My 7-Hour Braiding Routine is a Declaration of Self-Love

I rediscovered myself.

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The way that this social distanced period has affected me is not unique. My story about being stuck in my apartment and working from my couch with questionable sweatpants on is not groundbreaking. Ushering my reluctant eight- year-old from one virtual classroom to another is not a situation that is unrecognizable in 2020. Like many others, quarantine has forced me to stay home and rethink my routine (or lack of one)—as a byproduct of sorts, my regular beauty upkeep has gradually fallen by the wayside. Sitting around in cutoff shorts and an ex boyfriend’s hoodie for the better part of nine months seemed appealing, until I actually sat around for nine months in cutoff shorts and an ex’s hoodie. Yes, allowing my wrists and finger tips to slowly forget the muscle memory of applying primer, foundation, and highlighter in a precise order every morning was freeing in a way. But by the third month of the quarantine, I’d completely stopped any part of my beauty routine, including doing my hair. Instead, I settled for haphazard wig braids and selecting the "camera off" function for Zoom meetings. Without a need to really leave my apartment to go to work or many social events, keeping up with my hair felt like an unnecessary hassle that I should enjoy being freed from finally.

After about three months, that freeing feeling started feeling...heavy. As it turns out, spending months indoors with a sketchy, barely viable haircare routine can be a real downer after a while. Despite it feeling crappy, I still was having trouble justifying doing my own hair. Maintaining my natural hair felt like an unbelievable chore that I continuously skipped and ignored. Throwing in a protective style felt like a waste, because no one was going to get to enjoy it other than me. Every time I started to pick up a comb to do a twist out or install my favorite butt-length knotless box braids, a little voice in my head asked me, Why are you wasting your time on your hair when you could be working or studying or cooking your eight-year-old his 10th meal for the day? To be honest, aside from it feeling like a total time suck, spending that much time on my hair in the midst of a pandemic felt arrogant and quite vain. There are people who are saying premature goodbyes to their loved ones and here I am, worried about what I look like. In a way, pushing my self-care to the corner to wither away felt like an act of solidarity in suffering. There are far greater things to worry about this year than how my hair looks—right?

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