Everything happens for a reason. That’s what I tell myself as I rush out of the door to get my car serviced before heading to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. From DC, it’s about a two hour drive, and I want to make sure my car is up to the task. But since I’m running late already, stopping at the Honda dealership means there’s no way I have time to get my hair roller set if I want to make it to Charlottesville before dark. It’s too bad, because my hair is giving me hell. As it’s grown out some since this post, now I’ve got quite the teeny weeny afro in front and a short relaxed bob in the back. I tell myself I’ll have time to go to the JCPenney salon at the mall once I get to Charlottesville.
I love the drive from DC to central Virginia. I drive through the country, through the small towns, past the big farms. I love the feeling that I’m driving toward something amazing that will show itself just as soon as I get over the next hill. I’ve attended the Festival of the Book every year for the past eight years, and my anticipation is especially high this year because Nikki Giovanni will be reading, and she always teaches me something new about myself through her poetry. Besides the literary gems, there will be good food and good wine and the good feeling of being out of my element for a little while.
I get to Charlottesville and when I walk into the JCPenney salon, the woman looks at my hair and seems flustered that she doesn’t have any stylists that know what to do with it, and won’t for a few days. I head over to Trade Secret because now I’m desperate and willing to try a salon I’ve never been in before. I get an appointment for 12pm the next day. I tell myself this is fine because I can get breakfast at Hotcakes and then get my hair done and then go see some of the poetry readings that afternoon. I tell the Trade Secret clerk that I want a wash and roller set.
I come in at noon the next day and a natural-haired sister greets me at the counter. Says, “You Rosetta?” Her hair was short and to the point and so was she. She said it looked like it had been a while since I’d gotten a relaxer. I told her I was going natural. Growing it out. She asked me when I planned to cut the relaxed hair off. I shrugged. “I dunno. End of the summer, maybe.” I told her I figured my natural hair would be about 4-5 inches by then so it would be longer by the time I cut off the relaxed hair in one big chop, as they say. She said that was a good plan, but there was no guarantee that my hair wouldn’t start breaking off by then. It was possible that I could grow it out over the summer and still end up with only an inch or two of new growth to work with. And that either way I would have to “go through it” in terms of having short hair when I finally took the plunge. I told her I just wanted a trim. She washed and conditioned my hair, then got out a basket of rollers. I stared in the mirror.
The hairdresser smiled. “What you thinkin’ about?” she asked. I smiled. “Cutting all my hair off,” I said. I looked up at her. “Could you still cut it while it’s wet?” I asked. “Sure can,” she replied, grabbing her scissors. “Are you sure?” she asked. I shrugged. “Let’s do it!”
So she did it. She cut off all my relaxed hair. She kept asking me if I was going to get emotional. Because, she said, “some women get emotional.” I was hoping I wouldn’t start crying. It’s just hair for godssakes. A woman’s glory, echoed my grandmother’s words in my head. As she started cutting, I started humming. India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair.” No, my hair is not my glory. Everything about me is glorious. Grama had it all wrong.
She clipped off the last bit of relaxed hair hanging down into my face and it was gone. It was all gone. “No turning back now,” I said. Then a funny thing happened. My face started looking at my hair in the mirror and it started to smile. A big, satisfied smile that said this was the right thing to do. The hairdresser said to get me some big earrings, rock my new hairdo and let the process take care of itself. And I planned to do just that.
So like I said, everything happens for a reason. People may say “it’s just hair” or whatever, but the experience I had in that chair, watching a Trade Secret hairdresser cut off all my hair, was deeply affirming for me. It proved to me that no matter what anyone says about any decisions I might make, the choices I make for myself are always the right ones. It proved to me that I can do absolutely anything. I can quit my job and start my own business. I can lose the man I loved and still be OK. I can cut all my hair off and still be beautiful. Anything is possible for me. And for you, too.