This past Saturday, I actually had time to treat myself so I headed to the hair salon. While I was there I saw something that really hurt my heart. I saw a little girl who was in the chair getting her hair permed, she could not have been older than 8 years old. The stylist had her on a booster seat so her little body could be high enough that she could reach her. She looked so small in that seat where countless women sat before her undergoing similar processes. Her mother was also there, ironically also getting a perm. As I looked over at the little girl I couldn’t help but notice that she was squirming in her seat with a look of displeasure on her face.
It immediately brought me back to when I was her age. When I was that age I hated when my mother would do my hair. I would run and hide whenever I saw her gathering her hair tools. I would cry throughout the entire process, wondering why I had to endure such pain for hair. It got to the point where my mother became fed up and just braided my hair. It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I took matters into my own hands and figured out how to do my hair myself. I was more than happy to get away from the hands that had burned my scalp for years. To my surprise I found that it wasn’t my mother’s fault it was the chemical processing of the perm. I had a very sensitive scalp so I was burned by my perm every single time. I have tried every name brand and method under the sun, all to no avail. Flashing back on these memories I knew that little girl in the stylist’s chair was enduring some serious pain. Her mother would check on her and ask her if she was okay, “Let me know if it’s burning” she said. The little girl was small and meek you could tell she was not the type to say anything even if her head was on fire. And just like I thought she never said a peep until the stylist came and washed her hair.
The question popped in my head, why does she have to get a perm so soon? I am sure that the little girl’s normal texture is manageable. It may take some extra time to do it, but there is no reason why her little hair follicles should have to go through such stress. I am sure there were other options than just slapping a perm in her head. Personally, I did not get a perm until I was 12. I went with no perm through all of elementary school, my mother used a hot comb instead. (Which explains me hiding under tables.) Even though I was 12 when I got my first perm, I was not ready nor was I informed on how to take care of processed hair. It took me years of going through breakage and dryness to figure out exactly what taking care of processed hair meant. I see little girls all the time ages 9 or 10 with a perm and extreme breakage. The same breakage I had because I was mistreating my hair. It is this same breakage that will send you into years of trying different tactics to get your hair healthy again. It will lead you to try different styles like weaves, braids, twists and even going natural.
I understand the need to get a perm. When you are younger you want to look like everyone around you. You don’t want to be called nappy or brillo head. But I feel like it is the parent’s responsibility to take care of their daughter’s hair. It is no secret that hair is a huge topic in the black community. We spend millions of dollars a year perfecting our coifs. I just hate to see under aged children, damaging their hair. Now that I am in my 20’s I know exactly how to treat my hair and what is best, but it took years of trial and error. That little girl in the salon will leave there very happy because her hair will be soft and straight, blowing in the wind. I just hope that her mother teaches her proper maintenance habits so she doesn’t end up with split ends at age 8. Moments like these make me realize that when I have daughters of my own, I will instill in them all the nuggets of knowledge that my hair drama has taught me. I will try my best to treat their delicate tresses with love and tenderness. Most importantly I will want them to know that doing your hair doesn’t have to be a painful, uncomfortable process, but it can enhance your natural beauty and bring out the woman inside of you.
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