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Sara Al Mheiri: A hairy hoot
February 13, 2015
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“Please stop moving,” she said with gritted teeth, her patience clearly running out. I didn’t care though. She wasn’t the one in absolute agony.

My legs were crossed so tightly and nails dug deep into the arm rests but that didn’t stop my head suddenly flinching from the pain as I yelped. She sighed loudly and undid the braid once more. This was the third time in a row that she has been braiding the same piece of hair. But when I say braid, I mean really yanking the hair practically out of the root to make sure it stands the test of time.

The other women in the salon gave me mixed reactions. Some tutted at my silliness and others gave me a warm empathetic smile. They know exactly what I’m going through.

I cast my eyes in shame and instead catch my eye in the mirror. That’s when I realised that I could just walk away. This is the beginning of a long painful road and the last exit of the highway is coming up quickly.

No. I made a huge decision three months ago and I vowed, not only to myself but my parents too, that if I went through with it, I would have to endure this ordeal in the future. That decision was cutting my hair.

Not just a little trim from the bottom but a full Britney Spears style. Well not bald, but for an Arab woman, I might as well have been. Our pride and joy is our hair. I mean, it’s even incorporated itself into our cultural dances!

Since the age of eleven, I haven’t been able to join in after I cut my waist length hair all the way up to my shoulders. One large snip and my head felt like it was floating on a cloud. My neck was no longer bearing the weight of such hair (especially after a shower).

My mother was sobbing behind me, clutching onto the remains of my Emirati trademark look. I shook my head with such glee, feeling my hair curl around my neck and bounce happily. Since that day, I never looked back. Even after my relatives and fellow Arabs expressed their distain to my hair, with no sympathy at all, might I add.

It took over ten years for them to finally say, “You know what, it suits you really well actually. Don’t grow your hair out.” And grow it out I haven’t. Bear with my terrible grammar please.

But now, the second decade of my life has passed and those thoughts emerged once more. Out of the blue might I add, but it came back with a vengeance. It was relentless and finally I gave in. My parents were only given the briefest warning and it wasn’t until a week later that they knew I had cut my shoulder length hair to ... well let’s just say, from the back, I look like my brother. However this time, instead of taking ten years for them to agree with my look, it only took a day.

America had accepted my hair but UAE’s decision loomed ahead come Christmas time when I had to take the yearly pilgrimage back home. No one knew about it. I had been careful with my Instagram and messages. So, instead of bravely accepting my fate like I should have, I cowered behind my computer and spent hours searching for a cop out.

It seemed like I had only two options: buy a wig or get a weave sewn in. I opted for a weave and that’s where it ties in to the beginning of the story. I was in the middle of nowhere in Brooklyn, New York, in a teeny tiny African American salon getting fake hair sewn into my hair.

Fast-forward to six hours later and I had a full head of hair stretching all the way down to my waist. They wouldn’t cut it, claiming it was “too pretty to cut.” So I forked over the money and lugged my heavy head back home where my precious scissors were residing.

After making my doorman scream with shock then hoot with laughter, I trudged upstairs and chopped off the ridiculous length. Then I had a Skype chat with my mother who also screamed with shock and hooted with laughter. “Who cares?” she exclaimed. “It’s your hair! It’s just hair.”

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Sara Al Mheiri is a young Emirati woman who is currently living
in Boston, USA, where she is specialising in media studies with a
focus on women's studies. Sara is the ultimate nomad who flits
between countries observing new societies and their culture.

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