Posts Categorized: Shop Talk

April 8, 2009

Shop Talk


Each Sunday for the past couple months I’ve set aside a block of time devoted solely to get my hair did. The actual time varies each week depending on the errands I have to run in the morning or the afternoon, but nonetheless it’s come to mean ‘me time.’ On any givin Sunday I seriously prep my place for “The Process,” map out my strategy as far as cleansing, conditioning and styling go, put on some music to ease the inevitable frustrations and settle in for the long haul.  It’d be a stretch to say I look forward to this part of the week, in all honesty I don’t.   But ironically  I do get full satisfaction seeing the fruits of my labor.  Plain and simple…I enjoy doing my own hair!

My mother has even come to poke fun at me.  When I do call the fam on Sundays, I’m usually on the last leg of the process, either air drying my hair or twisting my last twist…I think the urge comes from wanting to share my triumph with someone, yet my triumph just usually ends up with my mother breathing sighs of disbelief at the amount of time I spend doting on each strand.  It’s really come to be our thing in a way…I call..she berates a bit…and I quickly remind her how much I used to spend in salons every other week to get the hair coiffed. Our conversations usually end with her words of encouragement, and a reminder not to stay up too late drying my hair.

On a few occasions I do run into obstacles…my hair is far from dry and a friend calls wanting to have dinner/movies/last minute drinks before the start of the work week. A scramble usually ensues…me trying to find an appropriate hat to cover up, yet not mess up all the work I’d done…my mother’s voice in my head warning me of my fate of catching pneumonia if I go out with my hair damp.

Eh…these are little things.  Funny things that I look back on and smile…the lengths I’ve gone through to keep the do in check as a natural are somewhat the same lengths I used to go through when I wore my hair relaxed. I’m by no means scared of the rain… ha! These days what I’m more fearful of is forgetting to seal my ends and misplacing my satin scarf/pillowcase.

Things that I don’t miss… the fearful look on stylists face as I walked through their door with a head full of natural hair.  I’d often walk up to a stylist and timidly ask, “how much to wash and two-strand twist?” Their eyes…my god their eyes would seriously hover over my matted, dry hair, quietly assess the situation…perhaps knowing that my head of hair would take up the remainder of their afternoon…. and quote me a RIDICULOUS amount.  Essentially, I’d always end up paying for their own frustrations in dealing with my own hair!

Since becoming natural over seven years ago, never have I paid less than $50 to wash, condition and twist my hair.  To deep condition, well… I’d have to cough up an extra 25 bucks, and usually it was just plain ‘ol conditioner while under the dryer for 20 min.  Forget going to an actual salon that caters to women with natural hair.  After getting over the initial high of finally finding a salon to cater to my fro-ness, I’d cringe at the prices! Here in BK, an average style can run you $80 and up. Granted though, I do think these salons are good starting points during the beginning stages of transitioning and going natural, I visited a handful after the first few weeks of my first BC…ended up broke in the long run, but it was an experience much needed at the time when the natural hair community that we see today was still a burgeoning novelty.

If you do go to these salons, please go prepared. Do your homework, know what products are being put in your hair, know if you’re getting your money’s worth. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but also expect some answers! Understanding natural hair doesn’t begin with a visit to the salon, it starts with you…facing the mirror and determining for the first time your own realistic expectations of what you can and cannot do with your hair.  The good news is probably…a lot! Natural hair offers such crazy versatility…but only if you equip yourself with that knowledge.  You may not know how to flat twist, corn-row, two-strand twist, bantu-knot, micro-braid…etc., but it’s important to know when and if your hair needs a trim, can your hair/wallet withstand a deep condition, is your hair healthy enough to withstand a color treatment…or even the basics, what is your hair texture?

I say all that to say…’the process,’ for me is never ending, and in a odd way I’m glad. It’s been dubbed the ‘natural journey,’ for some time because it’s all one colossal learning curve that has enough dips and turns to make you sometimes doubt your own commitment.  But, I do hope to be on this journey for the long haul…PJism and all, I’m beyond thrilled each week to wake up on Sunday mornings knowing I control this…I got this.


et fin!

