On a recent trip to the Dominican for a family wedding I kept noticing a woman walking down the beach offering hair braiding. I’ve always loved braids and was really drawn to the beautiful photos in the woman’s book (I later found out my aunt braided my hair with beads when I was young so this may have something to do with it). The second day, I stopped the woman and once we agreed upon what would be done and the price she whisked me off to a chair at the edge of the beach. She handed me two containers, one full of beads and one with precut strips of foil which I was to hand her when she asked (first foil, then 3 beads the color combination of which was up to me to decide) and in a remarkably short amount of time my thick, long tresses were transformed into box braids.
The immediate reactions to my new hairstyle varied. Much of the family I was traveling with did not particularly like my new look at first, but many people who didn’t know me gave me compliments. There was a knowing smile whenever I crossed path with someone else who had braids. I found myself enjoying my new braids more and more every day, particularly their easy care during all the sun and salt water on the beach.
As my trip neared an end I began to wonder how my hair would be viewed back home. After all, it made since on the island but what would people thinking of a French professor/yoga teacher from Maine in braids in the middle of winter?
On the trip home people’s heads turned as I traveled from Punta Cana to Atlanta to New York and finally back to Maine, but to my pleasant surprise most of them smiled as they did so. Strangers stopped me to compliment me, ask me questions (was it really my hair?) or to touch my hair. Once back home, I prepared to return to the classroom. My dress clothes seemed a somber contrast to the bright beads and braids, and I wondered if my students would think me silly or worse mocking cultures who wear braids, but my students absolutely loved my hair and being the second week of class and still determining if they liked me, they decided I was the “coolest professor ever.” Most of my colleagues liked my hair as well, or thought it was interesting that I tried it. Some of my more traditional colleagues gave me disapproving looks, which I had of course expected. At the Y, my yoga students loved the braids, and I have to say they were really fun and easy to deal with during my practice and dealing with my hair had never been easier.
Unfortunately, since I did not have proper products to take care of my hair while I was on my trip combined with the fact I have very fine hair led to my hair becoming frizzy and I decided it was time to remove my braids.
Whether people loved or hated them, my braids certainly garnered a reaction. I truly enjoyed my time in braids and I’m grateful for the experience. I liked it so much that I would definitely try them again- perhaps this summer!