How long do you spend at the hairdresser's? It's a simple question. Unless, of course, you ask it of a black woman, in which case you can expect your question to be met with much huffing, puffing and general indignation.
"I literally spend all day there for something that should take five hours - and when I say all day, I mean nine or 10 hours," says one friend, who'd prefer to remain nameless, lest she never get her hair cut on this isle again.
"I try to go as little as possible these days, because I end up getting too hungry and tired by the end of it," says another, minus a few expletives. "The last time I went, I got there first thing, 10am, and left at 2.30pm, and only because I insisted that I had to leave for another appointment. And that was just for a steam and double twists. It does my head in thinking about it."
After a quick ring round, I discover that, for my white female friends, anything over two hours is considered extravagant. As anyone who has ever read the entire back catalogue of Black Hair magazine in one sitting will know, Afro hairdressers may be a talented bunch, but speedy stylers they are not.
Or so I thought. This bank holiday I am one of the judges in the Stopwatch Styling competition at this year's Afro Hair and Beauty Show. Along with Battle of the Barbers, the Stopwatch Styling contest is one of the most popular events of the show. I suspect that's because no black woman can believe the competitors will have just 15 minutes in which to complete their handiwork. Of course, they will just be styling dry wrap hair (ie, hair that has been relaxed and is ready to style), so there'll be no washing, no cutting, no sweltering under a dryer, and I doubt the models will be sitting there silently fuming, wondering why they're being ignored.
· The Afro Hair and Beauty Show takes place tomorrow and Monday, at London's Alexandra Palace. Tickets cost £10; call the hotline on 020-8678 7555.