I decided I wanted a fancy birthday hairstyle. This birthday is a big number. I’m not saying which one. But when you get grown, you have to have a birthday that is different than your usual trips. I chose Italy: I did Milan during fashion week, then Monza to visit a friend and now I’m on Lake Como to look for George Clooney. (He’s not here. I checked.)
Packing my bags was easy. I grabbed my two favorite bathing suits, a bunch of shorts and tees, my one favorite freak-um dress and stilettos and that’s it.
But when it came down to my hair, I was stumped. For the past few months, I’ve been rocking a platinum-blonde fro with shaved-sides. I love it. But it’s my everyday look. Not a birthday look.
Now, over the years, from barrettes and ponytails to perms to dreadlocks and many more, I’ve had fun picking out new hairstyles.
And yet each time, I’ve always put some kind of twist on the style to make it my own. Because I planned two weeks in Europe to celebrate this (big) birthday, I wanted something extravagant, something extra. I searched online, not sure of where to even start. I decided I wanted braids and of course, there are a million different options. Did I want chunky twists? Shoulder-length SisterLocs?
Nothing was exciting me. I felt like I’d had every braided hairstyle ever. Twice. And then, I came across several photos of Solange Knowles.
**cue angels singing**
Solange is known for taking a style and making it her very own. My very fave look is her butt-length micro-twists. It’s modern and fresh and always frames her face nicely. It looks sleek with a gown and casual chic with harem pants and strappy sandals.
I wanted in.
It was everything I wanted for my (big) birthday hairdo. It was extra. It was sexy. It was something I’d never had before. And most importantly, it was completely impractical.
I’m a freelance writer and mother of two. I work from home which means everything has to be easy breezy. I edit stories in Whole Foods. I write out ideas in car line while picking up my kids. It’s all about jeggings, tees and hair that is easy to maintain and stays out of my way.
Solange’s go-to style is the exact opposite. There is nothing sensible about braids that long.
I wanted in.
I printed out a few pics of Solange and went to the braiding salon. The woman in the shop looked at the picture and sighed.
“You want this?”
“Yes. I want this.”
“Yes. This long.”
“And this small?”
“Yes. This small.”
She sighed again. She sucked her teeth.
“You know this cost xyz right?”
“You still want it?”
“Yes. I still want it.”
She told me to come the next morning. IF I was the first one in, she’d get someone started on me.
I was there at 8:30. The shop didn’t open until 9. I waited. And when I saw her roll up at 8:45 to open up, I got out of the car and waved to her. She didn’t wave back. She just rolled her eyes.
Never have I had to work so hard to spend way too much money. It was like she was doing it for free.
Within minutes, two women were on my hair. As soon as I saw how long it took them to do the first two twists, (twisted only half-way down), I realized why she had been sighing and eye-rolling.
For the next few hours, I watched three English language African films. The best one was about this guy who fell in love even though he was already married. He moved his new woman into his house. The wife came home out of nowhere and he tried to tell her it was over and she just laughed in his face because she was in her own house! Trust me, it was really good.
About three hours in, there was the holy-grail moment. I had three women twisting my hair at the same time. Things started moving.
Four hours in, (yes four), I glanced at the mirror and smiled. What I could see was amazing. Each twist was neat and tight and way too long. Which was just long enough.
After nine hours, the women began to snip the stray hairs and start the process of boiling water to dip the ends of my hair in. (I have never understood what the boiling water is for. I don’t ask questions and just hope I don’t get burned.)
So, here’s the thing. When I got up and took a good look at my hair, I instantly knew it was the style I wanted.
You know how you get a new hairstyle and it’s jarring? I usually say, I just need to get used to it.
I didn’t say that this time. I said, this is amazing. I love it.
I’m in Italy now, for my (big) birthday trip. Everywhere I go is a Tupac album: All Eyes On Me. What I love most about my twists is that they force me to slow down. I have to walk with my head held high and I have to be conscious of what’s around me. I’m regal, walking like a queen in these Milan streets.
I don’t have to do a thing to my twists. Whatever I’m wearing, they just work. Impossibly chic with zero effort.
There are challenges: subways, elevators, stoves, refrigerator doors. And certain activities require some um, forethought and adjustments.
But overall. This is it. This is about to be my go-to style. I might get this re-done all the way to my next [big] birthday.
Except then I’d be repeating the same style twice. This one might be worth it.
(Photo: Aliya S. King )
TRENDING IN STYLE