Battle lines in the… hair

w IMG0019Yesterday, we set out in search of a hair salon expert to help Chi continue on her hair journey.  We’ve tried, unsuccessfully,  to understand it’s nature and to train it to do what we want.

In October,  we began what we’d hoped would be a path to regrowth of healthier hair.  The first “treatment ” was to be a conditioning lasting three months. It was supposed to stimulate growth.  The stylist, holding my baby’s hair captive in her hands, said harshly “It’s done. We need to cut it all off and start over.”  Chi sat in tears, silently mourning the loss.  I couldn’t then fathom shaving her head. And Chi was definitely not excited about this plan.  I approved only a trim and insisted we preserve whatever length we could on the crown of her head.  It took hours for the “process” and Chi emerged with tightly rodded curls.  She was beautiful. Older. Refined. w IMG0009

I wasn’t initially sold on the look. It wasn’t supposed to be so short. But Chi radiates beauty, and she simply glowed.

We were told the “treatment” would last three months. I was given a demonstration of how to rod curl her hair. On her recommendation, I went out and purchased organic coconut oil to improve and maintain the scalp health.

Two weeks later, when it was time to wash and continue her curl training, I fumbled. I could not get those rods – no matter how small or large, no matter how tight the paper hair wrappers – to curl and hold. We resorted to YouTube videos on two strand twists and tried that method to create waves. She liked the result!

For the remainder of our time before the next salon appointment, we switched between flat iron curls and natural post-twist curls. And then it was time to return for the second treatment, assessment of growth, trim (if needed) and styling tips. But the stylist ignored our calls. She didn’t respond to our messages. Time came and went and we were left without professional assistance.
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Apparently, the stylist forgot to mention something with whatever process she used on Chi’s hair. My baby’s hair gradually began breaking off – despite most of the length being new grow out from the initial cut. And then, as winter set in, the sides of her hair were suddenly short. We’d not cut her hair, not changed styling products, not overly used heat methods to fix it. But the breakage was haggard, and obvious. w IMG0834

When wet, her hair didn’t wave or curl. When straight, it stayed spiked in whatever position it was placed. She tried to mask the damage with bandeau headbands. Somehow, she convinced her school’s admin staff that her knit hats weren’t against dress code.

This past Saturday, however, she’d had enough fighting. We set out to find a new stylist to help us renew our healthy hair journey.

I never expected rejection.

I couldn’t have imagined having to defend Chi’s choice of hairstyle. She’d spent hours looking through short hair cuts for curly and textured hair. I was impressed with her selections – each tasteful and natural.
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We stopped at a local salon two hours before closing. One client sat in a chair, her hair in a crown of cornrows, a metal curved hook weaving long, straight hair into it. A child sat in a chair in the shop’s rear, wincing as her stylist twisted in extensions as she braided.

A male stylist, his hair in a wild curly fro, greeted us. We breifly explained our purpose, flashing a reference photo from Chi’s phone. “And how old are you?” he asked with a hint of sneer in his voice. “You want to cut off your hair?”

I told him the truth. No. If we truly had a choice, we’d never have cut her hair. But it’s breaking off. It’s getting shorter by the day and we can’t risk losing it all by waiting for the problem to repair itself.

Then, his sneer was visible. “She’s too young for that cut. Why don’t you braid it up, put in some hair? Your hair has to breathe, to rest.” And he directed us to the other stylist in the back.

Perhaps I’d been transported into a reverse Samson and Delilah episode – only in this vignette, Delilah’s beauty is in her long locks and Samson is refusing to do the cutting.

Chi was devastated. Showing her youth, her voice trembled and became a whisper. “I don’t want braids.” He spent some time trying to convince us of our poor choice. I even took Chi to get the braider’s card and browsed disinterestedly through her style book. Ultimately, we left with no plans to return. Chi covered her hair in a knit hat, despite the heat.

Jaded, Mom and I conferred. Where else is there? A barber, maybe? We decided on a spot we’d once used when a much younger Chi frequently had her hair braided – no extensions, just a wash, condition, and style. Unfortunately, the last time she’d chosen braids, a server used male pronouns and Chi was then convinced she must look like a boy. She has refused to wear them ever since.

As we parked, I admonished her: “Speak up. Let them know what you want. It’s your hair, you’ve got to let them know what you want. I can’t do it for you.”

The shop owner looked at us like visitors from a foreign land. “You want her hair cut? How?”

Mom, hovering hands across Chi’s broken hair, explained our desire for a tapered cut that blended into the already short length of the back of her hair. Keep the length on the top.

Once again, we flashed our model photo. She scrutinized the style, and asked Chi’s age. Skepticism was written on her face.

Clearly, short hair has an age requirement.

I suppose she saw our determination, because she offered to call one of her stylists. She chatted with the stylist, texted her our reference, and in hushed tones, she shared her assessment of our predicament: desperation.

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