In a blog for Huffington Post, author Cassandra Jackson accomplished something that I never thought possible:
She made me feel nostalgic about straightening my hair.
Not because I necessarily liked having my older sister get a new-fangled contraption called a curling brush tangled in my hair when I was 10-years-old; not even that I have fond memories of pressing combs, flat irons and first day relaxers when my hair was too flat to be much good to anyone.
I became nostalgic as she recalled elements of “beauty shop” culture that may become extinct as natural hair proves to be more than a trend.
While many, including me, celebrate the natural hair movement’s emphasis on self-discovery, I cannot help but wonder if something has also been lost with this cultural shift. For all the horrible things about hair straightening, the experiences associated with it have created a powerful thread that connects the vast majority of black women. Even if you have kinky hair now, you probably have memories of time spent with family and friends in kitchens getting your hair done by someone who loved you and who you trusted enough to wield a sizzling hot straightening comb next to your ear. You probably remember that first trip to the beauty shop where black women talked about grown folks’ business, and nearly every sentence began with the endearment, “girl.” It does not matter if your mother was a teacher or housekeeper, or if you were in New York or Alabama because these experiences crossed class and region. Hair straightening was a rite of passage, an entry into the world of black women.
My experience with salons and natural hair is vastly different from the beauty shop culture. I go to the salon no more than twice a year. Recently, I crossed one of the most powerful color lines in America: I let a white girl do my hair. She gave me a good cut, and I was back on the street in 20 minutes. In comparison, my mother whose hair is chemically straightened goes to the beauty shop every two weeks for a couple of hours. She comes home smelling of oil sheen spray and full of news. She knows everything, from the platform of candidates for the school board, to the proposed sight for the new grocery store, to who was admitted to the hospital last night. She is not just informed; she is engaged, full of laughter, concern, and outrage.
I honestly can not remember the last time I’ve seen the inside of a hair salon. It’s been even longer since I had one to call home, with a favorite chair, favorite dryer and everybody knows your name. And I just realized that I miss that.
Does it mean I’m going to start straightening my hair again to get that good thing back? Absolutely not. But it made me think ladies, outside of the “beauty shop,” where else could sistas meet weekly just to check in, pamper ourselves and refresh for the struggles of the world around us?