Can we talk for a moment about social anxiety... specifically social anxiety and Black girls. Because often when I read about social angst or see it portrayed in movies and tv, what I find is that white people are cute when they are awkward, but the Black woman beside that character is only ever CONFIDENT. She is so confident, in fact, that she is shaking her head, side eyeing everyone, starting a protest about that janky new rule or policy, and doing all of that with absolutely no backstory or support.
Let me tell you, Issa Rae is setting us awkward Black girls free.
So. This week I have been preparing for a big photo shoot (more on that in coming weeks!) This moment feels like a marker, a moment I will return to many years down the road. One day I'll turn to a friend nearby and say, "remember that one time we had a photo shoot just hoping all of our dreams would come true" (you did see what I did there... remember that one time... okay, whatever...) So big shoot, big moment. I decided that I needed new hair to mark the occasion.
For the last 2 years I have been getting my hair done by my little sister. Yall, I go to my childhood home, sit on my family couch, watch the family tv, and let her cornrow, twist, and loop de loop away. At the end she asks me if I like it; I hug her and go home. No anxiety to contend with! But new hair means a new routine. Sigh.
First because I am doing a new-to-me style, comes the research. I need to know how other women have been doing this. What are my options. What is the difference between a partial sew-in and a full sew-in? What are my hair options? What are the colors? How long do I want it to be? Do I need a closure or no? Wait, there are different kinds of closures? Oh Dear.
Helping me navigating my way through these questions are Essence magazine, youtube stylists (God bless yall) and Black hair care sites dedicated to millennials. Finally, I think I have a game plan. Time to make an appointment.
I haven't been to anyone's salon in years. YEARS. When I first make the appointment, I'm excited. When my appointment is 3 days away, I start panicking. How is it possible that I can stand on a stage with thousands of pairs of eyes on me and be energized... but make me walk into a new space with 4 strangers and I am guaranteed to trip over my own feet? Its weird but its true. 3 days out, and I'm already anxious about walking through the door.
Here are my questions when I walk into a new salon. Where do I go? Is there a lobby, waiting area? Which one is my stylist? Is someone going to help me, or is the in code here "figure it out"? Will I be the stylists only client or will they "only have a few minutes left before I can get in the chair" -- translation: you're gonna have to entertain yourself for the next hour, honey. I want to know about the bathroom situation- where is it? Can I use it? Then there is the hair- do I need some hair? Was I supposed to bring my own? Oh, you have hair here... wonderful.
Even after I'm in the chair, I need guided directions. Please don't just point to the hair washing area and tell me to have a seat- which seat do you want me to occupy- left, right, or middle? When we are finished washing, do I need to sit here to let the conditioner do its thing or are we going over to the steamer. Again, which steamer- left or right? Wait. My left or your left?
And please, for the love of all that is good, please have a beep on the hair dryer so that it can tell you when mine has cut off. Because what I am not prepared to do, is interrupt the conversation you are having (or the meal you are eating) by yelling across the entire room, "my dryer stopped." Nope, I am going to sit there until some deep knowing hits your soul and you think, "what happened to that quiet, awkward client... omg! She's sitting under a hooded dryer with no heat."
I can never seem to communicate when I'm at a new salon. The stylist has important questions. But all I've got is: Im here for a relaxer, crochet braids, individuals, etc... The inevitable next question- what kind- immediately has me tongue tied. We have to talk about length, cut, style, color, braid size, cornrow style so that the braids lay right... I mean the questions that I have not researched are now all that the stylist wants to know... (clears throat) needs to know. But I have no answers because I suddenly cannot form clear sentences or ask clear questions. All the charm has left my body. I am a deer in headlights. I'd probably turn out the door and run, except that all the energy it has taken me to get this far just cannot go to waste. Must power through until hair is done.
I have absolutely done the following at a salon:
-tripped over the floor mat
-sat in the wrong chair
-not followed the stylist when I was supposed to
-stayed under a hooded dryer that was no longer drying
-left the salon with a TERRIBLE hair style because I couldn't just say, "I look like a cabbage patch doll, fix it now..." Nope. That required another 24 hours of quietly building courage.
And if that weren't enough, my dear friends... Often, there is a step between all the research and getting to the salon. One first must go to the beautysupplystore. No, it's not all one word, unless you are a Black girl. Then it totally is.
The beauty supply store is a place of magic and fear. All the hair types. All the styles. Every color. Every wig. Every hair product line. Here is every supply you or your stylist might need. Here is the hair they love to use. Here is the hair they hate to use. Here is the good stuff that is not going to hurt your stylists fingers and looks quite natural. Here is the stuff that is inexpensive but your stylist will not like you after 3 hours. Here is the stuff that matches your hair color, but you might have to go out on a limb and ask for help from the other Black woman in the store... "excuse me, would you mind telling me which color you think is the better match- 1b? And the stuff you really want for the big photo shoot, is actually behind the counter. So you cant really see it or touch it or figure out which one you might want to take home, because now you have to hold up the line asking the cashier to take down each option and show them to you one-by-one.
If you are like me... and you are trying something brand new and don't have a regular stylist to tell you exactly what to buy... you might just leave and get the hair online, where you don't have to talk to anyone. Maybe. Yes, thats what I did this time. I just couldn't take the pressure.
Turns out the salon was lovely or perhaps it was just empty... It's hard for me to tell where one ends and the other begins. I did in fact buy enough hair. I did the dance where my stylist asked me questions I don't have the answers to. Thankfully, I did not come home looking like a cabbage patch doll. I did not trip over the welcome mat, but I did almost leave my coat at the salon, like a four year old.
All that to say, I have a big photo shoot. And new hair to go with said photo shoot. And when the photos are revealed, and I look confident and bold... I want you to remember that first was the awkwardness- then came the rising.
If you enjoyed this... will you please share it with a Black girl who needs to know she is not alone?