by Alisha of Because I Said So

I think I broke up with my hair stylist. Well, I did in my head, at least.

To bring you up to speed, I’m “going natural.” I haven’t had a relaxer since December 12, 2009. That’s a mighty long time, and I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I recently heard growing out relaxers described as the new black. Everybody’s doing it.

Negative. Especially not in my stylist’s shop… Nothing but perms and weaves are done. Our business relationship is similar to a dead-end romantic relationship. You don’t want to believe it’s coming, but you can see it a mile away. There’s nowhere to go, but the other way to get out. Don’t get me wrong—I love her to death. I’ve tried to hold on to her, getting spiral curls and even twists to get me through, but as I sat in her chair last week, I knew I wouldn’t be back for a long time.

Why, you ask? Because she doesn’t know how to style “virgin” hair. How dreadful. Maybe she just doesn’t want to. When I made the decision to transition, we talked about my options and the fact that she’d no longer be my stylist after a while. The conversation was refreshing. Thankfully, she’s not the type to get offended if a client goes elsewhere for services, but I don’t think she thought I’d go this long. My visits have dwindled from every other week to once or twice a month, if that.

My hair grows like weeds, so after two months, it was a beast. Instead of random “beauty shop” conversation, I listened to her talk about how long it was going to take to spiral, how she doesn’t have the patience to deal with it and how I’m going through a phase. I didn’t pay for that; I paid for styling services. End of story.

Take away the customer service component (which is stellar usually), and my main gripe is stylists’ limited skill sets. Why don’t they know how to handle transitioning or natural hair? Why do I have to go to an older stylist or one who “specializes” in children’s hair? I don’t think natural hair should be a specialty. It should be a requirement because we don’t come out of the womb with relaxed hair. Yes, natural hair is fragile and needs special care, but so does relaxed hair. So why aren’t both taught in cosmetology school?

According to the State of Tennessee Board of Cosmetology, a cosmetologist, which requires 1,500 hours, and a natural hairstylist, which requires only 300 hours, are two separate classifications. Moreover, I think that proves the takeover of relaxed hair. Yes, I understand that some women’s hair requires so much to maintain, perhaps, a perm is “needed.” Even better, I understand that the unbe”weave”able world of weaves and perms is where the money is, but are we so far gone that some “stylists” don’t even know what hair without a perm feels like?

Unfortunately, there’s an ignorance about our hair in the African -American community. I’m far from what the natural community calls a “hair nazi,” I don’t want to rock ‘fros and twists or emulate Angela Davis or Jill Scott. I’ll most likely continue to wear it flat ironed because that’s what works for me. I don’t know if I’ve had any self-discoveries that many women talk about, but I have gotten a glimpse of the lack of education about what grows out of our very heads.

Maybe I’m selfish in feeling like my stylist should be able to do all things cosmetology. I doubt that natural hairstyling was even apart of the curriculum when she took state board exams. Even so, I think a stylist should be trained to work with all types of hair. I pray styling options are added to state boards nationally because contrary to popular belief, everyone does not have a relaxer.

I’m not venting because I think natural hair is the only way to go. No elitism here. There are days when I want to run to the chair and feel that cold Mizani cream on my scalp, and who knows–I might do just that. My biggest concern is the miseducation about hair–- period. For far too long, we’ve been sitting in the chair or even standing behind it without knowing what’s really going on. Our only mission is to make it pretty.

Aside from my rant, the obvious solution to my problem is simply to find another stylist. Already taken care of, whether she knows it or not. In addition, I know how to do my own hair, and did so weekly for years. Luckily, I inherited those skills from my granny, who was a cosmetologist for 40 years. When I don’t feel like dealing with it, which is often, I pay someone else to do it. Complaints and jokes about what I do with my hair isn’t apart of the agreement.

It’s been great, but I’ve got to say goodbye now.