Before I went natural 2 years ago, I was a regular at the hair salon. I would go on Saturdays to get my press n’ curl or relaxer. I would plan whole days around my hair appointment. It was a major ordeal. Today, I have not been to a salon in over 5 years and I must say, I do not miss it at all!
Lately, I’ve been reading and learning about the experiences of other women who spent many Saturdays at the shop just like I did. They talk about the hair salon as a bonding place where women not only get a fresh style, they get a fresh perspective on life from their sisters who are their stylist and therapist all wrapped up into one. They relate how they learned about womanhood, relationships, sex, and money. They describe it like a safe haven for women.
Hair styling can be seen as a personal ritual that is as necessary as it is sacred. The hair stylist in African cultures was seen as a highly valued and respected person with talents that could not be matched by just anyone. The person who cared for your hair was seen as special. Some of us give a similar status to hair stylist today.
As much as other women have truly valued being with their sister-friends at the salon, this has not been my experience. Most of my experiences have been the complete opposite. I’m not just being selective either, I’m talking about each and every salon I’ve ever been to.
When I went to the salon regularly, much of my frustrations started the second I entered the door. I would always be on time for my appointment. Yet, I would arrive and my stylist would always be in the middle of another client’s style and needed me to wait 5 minutes, which turned into 15 minutes, which turned into 30 minutes before I could get in the chair! As far as I’m concerned, I should not have to wait 1 second when I’m there for my appointment on time.
Already my time was not being valued, but neither were my opinions about my hair. I would have ideas for styles and I never felt like I was being heard. I was even talked into cutting most of my hair off, like the time I got a short bob even though I didn’t really want to. I never asked for a style my hair could not do because it wasn’t long enough or wasn’t shaped the right way. I didn’t understand why my stylist could not be creative and come up with a style that worked for me. I hated paying money for a style that never really turned out the way I wanted it to.
There was a ton of gossip taking place in the salon too. I heard about other clients all the time. I knew whose hair wasn’t growing, whose hair was thinning, who asked for a crazy hairstyle, who came in looking a mess and walked out thinking they were Beyonce. I also heard gossip about other stylists when they were not in the shop. I knew which stylists came in late all the time, who still owed their booth fees, and whose clients left them for another stylist. I was not interested in putting down other women and it just made me wonder what they said about me when I wasn’t around. I stayed out of those conversations all together.
Sadly, whenever I did open my mouth to speak, someone inevitably would make fun of the way I talked. The last straw for one salon was when another client called me “white girl” because according to her, I “said words completely.” Really, I said the whole word so I sound white? Okay…I never came back to that salon.
Around the time I decided to go natural, I stopped getting relaxers, but would go to the salon for a press n’ curl. With more and more new growth, my roots were getting thicker, and my stylist was getting more on my nerves about it! She would constantly make comments about it while pressing my hair. Being told 50 times how thick my natural hair has gotten made me want to scream, “I know it’s thick, you don’t need to remind me every 5 minutes! Do your job and work with it!”
With all of that, it just made it even more aggravating that every 20 minutes, someone would came in the shop and try to sell me something. Everything from purses, to body oils, to clothes and appliances have been offered to me. Some people at the salon encouraged this by bargaining prices down and asking for more inventory to select from. My opinion is this, I’m at the shop to get my hair done, not to buy your stolen items (Okay, I don’t know if they are stolen or not, but seriously though…).
All of those experiences have amounted to me developing a growing hatred of the hair salon. It is sad but true. I am not trying to bash hair salons, I’m simply sharing my experiences. Maybe I’m missing the point of all of it, or not appreciating the space. Maybe I took the gossip and personal insults too seriously and needed to take it easy. Maybe I should have brought extra cash and purchased that stolen set of earrings.
What I do know is that I feel better now that I do not have to dread my trip to the salon. I am my own stylist and I never give myself a style I didn’t want, I never get angry with my thick hair, and I never call myself names.
What were your experiences with hair salons like? Did you hate them like I did or love them?
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