Why I'm Still Taking Down My Twist- and Braid-Outs During Stay At Home Orders

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Even as some U.S. states began to open up post-COVID-19 lockdown, I'm not so sure about jumping back into life as usual. As infections continue to spike in some areas and demonstrations against the state-sanctioned brutality of Black and brown people threatens to undo some of the work we've done to curb the spread of this terrible pestilence, there seems to be no reprieve from our upended world. Medical experts are even warning that we might experience a second wave of this in the fall. It feels as if nothing will ever be normal again.

This rings especially true if you're living in the epicenter of the virus: New York City. The summer I envisioned full of boat rides and brunch hopping has essentially been canceled. Sure, more things may open up in the summer months, but whether I and the rest of the community will even want to participate in such revelries is a different story. COVID-19 has filled us all with tremendous loss. The loss of comfortability, of lofty plans, and for me, the loss of a family member. My daily routine is all off. My springy floral-print dresses remain hung up in my closet — I don't really have anywhere to wear them. I stay in loungewear or athleisure all day, unheard of for me. Picnics in the park have to be done with gloves, masks, and copious amounts of hand sanitizer. It's a lot. Too much, even.

ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

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No.501 - Frizzy Hair

My hair-care and styling habits have not changed — and that's on purpose. I didn't tuck my hair into a protective style once it was announced that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. I knew I would have to wash and condition my hair weekly as usual, but given that there wasn't really anywhere to go, I realized that I probably didn't need to actually style my hair. No one was going to see me save for on Zoom calls, and I could easily wrap up my hair in a turban if it was a mess.

But then, I thought more about it. I didn't want to sit around my house in A$AP Rocky braids. I didn't want to have to wear a headwrap every time I got on camera for a deskside. I love wearing my hair loose and fluffy in a twist-out, wash-and-go, or braid-out. That's just how I like to present myself. It makes me feel the most like me. And while this virus has taken a lot from me — my sense of ease, a little bit of my hair in the front, my mother — I wasn't going to let it rob me of the pleasure of wearing my hair out, the soothing satisfaction of absentmindedly touching my tiny curls as I chat with my friends on FaceTime or marathon Schitt's Creek on Netflix.

For some people, having to manage their natural hair is work — totally valid. But for me, it's self-care. It's the one thing that makes me feel like less of a stressed-out shell of myself who can't open packages without washing her hands a million times. My thoughts frequently spiral when I pass someone in my apartment building hallway who happens to be talking with no mask on — but at the very least, my hair, though its ends are a bit scraggly, still feels soft and cared for. I've finally gotten to the point of being able to take a walk without panicking (depending on where I go). I mitigate my anxiety by applying and re- applying hand sanitizer, which stings my cracked, eczema-riddled hands. Is it a little unhealthy? Possibly, but at least my curls are poppin'.

I don't know when I will feel fully normal again. I don't know when I'll get to the point when I don't recoil from someone who's walking too close to me. I have no clue when I'll be able to feel as if I can take the subway, which, as a native of NYC, I've been doing since I was a small child. I wish I could tell you I feel comfortable hugging someone I love. I don't. This pandemic has changed me in both permanent and (hopefully) temporary ways. But one thing that hasn't changed is the dutiful way I care for my hair — at least I have that.

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