When the husband's away, the wife will play. She will shop. She will wear ridiculously high shoes and take a taxi to meet her friends 10 blocks away. And sometimes, every once in a while, she will get a weave.
At 37, I've had dreadlocks for nearly half my lifetime. Why I got them is not really important; what is important is that I like them. I cringe when people say "your hair must be so easy; you never have to do anything to it." Because anyone with a natural hairstyle knows, it takes work to keep chemical-free hair neat. And if you're a person who likes to play with her locks—a sweet Audrey Hepburn bun one day, the next day, curly locks (achieved via rod set and three hours underneath the dryer)—then it is an effort. Not to mention, I like to color my hair. I've settled into a caramel brown with light highlights, but my locks have been everything from dirty blonde to fire engine red. And my husband, bless his Pucci-hating heart, loves my hair.
That said, my husband was away. I sat in the reception area of Duafe, the natural hair mecca in Philadelphia and waited for my appointment with Syreeta Scott, hair stylist to the stars (Jill Scott among them). I sat looking at a book of 'dos and a picture of a girl with a long Naomi Campbell like ponytail entranced me. Could I have hair like that?
When Syreeta came out to greet me, I asked her.
"A weave?" she asked, laughing. "Oh, Lord. What'll Jason say?"
Syreeta knows my husband and thinks he's hilarious. "Jason's out of town, and I want to surprise him," I explained.
"Let's do it," Syreeta said. "But not now. I've got to pick out some hair and need to block out some time—five hours worth."
I returned to the salon at 9 p.m. the following night. Right away, there was a buzz when I got to the salon. Weaves don't come through often at a natural hair salon, and no one had seen someone with locks get a straight weave. (There are natural hair weaves, but that's another hair story.) Syreeta and her crew ordered dinner—Jamaican, from a place called Little Delicious—and as we ate, I explained—my husband was away, I wanted to do something surprising.
As the evening wore on, I kept expecting clients who had finished to leave, but no one was going home.
"I've got to see this, "said one woman pulling up a chair.
"The cool thing is you've had locks for years; you're just changing things up," said another. Not everyone stayed the whole night, but by the time we were finished, at 2 a.m., there were still half a dozen people in the salon.
Because the locks made my hair sit up so high, I couldn't get the pulled back Sadé ponytail I had in mind. Instead, what I got was a chin length bob, not that different—in length at least—from my locks.
Looking at myself with a weave, I felt like I was staring down a clone of myself in a sci-fi movie; familiar, but not really the same. I ran my fingers through my hair: It was soft and fine. I'd forgotten the feeling of bone-straight hair. I liked it.
The next day, I went to pick up my baby girl who had spent the night with her grandparents. She did not recognize me. I went to pick her up, and she inched away. My heart broke a little. It's ok, said my mother-in-law, who loved my new hair. She just needs a minute. I began to sing a little song that I'd made up for my daughter, and she crawled over to me. I picked her up, and she stared at me with a look that I can only describe as, "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?" Normally, she chews on my locks like licorice whips. During the entire time I had my weave, my daughter would touch my hair, tentatively, but she never once tried to put it in her mouth.
Veronica and her baby girl after mommy's pseudo-transformation.
The day my husband returned from his business trip, we were to meet at the Harvard Club in New York. There was a board meeting for my alma mater and a dozen of us were meeting afterward for dinner.
The scene was exactly as I'd pictured it. My husband walked into the massive, elegant dining room. He scanned the room for me and glanced past me several times. When he finally figured out that I was indeed in the room, he walked over to me—a huge grin on his face. "What did you do?" he whispered. "Did you cut your hair?"
"No," I said, the locks are underneath.
"How?" he asked.
"Syreeta," I said. "She's very good at what she does."
"What do you think?" I asked my husband.
"It's weird," he said.
As much as I tried, it was hard for me to get used to the weave. I felt like I was an actress in a costume drama—except for instead of a corset and a hoop skirt, I was wearing this weave. And more often than not, I felt like the weave was wearing me.
I'd always said that my locks were just a hairstyle, not a political statement. What I hadn't taken into account was that my locks aren't just a style, they are a style that flatters me.
After the fun of being out with "another woman" for an evening and dubbing her "Weavelina," my husband soon grew tired of my weave. "I don't like not being able to touch your scalp," he said.
"It's soft," I said, guiding his hand to the curls at the bottom of my very gnarly scalp.
But he wasn't appeased, "Your hair is prettier."
I thought that the weave would give me a new confidence, but the longer I wore it, the more I felt like a pale imitation of girls I've always admired but was never able to emulate. The Nia Longs, the Gabrielle Unions, the Kelly Rowlands.
After two short weeks, I took my very expensive weave out. Soon after, I was walking in a park near my house. A beautiful black girl approached me. She was jogging, and her Naomi-Campbell-like ponytail bounced gorgeously.
"See, that's why I want a weave," I told my husband. "Love that."
But as the woman got closer, I was shocked to see that she did not have straight hair. That huge horse mane of a ponytail was made up on perfectly formed dreadlocks.
I've cut my hair for years because long locks are more than a notion. In the summer, they are hella hot. When my hair gets long, it's almost impossible to set, and I'm crazy about curls.
But after seeing that dreadlocked Naomi Campbell look-alike in the park, I'm finally ready for something new. And it's nothing short of thrilling to realize I don't need a weave to get a sleek ponytail that tickles the small of my back. I'll simply grow my own.