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JULY 05, 2017

Hair can be a source of stress and insecurity for many Black women, myself included.

My first time in a hair salon, I wasn’t nervous. I was skeptical. My mom booked the appointment at a salon in Colorado, and she went with me. (Later she told me she was more nervous than I was, and I found that funny because moms aren’t supposed to be nervous.) My hair had always been agreeable, but I have encountered a problem within the past few months. I know this may sound childish, but going to the hair salon with your mom is a passing down of something special.

I used to be embarrassed to go to the salon to get my hair done because I didn’t believe that anyone could help me tame my mess. I thought the mess of my hair was my own, so I would have to suffer with it on my own. This constant upkeep of my hair is another reminder that as I enter into adulthood, I can’t control everything. I am ashamed of the fact that I need someone else to tell me how to take care of myself. But truth be told, I need a professional to assist me in taking care of my hair.

I have been to the hair salon three times in my life. The first time I went with my mom, and the past two times, I went on my own to a salon in Richmond. I had been referred to the Richmond salon by one of my mom’s best friends, and I knew I could trust her.

But when I first arrived alone, I wasn’t just skeptical; I was nervous. I checked my maps to make sure I was in the right place. But finally, I arrived in a busy place bustling with more Black women than I have seen in a while. In the isolating environment at UC Berkeley, I almost forgot who I was, but in this space I was reminded of who I am.

These are women not just hair stylists but trained professionals with immense experience focused on their goal. Their hands move with precision as they carry out their missions. Their pride is palpable. They find family in their community of hair stylists and create family in those they help.

Once I sat in the chair, leaned back and put my head in someone else’s hands, I began to let go. I realized that this is normal.

Women coming together to pamper each other, help each other look and feel their best and acknowledge and appreciate each other’s work, beauty and abilities is normal.

I exchanged smiles with some other women there. I realized, contrary to what many of us believe, our beauty is not in our hair. It is in our eyes and the way we smile.

When I was sitting with my head under the dryer, I could have been on my phone or with my nose in a book, but I wanted to be present. I sat looking around at all the different faces and heads of hair in shades of brown, black and gray, and I realized that we all had something in common. We all, for some reason or another, wanted to improve. We wanted assurance that our hair wasn’t completely unmanageable, validation that we were truly beautiful and support from women in our community, whether we knew each other or not.

Women possess a magic that is infectious. We are not told this. We have been told that we are not beautiful, that we are not powerful, that we have no reason to be confident. Yet, that is not true. They steal it from us and impede our line of sight. But I see the magic that is in other women, and I want it to be known. I want us to embrace it.

Women have also been taught for so long to compete with one another, to gossip and to backstab. I am guilty of being jealous, of envying, of hating. I am tired of it. That is not who I want to be. I want to be someone who can lift up other women. I want to be someone who has the power to encourage with my words. I want to spread love. And I never thought I would realize those things in the hair salon. But I did.

So I will go back to the hair salon to find myself again. Because I need reassurance and strength from those who are willing to give it. It is amazing how a change in hairstyle can empower, how a manicure can give confidence, how a compliment can bloom.

I am proud to be a woman because I know I am not alone.

Morgan writes the Wednesday column on risk-taking. Contact her at [email protected].

JULY 05, 2017