*Names and locations have been changed to protect identities. And because I don’t want to get shanked because I’m too young to die even though life gets hard sometimes.
It’s Sunday morning. You’ve woken up late because the post-church youth group hang out/ turn up was particularly lit and you drank too much Mighty Malt and Appletiser. Drowsy and blurry eyed from your non-alcoholic hangover, you reach for your glasses. The world slowly comes into focus. Your room is a mess. It’s because you’ve worked too many late shifts, because really you’re a tidy person and you like things to be in order, you tell yourself. You look at the time on your phone. It’s 0930 hours. You have an appointment to get your hair braided in exactly 20 minutes. The stereotype is that black hairdressers are always running late, but this hairdresser is gentrified and has a strict appointment policy. (More evidence that gentrification is traumatic and inconvenient for everyone involved except the gentrifier – which in your case has a Jamaican accent and is called Simone).
You tumble out of bed and manage to shower, lotion, brush your teeth, get dressed, talk to Jesus, salute your parents, say your daily affirmations and argue with your younger brother in exactly 8 minutes and 53 seconds.
You arrive at “Motivationz” at 1007, 3 minutes shy of the 10 minute cancellation policy window. As far as you’re concerned, you’ve arrived early and you’re breaking stereotypes.
The receptionist lady smiles concernedly when you tell her your appointment time and asks you to take a seat and wait, in order to make you nervous that your late arrival might result in you entering the working week with 2 large canerows and a headwrap as your only companions. This is all fake news. You are Simone’s first and only customer till 1230.
You are brought a cup of lemongrass tea and you browse your Pinterest ‘DOPE HAIRSTYLES’ folder to finalise the style you want.
Simone walks over to the chair. You exchange the usual pleasantries. She starts to run her fingers through your hair. “Do you know what style you want?”. You nod excitedly and show her the picture you’ve saved on Pinterest.
You’re going to the Seychelles for your friends wedding. You know exactly what you want. You know the colour, the length, the layering- you even know the exact air of casual glamour you want to exude as you step off the plain. To be doubly sure, you even show her the first 30 seconds of the Youtube tutorial of the exact style you want. She looks slightly offended and you don’t have much data so you put your phone back in your bag and smile at her. “Ok, let’s get started,” she says..
Your hair is freshly washed and brushed. You’re ready. She spins the chair around. You’re not facing the mirror anymore. This seems strange, but you trust Simone. The reviews on Yelp were good.
More customers start to come into the shop. The 2 other hairdressers seem good- an hour in and one customer has come and gone looking fabulous. You have high hopes. Time marches on. The braids at the front are slightly tight and have given you a bit of a facelift, but no matter, that’s all free with the service.
You and Simone talk about the upcoming election. You exchange man troubles (you ain’t got one, her’s forget their anniversary). You talk about children (you ain’t got none, her youngest just started primary school). You commiserate about the overflow and abundance of bad weaves in South East London. By the end of the session, you feel like you’ve really bonded. You’re excited about how your hair’s going to turn out.
She does her final spray. Despite the slight headache and the fact that your eyebrows are slightly in “SURPRISE!!!!!” mode from the braids, you can’t wait to see your new look.
Simone spins the chair round to face the mirror. Your mouth drops open.
This isn’t the photo you showed her on Pinterest. It looks fabulous but completely different. There are beads. Everything is different. You squint. Your skin somehow looks lighter as well. Everything is different. Wow. How has she done this? You don’t know whether to be completely furious or in awe at the artistry. Simone looks pleased with herself.
“Do you like it?” she grins. “Umm.. wow..I mean…it’s pretty amazing”. You stammer, truthfully. “You’re welcome!!!” she chirps. “Keisha will take your payment. Enjoy your holiday, see you soon!”.
You leave confused. Then it dawns on you. This isn’t about you. Simone is an artist. You are her canvas. Canvasses don’t have wants, needs, opinions, decisions. Canvasses simply allow the master to work. Mona Lisa didn’t ask Da Vinci why she wasn’t smiling. Miles Davis’s trumpet didn’t get a say on what piece was played on it. And you don’t get to ask why you have 29 golden beads jangling around your neck. It’s not about you.
The only thing left to do is take a selfie for Instagram. *shrug*. If you can’t beat ’em….
Ever had a hairdresser give you a different look to what you were going for?