It’s all my fault. It won’t be easy for my cousin Tammy to find a new Dominican beauty salon. The women at DeBrianalys’s Salon de Belleza knew Tammy likes her hair blown straight with no flip at the ends, and they never gave her the stink-eye to her face. The dominicanas just ignored that Tammy is boricua just like we ignore the hairy mole on Tia Nelly’s left nostril that looks like black Velcro.
Poor Tammy though. She took me to the salon Saturday morning as a treat, and now she can’t show her face there again. I bet someone at the salon snapped a photo of me, and it’s posted in every Dominican salon in the Northeast. My hair and the details of el gran revulu I caused are turning the stomachs of dismayed dominicanas and puertorriqueñas.
Thing is, the morning began all cool. Tammy and I walked into the salon, and it reminded me of getting primped with my aunts and girl cousins before a wedding or holiday party. There was cafe con leche from the bodega on the corner, and the latest bochinches in loud Spanish so everyone could hear over 93.1 FM and the hair dryers. The air was hazy from the dryers and straightening irons zapping every molecule of frizzifying moisture from everyone’s hair. DeBrianalys was coating a woman’s precisely sectioned hair with relaxer.
“Buenas Tammy,” she called, and was all nice when Tammy introduced me. Tammy took the scarf off her head, and everyone laughed when she said it was time to tame las greñas. I had major bedhead stuffed under my wool cap, but we were all Latina. I took off the cap in confianza, but it was like I’d taken off my pants to reveal my hairy bikini line. I swear a woman under a dryer crossed herself.
“Mi’ja, ¿que te paso?” shrieked DeBrianalys.
What happened to me? Damn, that’s cold, I thought.
I explained it was real simple: I just needed a trim, a little shape to my fro as I let it grow out. DeBrianalys looked at me all suspect and spoke to me in broken, accented English, like I was an extraterrestrial from the planet Hot Mess and unfamiliar with Spanish and the ways of self-respecting Latinas on Earth. La cosa got real fea when I took out photos of the hairstyle I was aiming for. I mentioned the images were from a web page of naturally curly black hair styles. All the dryers went silent, and everyone looked at me like I’d said I had photos from midgetsfornicatingwithgoats.com. Even the two non-Latina black girls shook their heads at me, slowly and carefully even though the super-sized rollers in their hair were well-secured.
So excuse me if I got a little huffy when DeBrianalys said, “We don’ do dah here”, like it was below her to touch my hair. Underneath those dryer hoods, rollers, scarves, and doobees, they all had the same thing I did under my wool cap. I stood at the door and said we didn’t need her services, but Tammy didn’t move toward me until DeBrianalys said she should leave with “joo bad-mouth prima”. On the street, Tammy didn’t look convinced when I told her natural curls were in, and women pay money to get what we have.
“Yeah? Well I pay money for my blow outs so I can just get up and go. You wear your kinkies if you want. Damn Nancy, now I need to find a new salon. You know esas dominicanas will pull on my hair extra hard if I ever go back there for a blow out.”
Nothing about what happened Saturday morning feels great, but what trips me up the most is that while I felt betrayed, Tammy and every one of those women looked at me like I’d betrayed them.