Hair stories: Part 1

The chemical odor wafted away, and the temporary salon reverted to our home again. Flicka’s two friends left, their job completed. I eyed my girl’s hair, the result of their afternoon labors. Only her bangs and a strip down one side were changed, the processed portions stark white.

What had happened? Had the girls even tried to follow the instructions on the box of silver hair dye?

I spruced up my face with a smile. “So, uh, are you happy with it?”

“Neither one knows how to work with white people hair.” Flicka chuckled. “They said it was too slippery. Anyway, it’s no big deal.”

She was right; it was no big deal. Just like when I allowed my girls—early elementary age at the time—to color their hair with Manic Panic semi-permanent hair dye in Rock ‘n’ Roll Red. A couple of mothers at church had gasped over their transformations, one finally giving sound to her thoughts.

“How did you let your girls color their hair like that—at their ages?” Her mouth flat-lined, and she shook her head.

“It’s just hair,” I said.

Her tone switched to sing-songy. “You’re a better mom than I am, apparently.”

Now, years later, I felt the same way about what had transpired on Flicka’s head: it was just hair. But what captured my thoughts most in the coloring snafu that day was the cultural piece.

From hosting dozens of little ones through Safe Families for Children, I already knew my shortcomings fixing black hair. I could manage a simple puff bun, but I usually passed the harder job of freshening hair twists or redoing Bantu knots on to Husband, the resident stylist, who bested me in patience and dexterity.

Husband's talents aside, hadn’t I heard how generally unskilled white people were with black hair? Flicka’s words returned to me. Neither one knows how to work with white people hair. What a relief now to see some equality—at least in this. What a nice surprise to learn the ground was level at the foot of the salon chair.  

So, what if we spent more afternoons trying to do one another’s hair—maybe even messing it up sometimes? What if we practiced making beauty for each other more often?

What if we tried harder to understand?

Hair lessons.jpg

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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.