By KIA MORGAN SMITH
My daughter is 12. A tween. This is her first year in middle school and she’s putting out those feelers, testing out new hairdos and trying to find the right fit for her face and her space in the middle-school fold. For black girls, the right hairstyle is everythang and sometimes as parents we can press and lobby for a certain style all we want, but we’ve got to give a little to let our girls grow into their skin.
So a few weekends ago, I decided to take Kaitlin to an African braid shop to perhaps start a hair shop ritual where she could get her tresses hooked up and we could hang out and talk about what’s going on in school and in her life. And since Kaitlin would probably rather eat dirt than dare talk to me about periods, boys and proms, a day at the salon would be a soothing segue to butter her up and get all up in her business.
But my Sunday with my brown girl ended up being real dark after an African braid shop owner decided that she would talk to me all willy-nilly and disrespectful in front of my daughter. Peep this video…
I still can’t believe what transpired on video and there was much more than that. Let me explain: I scheduled an appointment online to have my daughter’s hair styled at TOP Braiding, an African braid shop in suburban Atlanta. Seemed professional enough: I received a confirmation that my appointment was made and later received a reminder of my appointment. Still, when I arrived to the salon promptly at 8 am, no one was there. I can’t say I was surprised: being late seems to be typical of braid shops. So Kaitlin and I went to the car and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, I called the number on the window and was told that the braider was on her way.
Some 45 minutes later, the braider sauntered in and insisted the owner never told her about the appointment, then launched into a tirade of grunts and complaints about workplace woes that, really, had nothing to do with me and the task at hand. Clearly, any plan I had to bond with my daughter—something that I, as a mom of five, rarely get to do—was out the window.
To make matters worse: about 30 minutes into the hair braiding session, the stylist made a ridiculous request: she asked me, the customer, to go get her some coffee from McDonald’s because without it, she gets headaches.
This is the moment where I had to look around to see if she was talking to me because I know damn well this woman did not just ask ME to get in MY car on MY time, leave my daughter with her alone and I don’t know her from Adam and drive a mile down the street to get her some McDonald’s! Ba-da-ba-ba-ba… I’m NOT having it!
Insert image of me holding a “Hell No, I Won’t Go!” protest sign.
I’m not her intern. I wasn’t there to serve her. I really didn’t give a damn about her headache. And seeing as she showed up to the appointment 45 minutes late, she should have used some of her free time to get her own coffee. When I refused, she asked me to pay her.
This request, I couldn’t refuse, seeing as there was a sign on the wall announcing the “pay before services are administered” policy. But no less than 20 minutes after I complied, she grabbed her purse and headed for the door with my $140 in her pocket, talking about how she needed a break.
“Um, that’s real unprofessional,” I said. “You were late. I waited forty-five minutes and now you are trying to leave to get breakfast when you are supposed to be braiding my daughter’s hair? That’s just wrong.”
What happened next was a series of insults about Americans, a long tattered tale about how it was wrong I wouldn’t let her leave and some jibberish about how I was treating her like a slave. She was saying so much I recorded just a small bit of it on my cell phone.
Frankly, I still can’t believe that I had to defend the fact that I was the customer and she was there to do a job and that I expected excellence and nothing less. Look closely at that video and you’ll see my daughter is nonplused. She knows I have her back and that battles like these are mine to handle. Still, I had a long conversation with Kaitlin afterward about work ethic, honoring people and being kind to all, especially if you are providing a service. And though a part of me would have loved to meet her ignorance with the kind of response she would have gotten from Kia twenty years ago—the Kia who would have slapped the comb out of her hand and snatched my $140 out of her pocket and left—I had to show my daughter a better way. “Sometimes,” I told her, “it’s about how you remain calm and unemotional to get a point across.”
I am very mindful that I am crafting a beautiful, smart and creative young lady who is one of the most respectful kids I know. She’s an artist, a chess master and a Dean’s list student in all gifted classes, and she’s never raised her voice or even smacked her lips at me. And I have to think that maybe it’s because I’ve shown her in so many ways and even on that day that there is an intelligent and more meaningful way to react and respond to people, even in the midst of them being as ignorant as that stylist.
Even after the lady complained and fussed about Americans and bashed her boss and argued over my daughter’s head, when we left the shop, Kaitlin turned to me and said, “Mommy, you could have just let the lady get her coffee.”
That’s my kid.
Editor’s note: the opinions expressed in this piece are exclusive to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of MyBrownBaby.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.