Yesterday I Dried My Hair With A Towel: Confessions Of A Curly-Haired Traitor

Yesterday I cheated on my hairdresser. The circs were thus: in an ill-judged fit of economy I cut my own hair last month and have been way too ashamed to face my normal hairdresser's justified wrath. So instead I slipped incognito into a nearby salon and asked only for "someone who will be kind about my lapse in judgment" (which has been looking like something halfway between a coonskin cap and a rock mullet - and that's an improvement over its original incarnation). Upshot is, I came away looking semi-normal, but it was a shock - a shock! - to be back in a regular "straight-haired" place after three years of indoctrination in the world of the specialty Curly Salon. They used shampoo! They dried my hair with a towel - and without just blotting up from the bottom, too! Then they detangled it with a brush! And they didn't cut from the "C" of the curl! And afterwards they didn't twist it and clip it! Heresy! And you know what? It was liberating!As anyone who's been indoctrinated by a curly salon knows, these are some cardinal sins. While the anti-curl straight-haired world may not understand the drama, agony and ecstasy of living with curly hair, the Curly Haired Salon exists to overcome generations of societal suppression, vague racism and willful misunderstanding and let the curl Breathe Free. And of course, they're right: those of us with curls have had mushroom cuts and dealt with years of agony and frizz. Certainly the societal partiality for soulless, tightly-controlled blow-outs and the perceptions that curls denote some kind of wildness and irresponsibility are pernicious and very likely in part based on a racism that people accept unthinkingly. And it's certainly true that these curly salons (there are to my knowledge two main chains plus satellites; I've been to a number of these) give great cut and that their products result in good-looking hair. But these salons, with their strict credos and inviolate rules, their didactic books railing against the injustices of the straight-haired world, and the parade of clients leaving with strangely identical manes of ringlets, are a tyranny all their own. My first visit to one of these salons was an education in shame. For years, I admitted, I had been using a drying commercial shampoo full - full, I tell you - of wicked chemicals. This, I was told, must stop immediately; I'd have to start using the salon's (expensive) substance that somehow isn't shampoo but should be used like a shampoo. I was also washing my hair far too frequently, stripping it of its natural oils! Then too, I was detangling it with a wide-tooth comb (bad) and, worst of all, employing a towel to dry it, when everyone knows this results in frizz. As we have learned, we should blot the ends of our hair dry with a paper towel or a tee-shirt. "Have you had a lot of people try to cut your hair like it was straight?" my hairdresser demanded eagerly. "Um, I guess so," I said, not wanting to disappoint her. She nodded in satisfaction. "They don't understand," she said simply. I dutifully shelled out for the battery of products, junked my Pantene, went through forests of paper towels. But I chafed at it - I didn't like the distinctively cloying smell of the hair products, easily identifiable in a crowd, or only shampooing once a week. I was also unwilling to rub my scalp with brown sugar, which I'd been told in no uncertain terms I should be doing every seven days. I knew I should be reveling in my newfound follicular independence, and enjoying a sense of solidarity with my curly-haired sisters, and I felt guilty. I wasn't the only one; a hair-washer confessed to me in a whisper that on her own time she often straightened her hair, but that the salon's management preferred that all employees wear it curly. And so, as I left that salon yesterday, it was with a delicious sense of trespass. When I return to my usual salon, will they be able to smell the taint of shampoo, spot the frizz of towel usage? Doubtless. And I will, of course, be plying a tee shirt tomorrow (hey, I like to get a day's mileage out of salon hair!) and surely be the better for it. But knowing that I can break the tyranny is a good feeling. Earlier: GMA Investigates: Could Straightening Your Hair Change Your Life?

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