What This White Mom Did to Her Black Daughter’s Hair: The First Trip to the Salon

I had Naomi’s hair in two twists to make it easy for the stylist to work through. Or, so I thought.

As I’ve mentioned before, hair has been a challenge in our trans-racial adoption of our five year old daughter Naomi.  When we got her — three years ago — her head had been shaved clean, giving us a honeymoon period during which time her hair was short, cute, and growing out.  This gave me time to learn how to do certain styles, and deal with criticism.  As you might know, hair in the African American community is a Big. Deal. Consequently, I learned how to do bantu knots, twists, and braids. Eventually, though, she needed a trim… a task that was way beyond my newfound abilities.

After googling “African American hair natural Nashville,” I came up with many hits, but none looked like the right spot.  When I spotted a lady in the mall with hair very similar to my daughter’s, I asked her where she gets her hair done.

“My cousin is a natural hair stylist,” she responded.

Yesterday, we went to see her cousin Jessica at ShearLuxe Salon in downtown Nashville.  We were a little apprehensive, because we’ve heard stories about how long it takes for little girls to get their hair done at salons (I’m talking four to six hours) and heard that it could be very painful.   We prepared Naomi for the experience by telling her about what it would be like and letting her see photos of her stylist in advance.

Jessica Watkins was very helpful, nice, and comforting.  She also knew when to tell us — gently – that she needed some space.  Here’s a narrative of Naomi’s first non-orphanage hair cut.

This is how big Naomi’s hair is when it’s all poofed out!

I thought we were having fun, until I looked closely under the hair and saw tears. Real, honest to goodness, tears.  Eventually, she was sobbing — it was very counter-intuitive to let her sit there suffering when it was only for a hair cut… You would’ve thought by the drama she was having a tooth extraction!

The wash provided a nice change of pace, but it didn’t last long.  She soon tired of the wash too, which consisted of many different rinses and even more de-tangling.

Camille and Austin tried to distract her from the discomfort of the day, but to no avail. I had to take Naomi from the wash bin to “have a talk” outside.  Jessica and her friend Dawn (who sells extensions) all told Naomi they expected her to obey too.  Our talk outside got Naomi to a less frantic state.  Finally, the stylist — very gently — suggested we leave.

Once I got used to the idea of leaving my child in downtown Nashville without me, things started looking up. Naomi quit crying after we left, since she no longer had an audience, and the stylist was able to completely straighten her hair. I’d never seen her hair like this in my life!

Okay, we only hid out next door.  The end result took about four hours, which is longer than it will take next time. Jessica gave us some braids that will accommodate swimming.

Overall, it was a great experience and Jessica at ShearLuxe was wonderful and wise.

Naomi loved her hair so much she said, “When can we come back?”

Just as soon as my heart recovers, baby.

(Yes, this post would’ve better been titled, “What a Stylist Did to my Black Daughter’s Hair,” but I wanted to keep the series all the same!)

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About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.