Waves Are Not For Bald Men
After a work dinner this past Easter holiday, I decided to give the wave gang a second chance. I took out my sister’s shampoo, smeared it on my hands, and coated my bald head with it.
I was careful, so it doesn’t spill on my good suit. And then I brushed my little hair – which has been in constant conflict with my hairline, receding backward like a toddler from the Boogeyman – vigorously, as I had been instructed in a YouTube video. Shampoo dripping to my back, I dumped the bottle on my work table.
I was ten, in a boarding school outside Lagos, when I first noticed waves. A senior student had it. His was shiny and wavy, and spiralled all the way down, encircling his head, looking like a scene from a 90s Hollywood animation when the villain says “Now you’re feeling sleepy,” in an absurd voice.
The perfect 360 waves. It was beautiful and hypnotic, both in how it looked and what it did. Girls liked him and boys wanted to be his friend.
In the mornings, standing in front of the little grooming altar -filled with hair products; shampoos, hair creams, different kinds of hairbrushes- by his bedside, he will brush his hair meticulously, using different brushes for different parts, applying different creams and on Saturdays, he lived in a durag. When people asked him how he got his waves, he always said it was natural and so I never gave it a shot.
The first time I tried joining the wave gang was in the last days of my dark puberty years when my hairline just started receding to the back and my nickname was “pimple paradise.” Growing up in an all-boys boarding school, on Saturdays after playing football, the boys showcased their waves, hands running through it tenderly, as we waited our turn for a haircut.
“Brush your hair every day after applying the Sportin’ Waves cream and you will have it,” a friend who had it had advised. His didn’t spiral all the way to the back.
It sat only on his punk, black and shiny. I brushed my hair, hard, like a mad man looking for coins in his hair, for hours, till I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I looked in the mirror but didn’t have it yet. “Use a harder brush,” another friend advised. “You need to apply more cream,” said another. “Try brushing it tenderly with a softer brush.” I did it all and for days I walked around with a bruised scalp but no waves patterns appeared.
M-type baldness is what it’s called. It is the third stage of going bald, when the hair starts receding to the back only in the corners, leaving a full chunk of hair in the middle, creating an M-shaped hairline. I had tried to conceal it. Wearing the V shape haircut, investing in face caps, taking minoxidil.
I did not embrace my baldness as my father did. My father, when I was younger, resumed his days shaving his hair himself, till nothing was left on his head.
He started going bald in his late twenties. I started going bald when I hit puberty. Was the reason I didn’t have waves during the last try because I was bald? Or was it part and parcel of having terrible puberty? I didn’t care the last time I tried.
I was too interested in displaying my waves to the boys to care. But now, as I approach my mid-twenties, I wanted to find out, and this new trial might answer that question. What I do know is that men in my family, who have had receding hairlines, have always gone fully bald, and none of them had waves. But none of them tied a durag or watched YouTube videos on how to get it or read tips in men’s magazines and brushed their hair till their scalp was bruised.
Now, before I lose the chunk of hair in the front of my head, this might be my last chance to wear waves.
I took out a satin durag, with my hair filled with shampoo, and tied it tight to the back. And then I went to sleep. I needed to wait for it to dry up for the shiny beautiful waves that I so wanted to appear.
I woke up replying to emails and texts. My phone rang, and it was a friend calling on FaceTime. “What are you wearing,” he said to me. “It’s a durag. I’m trying to get waves again.” “You can’t have waves,” he said casually.
After the call, I stood in front of a mirror, untying the durag with a hairbrush in hand. I raised my phone to the sunlight and pulled out the front camera, observing my hair. I needed to be sure. I needed a second opinion. There was nothing. It didn’t work. I hadn’t gotten any waves.
After plastering my face with a charcoal mix, I took a shower. My sister’s shampoo was still on my work table. I poured a few drops in my palm and rubbed it in my hair.
And then brushed, gently this time. I tied the durag tighter, and I went to my work table. I might only have a few more years before I go completely bald and lose all my front hair and I want to live these remaining years rocking waves, shiny 360 waves.
I had started again and this time and I won’t stop.