Thursday, April 30, 2009

Braids for white kids

10 things you didn't know about getting your hair braided (and which you might not get told since the hair salon is used to dealing with people who know better).

First of all, when I say 'braids' let's just clarify what we're talking about. For anyone who hasn't run into me in the last couple of months, I'm not thinking of some straight up-down french plait. I'm talking about 8 millions 6 hundred thousand 1 thousand 9 hundred and 12 little bitsy braids all over the head (okay, so maybe that number isn't 100% accurate, but it's got a good feel to it). The overall look was pretty dramatic and people stopped to comment on it all the time, which was awesome. Now it's all out though, I thought it might be interesting to recap on the things I learnt.

(1) Most of the hair braids are made of synthetic hair. I think I did know when I saw braided hair that synthetic hair was wound in with it, but I didn't appreciate how much. Apparently, you can just braid the hair as it is, but the braids end up super-fine which means they don't last that long and the whole look is rather thin, which rather defies the point of braiding it to begin with. Synthetic hair is cheap (only a few dollars per packet and I think I needed 4 packets for my shoulder-length hair) but if you have light coloured hair, you will need to get this in advance because chances are the salon will only have black and dark brown hair in stock. Since you're weaving in hair, it might be fun to put a totally different colour in with it. I had strands of blue added to each of my braids.

(2) Hell, it takes ages. The reason braiding is expensive is that someone has to sit there for hours and do it. You're looking at 3-5 hours depending on how thick the braids are you want. Also...

(3) .... if you get beads put on the bottom, then you can only have the finest braids and the beads take a lot of extra time. This was something I didn't appreciate until too late. If you heat the ends of synthetic hair, it seals itself which is a quick way of securing the end of the braid. If, on the other hand, you want a bead on the end, then you have to add the bead and an elastic band which will add several hours onto the process. On the other hand, the beads are cool so....

(4) Your braided hair will be longer than your normal hair. Apparently, it's normal to continue braiding the synthetic hair several inches past the end of your hair, so the bottom part of each braid does not contain any of your natural hair. Quite useful if you just want to cut the beads off rather than undo each one.

(5) For the first couple of days, the braids feel really tight. After this, the synthetic hair relaxes and it's much more comfortable. I read on the web that some people take aspirin for the first few days, but mine wasn't painful enough for that, just a bit sore.

(6) Sleeping took longer to get used to, largely because of all those beads! It's hard to know where to put them. I wrapped a scarf around the top of my head to protect the braids a bit while I slept (though the presence of the beads means I didn't move around too much in the night).

(7) Washing was no problem. Everyone asked me how I managed this, but I just soaped down the braids as usual in the shower and then used a spray-on conditioner afterwards. It seemed to work fine, since my hair wasn't a nasty mass when I removed the braids, although the synthetic hair felt a bit sticky as I unwound it. Possibly this is because it's harder to wash the shampoo out of it.

(8) I had my braids in for about 6 weeks (I lost count, but it's close to that +/- 1). After that time, I could see I had about an inch of hair growth before the braids started. A few braids near the back which didn't have much real hair woven in slid clean out which was an effective, if creepy, way of removing them. The braids themselves get frayed over time as parts of your actual hair escape. I thought this might be a bigger problem than it was for me, but there comes a point when the hair style is clearly at the end of its life.

(9) You loose an alarming amount of hair when you unbraid yourself. It's not really surprising, since for the last x-weeks you've lost no hair, whereas you'd normally loose a bit everyday from brushing. Now you loose all that at once. But it's still a little disconcerting. I found I had a number of small but ferocious tangles but largely my hair was in good shape.

(10) Beware of sunburn for the first few weeks. Your scalp is very exposed!

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's good to be bad

Star Wars, James Bond, Batman... you have to love stories with really bad baddies. I don't mean some confused, misunderstood fellow who is a good sort underneath. I mean the sort of person who, under no circumstances whatsoever, would you ever want to give your last rolo to. With such an individual, you can really get behind the hero as he seeks to destroy him and watch with satisfaction as he's pounded to a pulp and locked up for life... or at least until the box office decides there has to be a sequel. It's like sadism with no guilt.

Yet, when you stop and consider it, is being the good guy really the best option? Take, for instance, the case of Dolores Umbridge in the later Harry Potter books. There is no denying that she is one nasty piece of work. She terrorizes all the students at Hogwarts before switching sides in a pin drop to throw her toad-like self in with Voldermort's crowd. At the end of book 5, you do have the satisfaction of seeing her carried away by centaurs to undergo alien-style anal probing with hoofs (okay, so that was never actually specified, but you find the idea a good one too, just admit it), but then she's rescued to show up again in book 7 tourturing more people in the Ministry of Magic. Finally, when Harry prevails, we are told she is locked up, but is this really very satisfying? I tell you no! The prison is no longer controlled by soul sucking beasts of darkness. It's probably run by an ex-bus conductor named Stan who hands out free sundaes once a week.

Now let's pause for a moment to think what would happen if Harry had lost. The lucky characters would be dead and then rest would be at the mercy of the Death Eaters and Dementors (who, for the uninitiated have names like "Lucius" in the first instance and don't even have names in the second. Now that's scary).

So if you're in a situation where you have to pick a side, isn't it worth taking a moment to think what would happen in all eventual outcomes? If you pick the "goodies", then the reward if you win is probably to return to your life and raise some chickens. If you loose it's probably TOURTURE IN THE FIREY PITS OF HELL. On the other hand, if you become a "baddie" then your reward for success is UNIMAGINABLE WEALTH AND POWER versis a cosy prison cell with your own TV.

It's a tough choice, so pick carefully.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A bus driver's advice

"And here," announced our Savannah tour guide in a cheery voice. "is the shop you can get home made candy. Totally delicious, but if you eat too much, you'll get a stomach ache!"

This, combined with warnings about crossing Bay Street (traffic lights often optional to drivers) and walking down the stone steps to the river side (footing often optional to pre-ER visitors) formed the basis for good advice that afternoon. The only mildly amusing point was that the above tips was issued multiple times and that myself and friend were the youngest people on the touring tram. (Apparently on Thursdays most people don't skip out of work to take a road trip to a historical town in Georgia). But then, you can't trust anyone with knitting needles to maintain self-control when confronted with candy, can you?

The tour was actually excellent, giving a great overview of Savannah. We rattled around the squares admiring the haunted houses, beautiful cathedrals, grave stones 11 year old boys with 12 year old sons and discussing the trenches piled with (now) dead (but at the time not so much) soldiers... I'm detecting an over-arching theme here, but I can't quite put my finger on what it was. Either way, the afternoon found myself and my friend going in search of this
sweet shop, chuckling at the wisdom of bus drivers.

The shop did not fail to disappoint. Caramel apples twice the size of my fist were laid out in rows, each with a different coating of chocolate and sprinklings. Racks of cookies, piles of truffles and multiple chocolate covered ... well, who knows really, but how could you go wrong?

I bought a bag of truffles and a huge ice cream in a giant, chocolate sprinkled cone with multicoloured "birthday cake" ice cream on top and pistachio underneath. Unconventional perhaps, but what an inspiration!

I then proceeded to be horribly sick for the rest of the afternoon.

Moral of his story: you're never too old to listen to bus drivers.

But then, it was worth it. Oh yes, trust me, you should have seen this ice cream.