a year ago
Every so often, a hashtag comes along on Twitter that I feel compelled to participate in, like #GrowingupHaitian or #Blacksalonproblems. I usually don’t get the opportunity to write about them because unlike social media, I don’t move that fast. Lol.
I related to #Blacksalonproblems because my identity was so strongly attached to my hair growing up. Like most little Black girls, I was raised to believe that long, thick, and straight hair was best. Unfortunately for my fragile little girl ego at the time, I had thin, nappy hair that never exceeded my wildest expectations when relaxed or straightened.
JUST FOR ME
Someone in my tribe applied Just for Me relaxer when I was about nine or ten years old. I stared at the colorful box, lusting after the sleek ponytails and curls sported by the cute girls on the box. I believed this box to contain magical powers to transform my cottony hair into something beautiful.
It burned. The chemicals burned my virgin scalp to the point I looked up at my relative with horror. They assured me it was normal, “the perm is working.”
I resisted the strong impulse to simultaneously itch and dunk my head under the faucet as the burning intensified. After what felt like hours, she directed me to the sink, only to torture me by gently washing my hair instead of giving me the good ole scratching my suffering scalp wanted.
While straight, my hair was limp, not at all voluminous like the cute girls on the box. But I loved the way I could finally pull my hair into a ponytail. I could only hope it would grow long as well.
THE BROKEN HOTCOMB
I watched it sit atop an open flame, getting hotter by the second and wondered why anyone would allow such a thing on their head. I sat rigid on the chair, bracing myself for the smell of dry heat coming dangerously close to my face and scalp.
A family friend stood behind me, the hot comb in her hand. She bent close to my face, “Hold your ears.”
I closed my eyes and grabbed my ears, praying I would get through this unscathed. After a few swipes, I was able to breathe again and let go of my ears.
I heard the gasp before I felt the hot stinging pain from the broken hot comb fall on my neck.
THE BANG FIASCO
My mom’s friend took over the task of styling my hair somewhere around junior high school. She was old school and Haitian; her trademark styles were wash and sets, wraps, and those heavily sprayed chignon updos everyone used to wear back then for special occasions.
My hair when relaxed was very thin and I guess it was for this reason, she never gave me what I really wanted, a wrap. I loved the way other girls’ hair looked framed around their faces and I wanted that too. She usually gave me a wash and set and I would wrap it myself at home.
I had an appointment with her before picture day and she gave me a really cute half up do with flat twists and bangs. I didn’t realize my bangs were drastically uneven until someone pointed it out to me at school, right before the pictures. I still have those pictures and I grimace every time I flip through my photo album.
I started wearing a weave the summer after freshman year of college. By then I’d outgrown my trademark braids. The weave gave me something I never had with the braids, the long hair I always coveted as a young girl.
My first weave was done by a friend and I struggled to manage it while away at school. I learned how to wash, condition, and flat iron the leave out for a more natural looking hairstyle. Looking back at old pictures, I cringe at what I thought was a passable effort.
My new hairstylist in Philly told me exactly what type of weave to buy; it cost ten dollars. I had no leave out and I spent the next two weeks until my next appointment constantly combing out the tangled hair. I finally stopped wearing the hair out and kept it pulled back to avoid public embarrassment. And it itched something terrible.
After wearing really poor quality synthetic hair, I was introduced to the wondrous miracle of clip ins. They allowed me to switch up my hairstyle as well as gave me the option to wear nothing at all. The first time I brought the clip ins for my hairstylist at the time, she looked at me like I was crazy but obliged me.
The next time I came in with the freshly washed and conditioned clip ins, my hairstylist was ready for me. She gave me a T-Boz-esque hair style with my layered hair on top and the long tracks underneath. When I saw myself in the mirror, I wasn’t in love with the look. My hairstylist was always trying new things with her own hair but I was much more conventional and safe. I took the clip ins out as soon as got home.