The politics of hair


So.  D got his haircut at a nearby kids’ salon a couple weeks ago.  It was a big deal, because he was doing it for Locks of Love, and went from having a foot of curls on his head to (basically) a buzz cut.  And Rose decided she wanted to cut her hair.

Now, Rose has had exactly one haircut since we adopted her more than three years ago.  She has a lot of hair.  But I love it, and wasn’t too keen on her getting it cut.  So I instituted a waiting period.  During the waiting period, we talked a lot about not being able to do nice long braids, etc., if she got it cut to shoulder length.

Her idea was that she wanted her hair to look like mine.  I explained to her that no matter how we cut it, it wouldn’t look like mine, because her hair is curly and mine is straight.  We talked about how D has curly hair too, and his hair would also never look like mine.  Then we talked to Maddie, a girl at school with hair similar to Rose’s, about how she liked her shorter hair (she loves it).

Rose decided it was something she wanted to do, and specifically, wanted to do at the same place D got his haircut (with TVs and toys and kids’ stuff).  I was not super-enthusiastic about this idea because the place is in Whitefish Bay and, really, how many African-American kids get their hair cut there?  I didn’t want my daughter’s hair butchered.  But, as I am kind of a pushover when my kids make well-mannered, reasonable requests, I caved and made her an appointment.

We show up at the salon, and I wasn’t impressed from the start as the stylist (not the same one D had) and receptionist continued their conversation about other customers.  I’m not generally a high-maintenance customer, but I expect, if we have a 3pm appointment, that you’ll kind of make it look like you are trying to get the kid in the chair around that time.  So perhaps I am predisposed to get even more irritated when you start telling me how:

“Wow, her hair is so well-combed, usually curly hair is just a mess!”

“You know, if you got her hair straightened it would be SO long.”

“Her hair would be really cute straightened.”

Seriously?  After each comment I do my best to discourage this line of conversation.  Yes, I take care to comb my daughter’s hair.  Yeah, I know it is long, when I wash it it falls almost down to her butt.  Actually, I love her hair curly.

Rose has amazing and beautiful hair.  I hope she never wants to straighten it, though if she does (as a teenager or adult) I am sure I will respect her wishes.  I really want her to see how gorgeous she is, and I will never take her back to this salon again.  While I doubt the stylist was conscious of her disrespectful/racist behavior, I want to limit Rose’s exposure to idiots who try to force her into conforming to their standards of beauty.

I should have said something to the stylist.  I definitely shouldn’t have left her a tip.  I’m bad at this, sometimes.  It’s harder to do when my kids are there, watching, though it is likely more important.

Your Reply