I Can’t French Braid (& Don’t Want To Learn)

Photographed by Mike Garten.
I remember the first time I attempted a French braid. I must have been around seven years old, and I was on the school bus with a friend. She had a new Barbie doll and had fashioned a pretty impressive French braid on the doll's head. "How do you do that?" I asked her. My friend attempted to teach my fumbling fingers the maneuvers over the course of multiple bus rides, but I could never quite master them. Now, 17 years later, I'm a beauty writer who can't French braid. Or, Dutch braid. Or, fishtail braid.
The phrase "Those who can't do, teach" comes to my mind every time I'm on a hair shoot that involves braiding. I try to follow the step-by-step instructions back at my apartment, to no avail. My clumsy fingers will never be able to weave the complicated patterns. You might as well be teaching me to replace a carburetor or budget myself — it ain't happening.
I recently had an epiphany, though: I could go my entire life without knowing how to French braid and be perfectly fine. Since I'm a beauty writer, this may seem counterintuitive. How can I talk to my readers about the finer points of plaiting if I can't even do it myself? Well, the same way I tell you about dude beards, even though I'm not a dude with a beard, or natural hair, even though mine isn't textured or curly. I go out into the world, interview people who have spent years of their lives dedicated to their areas of expertise, take a truckload of notes, synthesize them into easy-to-read nuggets, and present them to you. Journalism 101.
Some people are confused that my job is different from my skill set. But, just because I'm around skin care all day doesn't mean I know what face mask will clear up your zits before Friday. Just because I play with lipstick so often that I have dreams about it doesn't mean I want to come to your house and do yours before we go for margaritas. So, refusing to learn how to braid is my mini protest against this idea that I can do just about anything beauty-wise, simply because I'm around it all day.
Not to mention, I look ridiculous with braids. A stylist once twisted my mane into a French, and I felt like I belonged at ballet practice. The only plaits I've ever been able to pull off are the milkmaid kind, which have fallen by the wayside since I've adopted what our team lovingly calls "the beauty bob."
But, mostly, I don't want to learn to French braid because I'd much rather be doing other things. I'd rather binge-listen to Serial, meet my friends for wine, or swipe through my Hinge matches. Just because someone thinks I should be able to do something doesn't mean I should do it. If we all operated like that, everyone would be running for president at age five, egged on by our over-zealous mothers.
So, I'll be sitting here taking notes and distilling them into useful tutorials for you, my dear reader, so that those of you who can actually braid — or want to learn — can create the woven 'dos you've always wanted. But, if you do become a braiding expert, do you think you could style my hair?

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