After nineteen years of relaxing, dying, conditioning, cutting, setting, and blow drying my hair in addition to dispensing tons of good ol' Mother wit and blunt truths, my hair stylist has decided to retire. To leave behind what I imagine are now exorbitant rents in the now-yuppified but formerly ghettofabulous area that was Hayes Valley in San Francisco where she has had her shop. To finally get off her feet and kick up her heels. To be with family.
Now I know I'm going to need a therapist.
Although I'm ecstatic for her -- her retirement reminds me that not every black woman has prepared for or has the means to retire -- I'm saddened to lose someone to whom I entrusted my joys, fears, man issues, and family issues. To lose someone who bluntly and necessarily told me when I was being stupid -- with men, with my money, with my family. Given that my mother's ability to do so waned with the early onset of her Alzheimer's, this blunt truth and Mother wit that only a Sister with Sense can dispense was sorely needed by me. Sometimes when I would come in for a touch-up, she would notice that my hair was falling out. She would spin the chair around and ask me, "So what's really going on in your life that's making your hair fall out?"
Sometimes we all need someone to verbally "slap us upside da hed," as my sister says, regarding the state of our lives, otherwise we won't make a much-needed change. My hair stylist was that person.
If there's not a client/hair stylist privilege like the doctor/patient privilege or clergy/congregant privilege, there definitely should be. I'll be the first to argue for it.
The relationship black men have with their barbers is different than the relationship that black women have with their hair stylists. Black men discuss sports with their barbers; black women discuss black men with their hair stylists. As I explained to BMNB, my hair stylist has been in my life consistently for nineteen years, while he had been in my life inconsistently for more than twenty years. But for the fact that I married him, she would hold higher status in my life, just on loyalty alone. She knows more about my loser ex-boyfriends than my husband does. And I think it should stay just that way.
But when a sister retires, we should all rejoice. Black women tend to labor too long and too hard for too little. That one of us is freed from that labor is cause to rejoice, even if it means that we're going to be left behind and have to learn to be happy to be nappy.
Maybe I'll start wearing braids . . . .
Congratulations, Gigi Mathews, on a much deserved and well-earned retirement. I wish you joy, peace, and no more hair grease!