My hair is complex. As a bi-racial woman, my hair and I have battles on a regular basis and usually I am defeated and simply slick it all back in some sort of a ponytail. Every once in a while, we communicate well and the mass of curls on my head can be beaten into submission and respond with a beautiful tumble of tight curls flowing around my face. Or, if the beating requires lots of product and a flat iron, I can emerge from war with a lovely mane of straightened achievement. Truth be told though, I rarely wage real battle with it at all and hardly even remember to have it cut, let alone truly styled.
As a child, my hair was usually pulled into a couple of ponytails that my mother would have to put in while I screamed and kicked and cried from the pain of brushing out kinks and knots. It wasn't until the invention of Johnson&Johnson's No More Tears that I was allowed to brush my own hair. I got my first hair relaxer when I was in the seventh grade, you know, junior high , I'm a woman now kind of hair. All through junior high and high school I would wash and blow dry my hair straight every Sunday night, a two hour ordeal that I was glad I only had to do once a week. (Yes, Black folks don't wash their hair everyday, if we did, it would probably all fall out.) It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I embraced my curls and decided that being curly was a fabulous thing and started going natural more often than not. With the curly hair, it's usually a wash-and-go kind of thing. Pretty low maintenance which means that I never even really think about it. But there always comes a point when I slowly realize that my hair needs professional attention.
On Friday, realizing that my poor hair was on it's last legs, I made an appointment at a hair salon in the East Village. This was my first trip to a real Black woman salon. I know, I know...why hadn't I gone before? Why had I been content walking into a salon with people who just looked at my head as yet another curly girl without direction disatser and settled for the (overpriced) cuts they shelled out? Well, really, I never new what I was missing out on until after I left my appointment yesterday with hair that looked like I belonged on a Pantene commercial. After three hours, (yes, that's right...Black women salons are an all day affair, but I knew that going in) a deep conditioning treatment and a sit under a hair dryer trying not to fall asleep (what, with the sound of the humming and the warm air and the Roberta Flack music, it's a feat that I wasn't drooling all over myself) and a non-lethal hit of the hot-comb, I am a convert for sure. From here on out, I am embracing my hair weaving, press-and-curling, cornrow braiding, afro-striaghtening hair roots and will be swishing my white-girl hair all across Manhattan! Don't get me wrong now, I'm not saying that the curls are gone by any means, they will be back this week when I was the hair and am too lazy to do anything with it, but I will be making regular stops at the salon to make sure that the hair I have been given continues to give back. This could be the begininng of a beautiful friendship, twenty-four years in the making.