January 13, 2009

Memory Lane


The decision to return to natural is never quite easy, nor is walking down memory lane reliving what for some are distorted memories.  Even today, more than eight years after my first BIG CHOP and cutting off all relaxed ends, I feel strongly that this journey has only just begun. What I’ve learned so far, from those who had admonished me to those who have encouraged me…these experiences are only just the tip of the iceberg.

Yet every journey does have a beginning and mine was back in college, which is sort of atypical of most natural hair journeys. Sign up for classes on the first day, but also sign up for the inevitable, driving into oncoming traffic in the form of new friends, new interests, new outlooks on life.   For me, sophomore year was when I’d hit a wall.  Less than enthusiastic about my choice of college,   I retreated into another world I’d slowly created for myself. One full of Magazines, books, and my new found passion…the Harlem Renaissance.  All these elements have names, but in essence they were singular, a simple conduit for me to escape.

Before heading to class on an early morning,  I picked up an issue of Elle Magazine, bypassed the countless petty ads about Chanel, Gucci and brands I could never afford, to a columnist I had grown to love.  At the time Tia Williams was a beauty editor for Elle Magazine, writing  from her perspective as an African American woman, mentioning on the fly how she’d tried this new product for her hair or discovered the greatest find in lipglosses.  She was my ABSOLUTE idol at the time!

Every month I’d double check the masthead to make sure she was still there and had not deserted me.  I’d venture this to be back in say 2000 or 2001, where to be a black girl in Elle was a MEGA deal, particularly if you’re not just posing, but you’re contributing in a way that reaches a whole new audience.  I was beyond thrilled every month to read what she had to say, and one day I decided to book an appointment at a salon on her recommend list.

Once I’d gotten to the salon, and like a good little client  I’d bought a picture of how I’d wanted my hair to turn out. I handed it over and watched a perplexed look wash my stylist   Now, here’s where the words common and sense should’ve met for me…I’d picked a salon that specialized in NATURAL HAIR.  I did NOT have natural hair. My hair was relaxed, straight, high on creme crack! Yes… and my hair stylist told me as much, but rather than lose out on money, encouraged me to try a flat twist, which regardless in the end turned out fabulous!

But that picture (which I still have today:-)) of this beautiful woman with textured hair was stuck in my head for weeks after my flat twists had gone limp and straight.  It’d never occured to me until that point in the salon that other possiblities did exist out there for my hair besides the relaxer AND most importantly, that I had the power to change it! The power to change while in college is something extraordinary because it all seems so very possible, undaunting, and yet all so very exciting.

And that’s what I did. Without thinking twice.  I knew I wanted this look, that woman’s hair, and this fierceness that could only be described as contagious, so I set out to get it.  In a matter of 4-6 months, I went back to the salon, greeted my stylist with an ‘I told you so look,’ and enjoyed one of the most freeing experiences to date.

Afterwards I went home, hid my hair from family for a good two months before gathering the courage to unravel my teenie weenie fro.  The response was what I’d expected.  My parents ignored me, just down right did NOT speak to me about what I’d done.  According to them I’d probably ‘grown depressed’ or simply ‘wanted attention,’  and the best way for them to deal with it, or me, was to ignore the situation completely.

It was unfortunate, but because my new hair carried with it a new attitude of confidence, it frankly did not bother me, and over time ( a good solid year!) they accepted who it was I was growing into. Some friends deserted me, other family members thought me plain ‘ol crazy, lazy and stupid,  but again…there was no better relief than making a choice that involved this kind of freedom and discovery.  Over night I’d begun learning more about myself, my face (you can’t hide when you first BC) my family, friends…even strangers on the street who’d stop to pay compliment.

Over the years the styles and products have come and gone, but the experience is one I’d relive again and again if I could.  Through the years I’ve donned double strand twists, flat twists, braids, coils, buzz cuts, pixie cuts, dreadlocks, afro puffs, flat ironed,  cornrows, and so much more. Even over this past year I’ve learned so much from new friends, new roommates, new bloggers out there who’ve been down a similar path and who are also continuing to learn…it is ALL such an incredibly humbling, eye opening, fantabulous journey that I’d encourage every brave woman to embark on this journey… share your concerns, fears and hopes with those who are willing to listen, and to do it with arms wide open, because to travel  any other way would…well it just wouldn’t be as fun.