By Veronica Wells
The lore of Black men feeling unhealthy and irrational attachments to their barbers is not reserved only for them. Black women have our own struggles separating from beauticians and stylists who have been doing our hair for some time. I’ve seen women tolerate bad attitudes, ugly styling, stagnant hair growth and even damage for the sake of loyalty…or fear.
There are millions of Black women who leave the salon unhappy with what they see in the mirror. But they don’t say anything because they don’t want to offend the stylist. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Black hair stylists are artists and they’re sensitive about their sh*t. And they don’t generally do a good job of hiding this sensitivity.
So we stay. I’m convinced this conditioning comes from sitting through painful braiding and combing sessions, enduring burnt ears and overly bumped ends. The thought that you would question your mother’s hair choices, practices or end result was out of the question. After all, you weren’t paying her. At the end of the day, she was doing you a favor.
Sadly, when we start paying for these same services as adults, the attitude that prevented us from getting popped in the head as children, is the same thing that keeps us silent in the beauty shop.
Through seemingly incessant food breaks, loud-talking in our ear and unexplained price hikes or hidden charges, we stay.
Still, there might come a time when you have to distance yourself to the woman who’s tended to your head. Whether you found someone who’s closer to you, charges less for the same service, or just has a better demeanor, you’re confident about your decision to bounce…until you get a phone call asking when you’re going to schedule your next appointment, or you happen to run into her on the street. Then all of a sudden, the decision you’ve made for your hair, your wallet, your time and general well-being makes you feel guilty or disloyal.
And just like we can feel our stylists’ sensitivity about their work, I’m sure they can feel our guilt. Some of them even attempt to prey on it…even when they haven’t done anything to deserve your loyalty.
Earlier this week, my sister reached out to several stylists to see if they could braid her hair for an upcoming trip. She was comparing prices, location, skillsets. Finally, she narrowed it down to two women. After some more comparisons, she chose one over the other. She’d been in communication with both women, asking questions, getting quotes etc. After she made her decision, she let the other one know that she decided to go another route. In fact, she even explained, via DM, that she made the decision to choose the other young lady because she was closer to her. But she told her that she would be getting braids sometime in the fall and she would reach out to her during that time.
Sadly, the woman responded saying, “But I am local though… In the future, please don’t waste my time.”
My sister replied, “How was your time wasted?”
According to Instagram, the woman saw the message and decided to ignore it. It could have been because she was petty or it could have been because she realized there was no way to answer that question. When you provide services to others, you have to be in the business of answering questions about your services. My sister and I are both entrepreneurs, answering questions for people who ultimately don’t buy, is a part of the game. But if you take the time to speak to people politely, you’ll be surprised at the folk who come back around. What’s truly sad is that my sister was willing to work with her in the future–maybe because she felt some guilt around choosing someone else. I’m sure it was also because she really liked her work. But with that attitude, there’s no question that she’ll never work with her in the future.