Say What?

Hair salons as therapy sessions

My birds and bees talk came in the form of hair salon gossip. My mother, Christian woman that she is, never spoke to me about sex. Her advice on the subject consisted of this one instruction, “Don’t sleep with boys, you’ll fall pregnant, and I’ll kick you out of my house.” So sex was pretty much a no go topic at home, but the curiosity that comes with growing up would not let me go through life ignoring this big part of it. I was starting to see boys as more than just people, and pretty soon, if the talks doing the rounds were anything to go by, I’d start having sex with the person I called my boyfriend.

Going to the salon, as much as I hated getting my hair relaxed, was to be my saving grace. This place proved to be a place of learning as much as it was about making me look good. I hated the effects of the relaxer on my hair and how the hairdresser never missed a chance to burn me with the hairdryer, but the stories of these women, the sisterhood forged through the misty air of hair dryers and the smell of hair food is what made the experience worthwhile.

My favorite thing about this place was the venting that happened. It used to interest me how the women in there would share their lives with each other. No such thing as privacy or unsolicited advice. A person would open up and tell their story, and the advice would come from all directions. This was a place of healing, substitute the couch for a chair and a hood dryer. You leave there with your hair on fleek and feeling better about yourself. This was a place of affirmation, where sisterhood was shared in bonds and chemicals. A mixture of mockery and advice, all for the price of one.

This space made it easier to navigate boy world, with all the embarrassing moments in tow. I am grateful for these women who opened up even about the most embarrassing parts of relationships. It was such a breath of fresh air to the carefully curated love stories one hears in church, where everything is perfect. Here was the first time I heard about sex, the fun, painful, and messy bits of it.

I had moments where I would gasp in shock, veiled of course, I wasn’t meant to be part of this sacred adult conversation to begin with, or laugh shyly at the ludicrous things that were relationships, all the while taking notes. This place was gold. From French kissing tips to sex positions,  cheating partners and parenting, they covered every topic, providing anecdotes of some not-so-flattering moments and useful how-to tips. It was here that I learned about orgasms and g-spots, and all the ways in which one can enjoy sex as more than just a wifely duty or a means to an end. My saving grace, where all the myths were dispelled.

No problem was too big to solve, and this, to these women, was a safe space. A place with people whose experiences had intersecting moments. This is where I had my first display of sisterhood.

Also, this place was never short of gossip, you could leave there knowing who did what, when, with who, from the beginning of town to the end of it. Someone knew a story about someone, at all times.
This self-care, this sisterhood, this building of relationships in a room full of electrical appliances and chemicals was heaven to me. The salon, place of my torment, was an information hub, and a therapy session all at once.

Image credit:Kgomotso Neto Tleane

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