Why must a visit to the salon, render us, as women, so vulnerable, so potentially victimized?
If you think that’s dramatic ask any woman, cross any culture, listen to her stories. It’s rough out there.
I haven’t been to the salon in three years. I was and am content to live my life on my own hair terms. But sometimes, just sometimes, I long to put myself in the hands of another in the name of pampering. Think spa here, Ayurvedic to be exact, and a lady with most delicate hands pouring ghee oil over your hair, as you lay on your back, close your eyes and give yourself over to pure feeling and she massages your scalp.
This is a slice of heaven—trust me. And that lovely feeling was just one of two reasons I decided to step foot in someone’s hair salon/academy.
The other was Afrobella. She blogged recently about the great experience she had at an Aveda salon in New York City, during her jaunt there for Fashion Week. I was inspired. I knew of the local Aveda Academy, which I passed quite regularly. And with the faith in a co-worker and friend who also loved going there, I thought hmmm. and just went for it.
I knew what I wanted. A wash, deep-deep-DEEP condition, preferable with a steamer on hand and a blow-out (haven’t had that in over two years) that I thought might aid in the trim I knew I needed to get rid of the last bit of damaged ends, whaich still lingered post-hair color so long ago. My appointment was made for two Fridays ago.
I should have known from the first call, where I waited while someone went to ask if the salon/academy “did” natural hair, that just maybe the actual salon experience would not be as I envisioned.
The place was buzzing. I mean there was a line. I must have waited for a good 20 minutes. I didn’t mind. When I finally sat in that chair, I immediately felt out of place. This beautiful, and I mean GORGEOUS Mila Kunis look-alike wanted to know if I had asked for her specifically.
“No,” I assured. “I called and asked if you guys cared for natural hair and the lady said yes.”
“Oh, because that’s how I started.” She reassured.
You would think after that last, I would have relaxed, but there was something about the way she was looking at my hair and asking me what I wanted done, where I felt like, this lady does not know what to do with me, or my hair.
I looked around, there were at least three naturals (two stylists and one instructor). They weren’t on my head, but it couldn’t be that bad. I think I actually thought that they would come to my rescue, if need be—as if that was their responsibility.
My hair was in plaits (I really should have unplaited them already) and so we both went to town. Her combs were too small and there was lots of tugging. That’s a no-no in my world. I had the good sense and courage to say, we need a wide tooth comb. OK, minimal damage done and we’re off to wash.
I was really looking forward to this part as I hinted before. Unfortunately, this portion was short-lived (I felt like they were preserving stock) and there was so much rubbing of hair and not scalp that this is where I started to tear up a little on the inside. I thought, let’s just get through this. After a quick condition and rinse, I reached my fingers up to feel, to reassure myself that hair was still there. It was soft to the touch, but that didn’t mean anything when my insides were turning over.
She asked: “How does it feel?” I said “soft” as if that summed up how I felt.
The next almost killed me. What I thought would be a blow out (which I requested) turned into an education in the ways and means of a flat iron. I’ve never used a flat iron, have no plans to after that experience. All I remember saying was: you don’t have to get it straight-straight. I never ever wear my hair like that and I don’t plan to. She, however, was determined to get me straight. An hour later I was straighter than I have ever, ever been as a natural and we were ready to trim.
I was done in, over and out by then and still I kept silent. Fifteen minutes later I was trimmed. I kept reassuring myself, and promising my hair, when I get home I will fix this—whatever the damage, I will fix it.
If all this sounds like I blame my Mila, I don’t. Nope!
In fact, I blame myself, since with all my customary boldness, I could and should have opened my mouth and said thanks, but no thanks, or even it’s not you, it’s me. Instead I said nothing. I sat there wincing, my body of its own volition saying what I refused to say—I don’t like this. This is not what I wanted.
What’s interesting is that I was looking around and every woman there was smiling, saying how much they loved their hair and I just knew that it wasn’t always the case.
In the end it was a waiting game. I had to wait until I next washed to see if my hair would revert. There were good signs along the way, along my sides and nape, but that’s to be expected with the texture there. The top, which has almost no spring in its step, unless manipulated, refused until the bitter end.
I am happy to report that my hair is doing well. After I washed it this weekend, it regained it’s curl pattern, and I was pleased with the final final results of my trim.
Still, the end did not justify the means. It could have ended very differently, and all because I gave up my power to choose and say no, in the wake of a feeling of helplessness, while sitting in someone’s salon chair.
I wish I understood the psychology behind that. I wish I could assure myself that if I ever ended up in someone’s salon chair and was unhappy, that I would say so and happily exit. But I do not know.
I highly doubt that I will find my way back to the salon. No hard feelings and no disrespect intended. It’s just not my current bag. However, my trip there was informative, and had me dreaming about opening a natural salon/academy locally. It is very much needed.
In the meantime, I consider this trip another lesson for the journey.