Braiding, books, and bread: How braids are haunting me

October 28 2016 | Guest post by Katie Kapro

I'm sure we're all going to be celebrating Halloween this weekend. So as we head out to celebrate ghosts and all things freaky, let's talk about another kind of freaky… The freakiness of coincidences!

Danielle
By: mikey_blue_eyesCC BY 2.0

Braids started haunting me last month. Weird? Yes. Let me explain.

I've had short hair for years — we're talking short short — a pixie cut. Sometime last year I decided it was time to grow it out. Change it up. Stop paying for bi-monthly salon visits.

I powered through that awkward, shaggy-banged, teenage boy stage, clipped back the unruly tufts, and endured the bittiest horizontal ponytail ever. Then one wonderful morning, I realized my hair was long enough to braid. Glory!

Now I'm no braiding master, by any stretch of the imagination, but I made my best attempt at a french braid and spent the day strutting around the office like a crested crane. Needless to say I was pretty pleased.

Then the strangest things started happening; synchronicities of Jungian proportions… I started seeing braids everywhere.

Braiding, as I quickly learned, has invaded popular culture. My first instinct is to blame/credit YouTube for the phenomenon…

What with the huge number of instructional braiding videos out there that fall somewhere between tutorials and creepily intimate glimpses into a stranger's home life. (Is it just me, or does watching DIY beauty videos make anyone else feel like you're peering through someone's bathroom mirror?)

Mongolian woman with braids in 1905. (Photo courtesy of nasvete.com
Mongolian woman with braids in 1905. (Photo courtesy of nasvete.com

Braiding has a long-established, global history. From stone-age Saharans to Egyptian royalty, from Grecian goddesses to the men and women of the pre-colonized Americas, from Mongolian empresses to Medieval serfs: braiding has twisted its way into diverse cultures throughout the ages.

Photo courtesy of Madison Avenue Couture
Photo courtesy of Madison Avenue Couture

Which is why it's no surprise that braiding has become a popular textile technique in the fashion and accessory world as well. I won't bore you with a million examples — all it takes is watching one season of Project Runway to get the gist that braiding is back — but there are a few examples that stand out…

In the modern era, braiding has transitioned from the craft-heavy styles of the '70s —over-sized braided belts with bead laden fringe anyone? To a more refined take on the technique. Luxury handbag designers like Chanel have adopted intricate braiding techniques to add texture to dimension to their accessories. Because of the visible workmanship, consumers are willing to pay top dollar.

Photo courtsey of Recipes Hubs
Photo courtsey of Recipes Hubs

I recently walked by a bakery, and what did they have in the front display case? A mountain of challah, the traditional Jewish braided bread.

The next unusual coincidence in my braiding saga came in the form of a book…

Image via Books & Sensibility
Image via Books & Sensibility

I picked up a collection of essays at the used book store, and it turns out that it was written in the newly-emerged style of creative nonfiction called, you guessed it, the braided essay.

This sub-genre is characterized by multiple story lines — I think of them as threads — that the writer weaves together throughout the essay, allowing the story to build and gain metaphorical depth. It's a way of telling a story in all its emotional nuance without getting on a soapbox.

The braided essay opened up a whole new world in my running list of braids. Metaphor. And the list just keeps getting longer and more interesting. It's a great diversion, and strangely comforting.

It was really quite astounding all of the braids that made themselves visible to me when I just opened my eyes.

Let's collectively tip our hats to Mr. Jung for naming this fascinating occurrence.

Have you had an experience with this sort of haunting? Share it with us in the comments!

  1. This is really strange – I just spent about 2 hours last night watching some braiding tutorials on YouTube and subsequently failing at trying to braid my own hair. I'm also in a similar boat, super short hair for years, and I'm about 6 months into growing it out, but I feel like a total failure with styling my own hair.

    It gets easier to do, right?

    • I can't braid my hair to save my life. It just won't do it. I have no practice, two left hands and quite unruly hair (not unruly in a good "shock of curls" kind of way, unruly in a horse-mane, frizzy-brushy kind of way). I'm actually considering cutting my long hair short again for exactly this reason. I know I'm not helping, but for me it definitely hasn't gotten easier 😛

    • Whoa. Synchronicity is so cool. I'll admit, it took me years to learn how to braid. I just couldn't seem to get it until one night after drinking wine with my friends, I got home and sat down in front of the mirror dead set on teaching myself to french braid. And, it worked! I think the wine helped loosen me up – it's nearly impossible to learn to braid if you're going for perfection. Sooo, maybe try wine hehe?

  2. I was just debating growing my hair out (my main goal is to go to the hair salon less often as I am lazy, but also I am a midwife and my shoulder length hair is always falling into my eyes while catching babies and suturing – real professional), so I'll take this as a sign! I will get past this awkward period where it has become painfully obvious that my last hair cut was badly done and people are asking me if I cut my own hair… Yes I will!

    I used to have long hair and never never put it up. I hope I will get better at it this time around.

    • Here's hoping it gets better soon!! (In my experience, the awkward period does pass.) And until then, thank goodness for hair clips.

  3. This kind of thing happens to me ALL THE TIME! I never notice something until I do, and then I can't not see it. Does that last sentence make sense? I never paid attention to something, but once I start noticing it, it's EVERYWHERE, and every time I see it, it pops out in front of me, 3-D and extra bright, like a bad special effect trying to call attention to a clue.

  4. I'm being haunted (wonderfully haunted) by unicorns right now. It started with my trip to Scotland (it's the national animal!) and unicorns have been popping up EVERYWHERE for me now.

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