by Kadian Pow of whatgetsonmytits.blogspot.com
When I was eight years old, my mother relaxed my hair without asking me. I can’t say that
it was totally out of the blue as the clues were there. Tugging my hair in resentment, her
frustration with my hair—and me by extension—was palpable each time she put her hands in
it. Sadly, my story is not unique.
Between the ages of seven and twelve, I had little control over my hair, which in some ways is
a good thing. A child who has had a relaxer forced on them has no business trying to take
care of their own hair. I lived with my grandmother and saw my mom every couple of weeks.
With my grandmother, it was thick blue or green grease, barrettes and plaits. When my mom
would see my hair like this, she thought it unacceptable and would promptly deliver me to
her favorite salon du jour.
I was eight years old on one of these salon trips when she left me under a hooded dryer to
run an errand. I had already been at the salon for hours and my hair was still not done. By the
time I climbed up into the stylist’s chair I was struggling to stay asleep. I remember muttering
something about my bangs before drifting off to sleep. I woke up to the stylist patting me on
my shoulder and shoving a hand mirror in front of my face. I looked in the mirror, my eyes
quickly bulging in disbelief. My bangs! My beautiful, beautiful side swept bangs. What had
she done to them?! They were several inches above my eyebrows and greased to an inch
of their lives. This was 1987, so 1940s Betty Page bangs were not in. I had to go to school
like this for several weeks until they grew to a reasonable length. In addition to my lingering
Jamaican accent, this was yet another thing the kids at school would make fun of. I could feel
the blood rushing to my face as I felt a mix of rage, sadness and disappointment. I was eight,
dammit. How could she do this to me?!
I turned to meet the expectant gaze of the stylist. She wanted feedback and I wanted to
strangle her. Barely managing my disdain for her, I quickly muttered “it’s fine,” as I leapt out
of her chair to go sit and wait for my mom. I sat fuming in anger and holding back tears as I
waited for my mom for half an hour. When she finally arrived, she looked questionably at my
hair. I told her what happened, expecting her to tear the stylist a new one. To my chagrin, she
blamed me for falling asleep. Me for not standing watch over a professional to ensure that she
cut a child’s bangs to a reasonable length. Me for looking like someone she didn’t want to be
seen with. On the way home, the anger subsided, but the disappointment lingered even after
my bangs had grown back.
I started transitioning back to natural when I was fourteen, but it wasn’t until much later
that I understood what my mother was trying to tell me by blaming me for the bang debacle.
Sure, she may have been a little tough on me (did I mention I was eight?!), but her point was
sound. She taught me that just because someone is a licensed professional, my own common
sense and intuition should not go out the door. Whether it is a haircut or chemical treatment,
it is I who am ultimately responsible for the way I present myself to world. It has taken me
many mistakes to finally be able to say that with confidence. But in all things, the journey is
just as important as the destination.
About the Author: Kadian Pow was born in Jamaica and grew up in Washington, DC. She has recently moved to Birmingham, UK, with her partner where she enjoys writing, travelling, being obsessed with technology and experimenting with hair products. You can find her on Twitter (@whtgetsonmyt__s), YouTube (whatgetsonmytits), and her part-time blog (whatgetsonmytits.blogspot.com
No actually. As a child we only got our hair professionally done for Very Special Occasions. My cousin was getting married and my grandma took me to the salon and left, thrilled with my new found freedom I told the stylist I wanted straight hair. She looked nervously over her shoulder and said she'd have to ask my grandma because relaxers were expensive, so I told her to blow dry it instead. When my grandma saw my bone straight, waist-length hair she yelled at the stylist and made someone else redo my hair, it ended up getting cut to shoulder blade length due to heath damage and done up in two french braids.
I got a perm at age 8 and kept it until age 44. I wasn't upset at my mom, though. My two cousins and me got our perms at the same time. They're still permed. My mom believed in teaching me how to take care of my hair. She parted it every few days but I had to get up and comb it each morning. My hair was mid-back length when I cut it. I simply got tired of "doing hair." People were shocked. Both me and my mom wear natural hair now. It won't curl or hold a style so there was no need to pay someone $35 to $60 to wash it. I can do so myself, be free and feel at ease…
The message you received about being your own best advocate is profound. I do wish however that your mother woulda laid into the lady at least a little lol! I would have flipped out if a stylist did something like this to my eight year old daughter!
My mom did the same, I had natural hair until I was 11, and she let someone else put the idea in her head that I was too old for pigtails, and I needed a 'perm'. I went to the salon and they cut off my hair up to my cheek. I cried. From then on I was stuck going to stylist who kept trimming 1-2 inches of my hair saying it needed to be cut. I do not resent her for it, but I am upset that she did not stand up for herself, and let me stay natural, at least until I was old enough to say whether I wanted one or not.
I'm natural now so it doesn't matter, but I am still upset because I have younger sisters who she has done the same to. It's hard trying to convince someone that African American hair is beautiful when they have been taught that it is not for so many years…
I can relate! This story probably defines 95% of my visits to professional hair stylists: Disappointment after Disappointment. Thanks for this 🙂
OH MY WORD…I can relate totally. When I was about 5, my mom put a Jerri Curl in my hair. She was about the fashion and the fact that it would help "manage" my hair. I wore my hair in that style until I was 12. At 12 my aunt transitioned my hair back to its natural state only to put a perm in my hair. Like that would make it better. According to her it was to make it more flexible in styling. Whatever right. Now I am in my 30's and I feel that I have never gotten the opportunity to know my hair. So I am tranisitioning. I stopped perming my hair in June of this year. I hope that I can get to know my hair and take it from there. But this entry just spoke volumes to me. Thank for posting it. It is going to help me stay focus.