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One of the perks of growing your hair as a man is the privilege of sitting in feminine spaces consuming their conversations. Sometimes ridiculous, other times you laugh and laugh until the veins in your neck swell in excitement.

Yesterday I knew why my mother would spend half the day in salons and come home with her eyes lit up—as though the sun had moved to her face. It was the unsolicited advices that flies around in salons that brightens her eyes—directionless, like depressed bats migrating at noon.

Growing up I was always with my mom in her kitchen or going out with her. I remember trying to keep up with her brisk pace—running with my tiny legs while she walked with her not-so-straight-legs. Now I think about it in hindsight and I wonder how short I was, to be unable to keep up with her pace.

On my way to the salon yesterday I promised myself that I’ll behave like my mother—walk into a crowded space with a wry smile and a dangerous wit. The difference between I and my mom is my tendency to get bored with what I had initially set up to do.

The women in the salon greeted me with kindness and an alienated wonder that swept through the entire salon when I walked in. I greeted everyone there and took my sit. Standing can be nervy for me especially when I’m in the midst of strange women. To control my anxiety I cross my leg and lean forward scrolling through my ePub reader with an intent to control their possible opinions of me.

I like to be perceived as a knowledgeable person but my anklet tells another story. The crystals on my neck would always suggest a deep mystery.

I cursorily glanced round and knew that they were all attempting to box me into a place in their heads and getting confused. One fair lady who talked about the price of her child’s school fees for the whole time would later ask me “Nna kedu udiri mmadu ibu”

The salon holds its breath while necks turn around to hear me demystify myself. She had a charm really; A bright woman who has two degrees including an aeronautic certification. No wonder she looked attractive with her tinted dreads and long nails that ensured she had someone around to help her press her phone.

I don’t know what will be your answer if you’re asked what kind of human you are but when I’m asked such, I reply with a smile and a stare. A disarming stare that was misinterpreted as seduction yesterday. I was happy to hear that my harmless stare could pass as seduction. I knew she would throw away her entire marriage if I set out to seduce her.

While the stylist washed my hair, I noticed a woman. Elderly, those kind of women that look like headmistresses and nurses at the same time. She had a calm demeanor and contributed sparingly in the conversation. Her reticence came from her wealth of experience over the years. She didn’t say that but it was in her eye bags—they bore the weight of everything her eyes has seen in her lifetime. The dark patch reiterating the unfairness of life.

“Has it started to pepper you”

My hairdresser inquired. I asked if she used pepper on my hair and she said no. I’ll later find out that she wanted to know when the menthol strength in the shampoo surrenders to time. I was enjoying the rubs on my scalp by her girls.

They were three running their fingers across my hair with a suspicious tenderness that made me think about enjoyment. It felt good siting with a towel swung across my neck while three people invaded my stubborn hair with creams, crotchets and their fingers.

I haven’t had such number of women pay attention to me at the same time in a very long while and I didn’t know when I began to rub my tummy in relaxation. They saw me do that and called out my vanity rather humorously.

The owner of the salon walks to where I was being attended to and whispered to her girls “Echi bu wedding this woman”

It was raining heavily when I processed the information well. The reticent elderly woman who I thought was already a matriarch was wedding tomorrow?

Life doesn’t run out of surprises.

I surrendered my attention on the altar of this woman’s mystery and I started to eavesdrop.

I liked the way “My husband” slipped out of her mouth from time to time. The way she answers phone calls intermittently sighing and cussing her husbands brothers who are not happy with their brother for choosing her.

I had three people attend to my hair. She had someone filing her nails, another fixing her weave, another painting her toe nails. She didn’t speak with so much excitement but she said that if she has married earlier, she would have deprived herself of the maturity she has now. I thought so too but people had reservations in the salon.

It was her show. Nobody wanted to steal it. She complained about the length of the nails and it was shortened. She complained about her husband not liking thick make ups and they recommended a light powder for her. She questioned the color choice and it was changed.

She had a lingering smile on her face. A smile she must have been keeping from her baby girl days. The smile women flaunt on their weddings—a smile of conquest maybe.

Today she will show the world that smile. I don’t know where she’s wedding but I wish her unending happiness and joy. She deserves all of it and more.

I hope she takes that smile everywhere she goes. It looked good on her. Even as she struggled to contain her excitement.

August 7 2021

Awka, Nigeria.