Would you like to go get a free blow-out?
I don't know about you, but I'd have to think about that for about millisecond before I'd say..."um, yes!"
That was my first reaction, anyway, but those of us with the very coily-est of coils know what its like to start getting nervous about a trip to any salon you haven't visited before. The questions come as an afterthought, rolling up like credits at the end of good romantic comedy. Getting a professional blow-out sounded like a wonderfully exciting idea, but does the salon specialize in or at least have some knowledge of what to do with naturally coily hair? Will they be like the majority of the black hair salons, where stylists attempt to rip through my coils with a much too fine toothed comb, see me wince and concluding that I'm tender-headed, offer no solution except to tell me to brace myself? Will I regret the damage they might do for a few days or for several months?
Bow your head and close your eyes
Unfortunately, the majority of the time, I am completely justified in my concerns. The reason I usually decide to say a few prayers (seriously) and just give it a go anyway is because, at the end of the day, its just hair, and even if I have to shave it all off and start over, it will eventually grow back...I hope. So, this past Friday, I mustered up some courage and went to an event with two co-workers as press for NaturallyCurly.com. It all started out fairly well, with a trip to check out the blow-out salon, which shall remain nameless for now. We witnessed ladies at the blow-out bar getting complimentary dry styling, while enjoying complimentary beverages and hors d'oeuvres in the minimalistic, but elegantly designed salon. Then, we walked over to get outlandishly fabulous false eyelashes applied (also complimentary) while we waited for our names to come up on the waiting list to get our hair styled.
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When I heard my name called, the beginning of knots started to build in my stomach. I was guided to a spot at the bar and sat down. The first thing my stylist said to me was, "Let me go find someone who knows how to deal with this kind of hair." Personally, I was not superbly offended by that statement, but my manager who became my advocate through this whole ordeal, was offended enough for both of us. If she hadn't been there, I probably would have jumped out of the chair grabbed some more hors d'oeuvres and high-tailed it out of there. Instead, her firm resolve kept me in the chair and we waited and waited while my stylist went to look for someone who could tame the alien beast on top of my head. No, I do not feel that way about my hair, but the treatment I received, the way the salon handled the situation made me feel like some kind of extraterrestrial.
Each of the subsequent salon employees who came up to try to "deal" with me and my hair seemed to be trying to appease me with euphemisms while actually meaning, "You may have come in peace, but we'd really appreciate it if you would get the heck off of our planet!"
The Day the Earth Stood Still
There was a lot of waiting, during which I felt more and more embarrassed and foolish for even coming. These are the things I heard from salon employees while sitting in that salon chair:
"I can't work with it [meaning my hair]!"
"It's too short!"
"Uh, uh, not with these nails, I can't." (Those nails were at least two inches long, which made me wonder how it was possible for her to even do straight hair properly.)
"Since we are only offering complimentary dry styling and your hair is so kinky, there's not much we can do, so..." (...so please, please leave, I'm begging you!)
"We really can do every type of hair, but we would want to start with a shampoo to get the best results for you, so we really hope you'll come back when you can get a full blow-out service." (I was told this story about four times by the same employee, because, aliens are also hard-of-hearing.)
Really? Because your head stylist, said to me, "This is a learning experience, because you know, I don't really have many clients (try any clients...at all) who come in with your hair type."
As you can tell, they were very professional and honest with me! I apologize if you didn't have a cup big enough to catch the sarcasm dripping from the previous sentence. I'll wipe that up later.
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War of the Worlds
Eventually, they basically asked, what exactly did I want them to do? All I wanted was for them to take my shrunken coils and give me some height. Okay, they would see what they could do, they said. Enter, the head stylist. I was told to please not bite the head stylist or zap him into ashes like the aliens from "War of the Worlds", because he was going to try his best without doing a full blow-out service with a shampoo.
Thankfully my manager produced a wide toothed comb from her purse and assured them that we could give directions for what to do. Throughout the styling process, the head stylist was good enough to ask questions about what he should do and how he should do it, instead of pretending he already knew. Here's what he did per my instructions:
- Wet my hair with water from a spray bottle and a detangling spray.
- Used a wide toothed comb and eventually hair dryer to comb out my fro and make it bigger.
- Added some oil to finish the style.
The result was lumpier, but taller hair, that would not be worth paying for if it hadn't been complimentary. If it's possible to give them any credit, I can say that they did try to do something to my hair as opposed to actually kicking me out of the styling chair. At some point, before they offered up their head stylist as a sacrifice to the alien life-form in the styling chair, my manager mentioned that we were there as press for NaturallyCurly.com. I can't really say if that turned the tables for them or not, but while I was getting my hair mussed, I also received a gift card so I could come back for a full blow-out service. Quick, get a big mixing bowl to catch the following sarcasm drip! How nice of them, right?
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The hair before again. Just so you can see the "dramatic difference". »
The hair after...Why am I still grinning? Because I really liked the false eyelashes! »
Later at home. I have so much more length than this! »
I would not go back there to get anything done to my hair unless they actually paid me a large enough quantity of money and expected to get nothing, especially not any endorsement, in return. Why? Why would I not go back for a free full service blow-out? I think the simplest answer is not even about the treatment I received while I was there. No, it is simply this: The fact that the full service blow-out would be free does not change the fact that there was not a soul in that salon who would know what to do with my hair.
The average blow-out bar may seem like something short of a miracle to those with much looser textures. For their sake, I can appreciate the blow-out bar from afar. However, if you haven't at least been entertained by my bitter tail of a blow-out that (pardon my French) blows, at least be warned, my curlier and coiler friends: blow-out bars are not for everyone. When your stylist finishes up by asking, "Since you don't have a relaxer, how do you get your hair straight?" (because, why would a person with curly hair actually want to wear their hair curly?) you know that we still have a long way to go to get through to professional stylists that it is worth it to learn how to cater to us curly, coily people. If that market doesn't seem to exist, it's because of experiences like what I have just related to you that have created a culture of curlies who are not so enthusiastic about taking a trip to the salon.
Have you had any success with getting your coily, curly hair taken care of properly at a salon? What stories do you have of professional styling disasters?