Trimophobia. What’s that you say. I know it sounds like a terrible mental condition that requires a lot of pill popping but its not. Trimophobia is what I use to describe my fear of losing hair from trims. I’ve had a number of epic fails when it comes to growing my hair. For example, my first attempt on this journey back in 2010 can be described as a natural disaster. I thought I was doing so well but didn’t realise I was tying my scarves too tightly and giving myself an undercut. Yeah, not my intention at all. So I panicked, didn’t know what to do and in less than two years I returned to relaxers or the ‘creamy crack’ as some naturals like to call it. That’s the past now, I’ve had more than enough time to grow back my undercut and I now have about 10-inches of hair (yes I measure). So you can understand it’s hard for me to think of letting go of even a little bit of it. And why should I if I don’t see any split ends? But after reading The Curious Case of Mrs Hyde and the whole hair breakage slash I’m a monster episode, my very good friend and one of my natural hair inspirations, Nanu, told me, ‘natural hair does get split ends, they’re just easier to hide.’ She advised I hurry and get a trim before I actually did kill my hair.
Hmm, maybe she’s right and I do get split ends and they’re just hiding in there somewhere between my strands. Maybe I did need a trim. So as much as I hated trims, I was going to give it a go. But before I go into the details of how that went, I want to back track a little to see at what point I became trimophobic.
Long before the thought to go natural ever occured to me, I was a religious trimmer. I had heard that regular trims made a woman’s hair grow longer, quicker and healthier. I believed these stories so every six weeks I would make my way to Veronica- a Jamaican hairdresser who worked in a small salon just off the busy market street in Woolwich, south London. Only Veronica was allowed to touch my hair. Once when she wasn’t there, one of the other hairdressers pulled out her chair and said, ‘Come make I do your hair. Vero no here today.’ After hearing those lines, I should have known taking that seat was a big mistake. Like Chris Brown said, ‘No, she aint you.’ Damn right. None of the other hairdressers could compare to Veronica. I would sit in her chair and let her wash, condition and snip away at the ends of my hair. I trusted her hands. I trusted she would never cut off more than she needed to. And when she was done she would always ask if I wanted my hair straightened. Even though it would cost me an extra £5 from my student budget, I would always say yes. Those fiery tongs smoked so much I should have suspected they were frying my strands but the end results were always so amazing that it was very easy for me to ignore the smell of fried hair. I also didnt notice then that my hair never grew past my collar bone. Never.
When I started transitioning, I became my own hairdresser and did everything myself including the trims. This wasn’t out of choice but as a result of my experiences. At first, Veronica was having a baby then I later found out she left the salon permanently. Of course the other hairdressers were smart enough not to tell me where she was working now in the hopes that I would become their regular client. That was never going to happen so I tried elsewhere. I soon realised hairdressers didn’t like me very much. They would touch my hair and frown then say things like ‘your hair tough, why you no wan relax?’ And when I would say I was going natural they would look at me like I had gone completely mad. Who wants to deal with virgin hair??
To be honest, I don’t mind at all living with this condition. I’m very happy to not chop off any hair.
Going to the hairdressers gradually became an ordeal for me. My hair got thicker and combing it was a nightmare. They would use the blow dryer with the comb attached and yank at my hair. It was like they were trying to rip my scalp away from my skull. That bad. So much pain. So much hair loss. And when it came to the trims, they would always chop too much off and tell me ‘your hair need it.’ So when I’d had enough, I started DIY-ing.
I was liking DIY hair care. I figured out how to comb my own hair in a way that was almost painless and I could control how much I was snipping off. Plus, I was saving a whole lot of money. I was still religious about the trims but for a totally different reason now. It wasn’t that I was trimming because I wanted longer hair but instead I was trimming because I couldn’t wait to get rid of all the relaxed hair. It seemed like the more I trimmed, the shorter my hair got and the happier I was. Trust me I was scissor-happy at this point. When I was done with my trim, I would still be itching to cut so I would offer my mom trims. At first she wasn’t totally convinced. Mom’s hair is beautifully soft not coarse like mine. She would always buy strange oils that were said to boost hair growth and so on, ask me to massage them into her scalp then go ‘ooh look how lovely my hair is.’ My own hair was in transition. I had a teeny weeny afro with straight hairs hanging off the ends. That wasn’t so lovely so you can understand how pleasurable it was for me when I eventually had the opportunity to snip off some of that gorgeous hair. Not that that made a difference. Her hair just seemed to flourish. Maybe those oils were indeed working.
Then one morning in February last year, I looked at my teeny weeny afro with those annoyingly straggly hairs hanging off and decided. ‘This is it. I’m going to chop it all off.’ I said. And I did. Got my scissors and chopped off the last of the dead hairs. I had never seen the ends of my hair curl up before. Oh sooo cute! I was now really excited and looking forward to my all natural hair journey. But after my big chop, I really don’t remember how often I trimmed anymore. Maybe like twice? My hair was an entirely new texture with coily patterns. I didn’t see split ends so I hardly ever trimmed. I guess you can say this is the point I started becoming trimophobic. But after Nanu tells me that my trim is way overdue, I attempted one.
Here’s how it went.
‘This is a bad idea, this is a very bad idea.’ I said to myself as I stood in front of the mirror reconsidering what I was about to do. This was the one thing I no longer felt was necessary to include in my hair care regimen. But perhaps it was the one thing I needed to do to save my hair. After going back and forth I finally decided to do it. I took a pair of scissors and grabbed a section of hair at the back, unravelled the twist and began smoothing it out. I finger detangled for as long as possible trying to delay myself. I ran my fingers through one last time to make sure there were no more tangles. ‘Ok.’ I sighed. ‘I’m going to do it. I’m actually going to do it.’ I held my hair between my fingers and braced myself for the cut.
Snip! And hair tumbles slow motion into the sink. Before continuing, I take a moment to inspect the hair that will never re-join its mates on my head.
‘Wait a minute!’ I thought, ‘that’s not dead hair? It doesn’t look split either? It looks to me like perfectly healthy hair in the sink.’
Ahhh great! I just cut off healthy hair. I wasn’t sure there were even any split ends in there. So maybe I should stop. Maybe my hair wasn’t breaking after all and I was just being paranoid. Maybe I felt like my hair was breaking because I was manipulating it so often. Aha! That has to be it! I didn’t need a trim! I was so happy, I quickly put the scissors away.
‘Wait! What are you doing?’ My hair asked.
‘Oh so now you are talking to me.’ I thought but replied, ‘I’m not trimming. I’m not going to trim unless I see the need to. I dont expect you to understand.’
‘Oh my God! You’re a pscyho.’
‘Oh no no, I’m not a psycho.’
Silence. The look of horror.
‘No really I’m not. You’ll see.’ I smiled. I’d like to believe I’m right but then again I could just be exhibiting typical symptoms of trimophobia. To be honest, I don’t mind at all living with this condition. I’m very happy to not chop off any hair. I’ve trimmed only once this year. Today’s episode would make it the second trim. Okay, I can’t really count it as a trim because I didn’t exactly go through with it. But I’ll count anyways. Hey I did cut off something. Some naturals only trim twice a year and still have a healthy head of hair. Some of them boast 25-inches of hair (yes they measure too). So if they don’t trim very often and are getting that amount of hair then why should I? So, I’ve decided I’ll only trim when I have to. Now I have a bigger task ahead of me. I will be experimenting on combating breakage through reduced manipulation. I sound like a real scientist on a mission, don’t I? But I’ll let you know how it all goes in my next post. Till then, have a happy month!
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Illustration: Zachariah Judy