Life inside a prison comes without any amenities, nor should it have any. By the legislative intent for the state of Washington, people are sent to prison as punishment. With this particular brand of punishment, we are also challenged to find ways to live resourcefully. Its been said that if necessity is the mother of invention, prison is surely it’s bastard father… Now imagine the painstaking task of self expression and personal management as a trans woman in a shit hole like this. She must be good at managing her resources.

My cellmate, a transgendered woman, has long, pretty hair. Its very dark, somewhat thick, and has faint silver streaks I’m sure she gets a little self conscience of (although, it really speaks to her distinguished nature). It has a tendency to look a bit dry sometimes, so I can only assume it feels that way from time to time. It falls with subtle waves, usually held in an impeccable ponytail and by the time she leaves the cell, she looks like she means business in tackling her day. Her hair is very business professional pulled up. She ensures its been undeniably prepared and she doesn’t leave the house unless its perfect. She doesn’t do it out of vanity, she does it out of self discipline. She manages it. She manages her life very well, too.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to observe how she makes the product that gives her the distinct look of a professional woman, the product that battles the dryness, and let me tell you… its a production she is clearly the manager of. She has a recipe that involves Vaseline, cheap conditioner, lotion and oil. She uses theses items because it is all she has and she has limited access to them. She doesn’t have the opportunity to visit a salon or browse online for the best suited products. She can’t stroll the haircare isle reading labels. However frustrating it might be for her, her ingenuity quenches her necessity. She manages her resources well.

She specifically states, as she begins the process of heating this concoction, that she doesn’t like having to do this but she knows its effective in managing her semi-thick hair. The items are whipped together in a bowl set inside a steam bath produced by a small water heating carafe. All the items are measured not by specific amounts, but by tried and proven estimates. A bit of this, a bit of that. Much like women of the ages have made time honored recipes. She makes a hair product. She makes one that works for her needs, her hair. She manages her beautiful hair by managing her processes. She’s a professional and a reformist who makes do with what she has and doesn’t complain. She’s here for punishment, but for her need to be both a woman and a responsible citizen, she clearly manages to manage… and its an awe inspiring thing to witness.

Rory Andes