There are women who walk through the streets of Sosua with portfolios of photographs of the heads of women whose hair they braided and beaded. They are looking for people with hair to braid and bead. This is how they make their living.
The hairstyle that they seem to specialize in is what people call “corn rows” in the USA, but the main clients for this service seem to be white female tourists.
You can see these blond haired white girls getting cornrows on the beaches here — getting their Dominican Republic vacation hair. My wife, Chaya, thinks this is hilarious:
“I didn’t think white girls could do that with their hair!” she exclaims while in hysterics.
Cultural symbolic placement is often iron wrought. Fashion serves the purpose of displaying your cultural place. To mismatch these two elements — for a person to dress up like someone else — is to posture. Nothing wrong with this, playing dress up is fun. But people all over the world seem to have a similar reaction to this posturing: they laugh at you.
Like my wife was laughing at the foreign white girls with fresh cornrows on the beaches of the Dominican Republic.
But the hairstylists were not going after my brightly Caucasian, long haired wife. They were going after me. They call me “Rasta Man.”
But I have no hair? I am not a rasta man?
It is not the hair they want, it is my beard.
My long facial hair sends them into a feeding frenzy.
“For your beard! For your beard!” they exclaim, leaving my beautifully long haired wife by the wayside.
“No es possible, you can’t do that to my beard!” I say, laugh, and then walk away.
Nearly every time I walk into the beach area of Sosua, I am met with these calls from the same women. O
“Rasta Man!” and then they smile large and stroke their chins while trying to thrust their beads and braids onto my poor beard.
One woman in particular would call out to me, jump up from her seat, say “por su barba” a bunch of times. I would say no, that is not possible. She would then laugh, we would joke for a few minutes, she would oogle at my baby, and then she would ask me if I would like her to braid my beard again.
I would say no way and walk on. She would laugh and wave goodbye.
After around a week of meeting this same lady in the streets, laughing for a few moments, and then guarding my poor beard for its dear life, I let this jovial women touch my sacred facial hair. A privilege my wife can hardly even lay claim to.
She says, “Solo uno, solo uno.”
I let her give me uno.
She flips my beard this way, and flaps it that way. In under 10 seconds I have a neat little braid hanging from my face, topped off with three plastic beads and some tin foil.
I laugh and immediately try to remove the braid and the beads it. The lady tells me to keep it in.
Then she asks for two dollars.
This could be seen coming from about four blocks away.
I try to undo the tin foil and remove the beads faster. I can’t get the damn thing off my face. I struggle. This rasta man thing was fun, now it is time to go.
The lady tells me to leave it in and then walks away laughing at me bent over my beard trying to remove her handiwork.
I don’t leave it, I want this damn thing off my face. I wrestle with it, and eventually maneuver the three beads out of my beard. I put them into my pocket.
Just as I arrive at the beach, the hair beading lady flanks me. She is still laughing at me, smiling big — checking to see if her work remained on my face.
I hand back the three little beads. She laughs, waves goodbye.
She still gets excited, laughs, yells, cackles, waves, and calls me “Rasta Man” whenever we pass in the streets. But she no longer attempts to bead my poor beard.
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