My friend Tina has great hair. It falls in long luxurious cinnamon brown curls framing her face perfectly. Strangers offer her compliments on it. While I shuffle down the street never meeting anyone’s eyes, she waves and smiles as if she were the grand marshal in a parade. I would too if I had her hair. We are discussing this while sipping on long straws protruding from a fish bowl in a restaurant called the Red Lantern. This is the kind of deep conversation that spontaneously materializes when you have finished drinking the Yin scorpion bowl and are half way through the Yang.

“Well, now I do have a little help with it.” She says while taking a long sip and flipping her hair over her shoulders. I am not quite getting it. Then she continues to explain. “This hair” she says while grabbing a chunk on the top of her head “is real, and these on the sides are synthetic.”

I feel like I did when I asked my mother if Santa Claus was real. “What in the hell do you think?” My mother said absent-mindedly while exhaling a curl of cigarette smoke. Yes I was twelve and really should have known better, but at what age was I expected to discern the difference between real hair and a weave?

Paul and I lean forward as Tina begins to explain the process. “And it takes how long?” I ask. “Now I don’t just have anyone do it. You really need to have a ‘bff’ that can do it for you. We get to talking and laughing and then have a few drinks, so it can take the better part of a night.” she says, nodding like this is something we should already know.

“And how often do you have it done?” I ask.

At some point in a relationship you get to a stage where no spoken words are necessary. Paul and I have reached this point. His sidelong glance at me says “Don’t even think about it.” My raised eyebrows and slightly shrugged shoulders say “what, I can’t even think about how a weave would look on my head?”

Tina interrupts our telepathic conversation by pulling out her Blackberry and shows us a picture of herself at 18. “Is that you or Condoleeza Rice?” Paul asks. It’s true. The hair is a dead ringer, but the face is still Tina. She then flips to a more recent photo and suddenly the hair is blonde and full and I guess the best word is dangerous. This time she is Tina Turner.

“That was my Vegas hair.” She says. “I have a cruise coming up so I’ll have real hair woven in because the synthetic stuff curls up and honey, there is no straightening it after it hits the water.”

There are suddenly multiple Tina's. Who is the real one? My head becomes dizzy. I am not sure if it is from the parade of hair choices or the scorpion bowls.

“You should have seen Bill when we first met.” Paul chimes in. I am telepathically telling Paul to shut the hell up, but he is ignoring me. “His online photo looked so clean cut. Then he showed up at the restaurant with a shaved head and goatee. He looked like a biker. He was over two hundred pounds then, but when he got up from the table and walked away, I saw that cute little bu…” “OK, OK, she gets the picture!” I cut Paul off. I decide that it is better to get this conversation under my own control. So I pull out my iPhone and flip to my “biker” look.
“OK, all right now!” Surprisingly, Tina seems to like this look. I flip to a picture when I was twenty one. Yes, I actually have these photos on Facebook. “That’s my favorite. He looks like Clark Kent.” Paul says. It’s my favorite too. My hair was thick and jet black. I miss that hair. If you put all of my photos together you would see a repressed young Republican, a gay porno actor and finally a middle aged “let’s deal best with what’s left” look.

Our meal arrives and Tina is preparing to eat Sushi for the very first time. I point out the options and ask her to try the Caterpillar roll. She does not hesitate to place a whole piece in her mouth. After swallowing she says with pride “Can you believe it? I just ate a caterpillar!” I want to tell her that it’s not really made with caterpillars, but the fact that she thought it was and still ate it surprises me even more. 

This is the real Tina: daring, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but always beautiful, just like her hair.

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