Salon Date side profile

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.

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