The drive to the salon felt so long. I was so excited to finally go to Miss Simone’s Beauty Shop. It was a magical place I heard my Mom and aunts talk about often, but at 5 years old, I had never been allowed to go. They would leave the house with scarves on their heads and come back with curls cascading on their shoulders or a proper up-do smoothed just right. I had no idea how this all was possible or who was able to transform their hair so wonderfully. All I knew was that I would someday go to Miss Simone’s; leaving with my nappy, unruly roots and coming back beautiful like my Mom and aunties.
Traveling down the road, I felt as though I was making my way to a brand new me. It was a rites of passage. I was turning into a big girl now – at least that is what I thought. When we finally arrived at Miss Simone’s, I could hardly keep from jumping out the car and running up to the door of the salon, but my Mother made me contain myself and hold her hand as we crossed the street. Once inside the salon I stopped in my tracks as I was assaulted with the smell of burning hair, hair spray, and coconut scented incense. It was the soothing smell of sweet shampoo that helped me take a few more steps inside while the hostess welcomed us to take a seat.
I looked around and noticed pictures on the walls of women with professional hairstyles – finger waves, straight bobs, braids, and curly styles. I couldn’t wait to have my hair done in a bob just like the gorgeous model in the photo on the wall and I imagined what dress I would wear with my new hairstyle to church the next day. Laughter coming from deeper inside the salon caught my attention and I noticed there were rows of chairs lined up for each stylist. Most of them were occupied by women at various stages of hair styling – some still had wet hair after a shampoo and some were getting the finishing touches done with a heavy spray of hair sheen. I wondered which chair was for me and how my hair would look different. It was everything I had imagined, yet I understood none of it.
After what seemed like an eternity, they finally called my name and my heart fluttered as I got up and walked to my chair for the first time!
If only I knew the fate I was walking into. All the times I played with my hair in my mother’s mirror, trying to mimic her hairstyles would be over. All the times I sat with my cousins trading barrettes and bows, they were over now. I had no idea I would live to regret this day. I had no idea, this would be the last time I would see my natural hair.
What I imagined as a wonderful life step would turn out to be a practice in self-denial. I would spend large amounts of money to maintain an image that was not meant for me. I would go on to make a habit out of hating my natural roots. I would deliberately fight against my kinky hair, combing and pressing it into submission. I would learn to do everything I could to deny my hair its freedom to just be.
If I knew then what I know now I would have run out of Miss Simone’s! I would have let go of my childish dreams of becoming the women in the posters on the wall, or my Mom and aunties. I would have understood that straight hair did not make me a big girl, or a gorgeous woman. I would have known the truth – it was all just an illusion. Beauty is within and it can’t be found in a hair relaxer!
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