First Time Curly Styling

What a different kind of visit I had to the hairdresser today during my first experience with a curl concept salon. I didn’t even know such things existed until quite recently and even in a place like New York, they are few and far between. I had it deeply ingrained in my thinking that salon is where you go to get your hair straightened; where you look at magazines and emulate styles that have no relation to your own texture.  Even after I stopped using chemical treatments, I still viewed a salon as a place where I paid much money (they charge extra for working on my thick hair) for flat iron and trimming.

I get buzzed in and take the elevator up several levels. This is an upscale salon so there is no fruit guy, no perfume and costume jewelry vendors coming in, no audible fights outside in the street like at the Dominican salon in the Bronx I used to frequent as a child and no mamas whacking their kids backsides with a flip flop for acting up. I am offered a beverage and given a robe monogrammed with the salon’s name on it. There is a locker room with wood laminate lockers to stash my belongings in. I flip through the December/Jan issues of Latina and read an article about the challenges of Afro-Latina identity.

Soon I’m taken to the sink where my hair is washed thoroughly and detangled. The detangling takes a solid ½ hour, not unlike when I do it myself at home.  The stylist knows how to comb curly kinky hair without causing much pain. Afterwards, I’m moved to a windowfront chair. I can see only buildings and other windows outside. No sunshine, the clouds cast an ashen look on everything, on people’s demeanors. There is paranoia in the eyes of the people I passed en route to the salon; a glaring readiness to dodge raindrops and make use of high-end rain boots.

I wonder if the people on the other side of the windows can see the volume of my afro.  I’m still a little weary of the stares I get sometimes, though less so in New York than when I’m travelling to places where my kind of hair is more of a rarity. I look at the way it crowns me and don’t mind the pre-styling frizziness even though the stylist apologizes for it. She begins to snip at angles, defining subtle layers to lighten things up a bit. She takes off much less than I had anticipated. At the end of it all my hair doesn’t feel shorter, just shaped a little differently. After the trim, my hair is rewet and the curl definition process begins. Dividing my hair into where the natural curl-kinks separate, running product (some hybrid of leave in conditioner and gel I’m told) through each curl to coat and accentuate it takes about 2 hours. Then I’m placed under the dryer for about 30 minutes. While I don’t think I can ever look at a hood dryer as a comforting place, the time was shorter and the temperature lower than what I thought of as a torture device back in the Bronx Dominican salon days. No more shoulder pad earmuffs needed! The stylist finishes me off with a curly hair specific diffuser that looks like the base of a metal detector attached to a blow dryer.

I don’t have any solid opinion of my defined curl look just yet. A part of me feels like my curls should be frizzier, crazier looking than they are because that’s what I’m used to. It’s also a very different kind of sensation than being released from a straightening session. Maybe I’m not used to such a lack of torture? Fearing blow dryers and hot irons nicking me left and right or trying to convince myself that the burn and stench of chemicals are somehow okay; the emotional rollercoaster was absent today. Rather than some kind of radical transformation, at the end of it I feel simply myself. I paid, gathered my belongings and went out to join the waves of people now actively avoiding raindrops en route to the train. I rode the line home and walked from the stop to my apartment in continued rain and humidity and quite contrary to straight styling, it had no effect on my hair. More hair thoughts may come once I can process this a bit more. For now, I’ll end with a quote by Teri LaFlesh’s Curly Like Me.

“Showing a very curly child how to best take care of her curls is essential in helping her feel comfortable in her own body.  It isn’t enough to simply tell a child she is beautiful, yet treat her as if the hair (or any other part of her, for that matter) that she was born with is unacceptable as it is.  This is the message you impart to her when you attempt to change her hair into something that goes against its curly nature.  Teaching her that she is beautiful exactly the way she was born is a gift you will give her that will last the rest of her life.”

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~ by cyrah on November 23, 2011.

3 Responses to “First Time Curly Styling”

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I would like to put in writing like this moreover ? taking time and actual effort to make a very good article? however what can I say? I procrastinate alot and in no way appear to get something done.

  2. WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..extra wait .. ?

  3. Ohh terrific posting like it!

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