Now I Understand Why My Black Friends Stopped Going to the Dominicans


Saturday, September 5, 2015
1:31 PM
NP: Miles Davis - Bye Bye Black Bird

So I'm sitting in Rosalina's, the Dominican hair salon on 151st and Broadway, and I'm trying to back-map my lesson plans for my Language Arts unit but I'm totally distracted by this 12 year old girl who is getting her hair rolled in front of me. 

I noticed her when she first walked in with her mother. They look like twins and both have the same thick, dark, curly hair. It was hard to see how pretty her hazel eyes were because of the thick blow dryer's smoke that permeated the air in the salon. 

"Oww!" She yelled, as the heavy-handed Dominican woman parted her hair. 

I looked up and smiled, remembering the days when I was about her age, crying when my grandmother or the Dominicans would forcefully detangle my thick, curly tresses after a long summer day of swimming and sweating. My natural curls would become defensively matted, causing my scalp to become a wounded battle ground. The comb was my not on my side, at all. 

I ended my flashback and began reading an article on Edutopia.org about how project-based learning is a context for arts integration. I was about to highlight a section when I accidentally dropped my phone. I looked down and was dismayed to see so much of little mama's hair on the floor. I picked up my phone and looked at her as she held her hands on her cheeks, squeezing her face in an effort to divert the pain, still saying, "Owww!!!" louder and louder, with more discomfort in her sobs each time. 

I looked at the blonde Dominican woman who showed no emotion at all. Not even one word of comfort was given. She just continued combing little mama's hair with the orange rat-tail comb, letting the hair continue to fall. 

My heart swelled and I wanted to get up and grab the comb from the Dominican stylist. I wanted to show her how you are supposed to detangle curly hair. 

I looked over at the big-bonded, almondy skinned Dominican woman who was sitting under the dryer adjacent to me. We both shook our heads, knowing there was nothing we could do. 

Finally, little mama got up from the chair. Her whole face was wet from the tears that her hazel eyes wept. She wiped her face and headed toward her mother. I looked over at the woman across from me again and she too was crying because of the poignancy of the moment. 

"Ayyy.. Probecita... Probecita.." She said to me in Spanish... Which means poor baby.. 

As little mama sat next to me under the dryer, I held her tiny hand and said, "Don't let them use that little comb on your hair anymore. Tell your mother that she has to bring your own comb when you come." 

She nodded a gesture that let me know she understood.. But I knew what she really wanted was to never have to come back here again. 

I've been coming here since I was 8 years old. Although I always hear women of my age, who have decided to go natural, talk about how harmful the Dominican hair salon's heat-regimen is, I never thought the blowdryer could be damaging to feelings as well. We always say beauty is pain but how much of it is worth it if we have to put our baby girls through that? What message are we sending ...or perpetuating ..or endorsing. Is this a problem that is simple enough to fix with the usage of bigger comb or is it a cry for much more? Probecita. 

Comments

  1. I know the feeling. When you assume that something is wrong with your looks when society has these impossible standards everyone must adhere to. We can't all have "good" hair.

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