The languages spoken in hair salons encompass the breadth of the black diaspora
The rhythm of the hair salon is singular, wherever in the world you end up. There are all sorts, and yet they are all the same in the ways that matter. The languages spoken in these establishments vary from the earliest ones we ever heard (our parents dialects) and encompass the breadth of the black diaspora. But in Nigeria, in England, in the US, the common denominator of the hair salon is the client. These places are the domain of black women and there is a comfort that settles over me every time I enter one.
On a sunny afternoon in Brooklyn, I went in search of my summer style. My selection was run by a tall Malian woman, dark and pretty in that disarming way that makes you trust someone without question. I watched her work, creating luxurious-looking banana braids on one head, her hands moving as fast as her mouth while she spoke in Bambara to her co-worker (who was herself finishing up a head of crisply parted box braids). Theres no way I could know in the two minutes I watched, but I inferred a light touch. As she blew out my hair, I knew that Id been mistaken.
But here are some other things that felt just right: the TV showing Malian wedding videos of griots performing praise songs. The little boy on his iPad who said mournfully, an hour in, Mom, I want you to be finished already. The Avon lady, taking orders (still, in 2018!). The tween girl singing along to the song of the summer (Bood Up by Ella Mai). The older woman protesting the amount of gel being used. And, of course, walking out three hours later, feeling like a new banknote.