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 this past weekend 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 segway 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 all in front of my daughter! Peep this video…
I still can’t believe what transpired on video and there was much more than that. So let me explain. I’ve dealt with a lot of bull over the years when it comes to dealing with African Hair Braiding shops, but this takes the cake. On Saturday Nov. 29th, I scheduled an appointment to have my daughter Kaitlin’s hair braided at TOP Braiding located 5443 Riverdale Road. I did this online even received a confirmation that my order was processed. And later that night I received a reminder of my appointment.
I arrived at TOP Braiding promptly at 8am and to my surprise, no one was at the braid shop. Surprised? Not really, being late and on CP time is one of the attributes of African hair braiders. No one seems to honor the time of the customers and I’ve been through that before. So I waited and waited. Then I called the number on the window and told the woman on the phone that I was outside the shop. She then told me that the braider was on her way. I sat and waited in my car with Kaitlin for 45 minutes!
Once the braider got there, I asked her if she knew about the appointment and she kept telling me that she did not. She then went on to complain about the owners of the shop by saying that they never tell her anything.
Sorry, but last time I checked that was NOT my problem.
She complained and grunted and complained some more, but I was not trying to hear her woes. I’m a customer and I came to get my daughter’s hair done and spend some quality time talking with her alone. (That’s hard to do when you’re a mom of five and you’ve got kids coming at you all kind of ways for attention.) And I’m not a workplace mediator and she was quite disgruntled and it was not my place or business to care about her issues with her boss.
She then started braiding Kaitlin’s hair and about 30 to 45 minutes into her braiding she asked me if I could go get her some coffee from McDonald’s because without it she gets a headache.
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 and drive a mile down the street to get her some McDonald’s! Ba-da-ba-ba-ba… I’m NOT having it!
Insert protest sign: Hell no, I won’t go!
Last time I checked I did my internship 20 years ago and I’m not running to get coffee for NOBODY. And I was paying HER for a service, NOT for me to SERVE her! I simply declined and she went on to tell me about her issues of getting a headache without coffee. I’m sorry but I still don’t care. First of all she was 45 minutes late. Secondly she knew she needed coffee before she slid her slacking ass up in that shop. And thirdly, hell to the no, I am not a maid, I am a paying customer and I won’t be bringing you no brew.
Next thing I know this chick asked me if I could pay her. See, I normally don’t pay until the job is done. But I went ahead and paid since they did have the policy posted up on the wall. I was trying to be a respectable, compliant client but that didn’t help. I paid her $140, upfront, for the Tree Braids she was giving Kaitlin.
I knew it was too good to be true.
20 or so minutes passed… I then saw homegirl, grab her purse and head toward the door mumbling something about a break, coffee and a headache of some sort. I quickly pumped the brakes on her trying to break out!
“Um, that’s real unprofessional,” I said. “You were late. I waited for 45 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’s wrong I won’t let her leave and some jibberish about how I’m treating her like a slave. Yeah a slave, albeit a well-paid one with $140 of my hard-earned money in her damn pocket!
She was saying so much I had to take out my cell phone and record it. And what I caught was just a bit of all that she was arguing and complaining about. I tried to stay as cool and calm as I could but it was not easy. 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 I expected excellence and nothing less.
Basically it was my fault that she was late, because us Americans have these high standards and we need to knock them down a few notches, and it was my fault because I should have been more understanding since she couldn’t get her lazy ass up and out the house and to McDonald’s on time and again it’s apparently my fault because her boss shouldn’t allow people to book appointments so early especially since she braids hair until the wee hours of the morning. Her boss treats her life a slave but I guess that’s my fault too that she has to work 24/7 to make a few dollars in good ole’ America, the land of the free that allows her the freedom to work in a shop with no papers or social security card or license to braid hair. You uppity Americans oughta be ashamed of yourself for not allowing this woman to get her cup of Joe while on the job. *Side eye*
And on the video you will see that my daughter is unbothered. My kids have already been taught that they don’t ever have to worry about fighting battles because mommy’s got their back. Just carry on and I’ll take it from there.
But I still had a have a long conversation with Kaitlin afterward about work ethic, honoring people, being kind to all, especially if you are providing a service and talk real talk about work ethic.
Although I thought my day with my daughter would be about cool schoolgirl conversation, I ended up having to explain abut other people’s ignorance actions and how they could effect you. I had a LOT and I mean A LOT of my friends on facebook voiced comments about how they would have handled it and trust me most said the outcome would have been ugly. I had to show Kaitlin through my actions as seen on the video how to respond to ignorance when you’re being affected. Sometimes it’s about how you remain calm and unemotional to get a point across.
Or you take a moment to make it a teachable moment and teach the person to help them understand their actions. Sometimes it takes you NOT responding because a response could be a catalyst that sparks a deadly reaction to the situation. (The other me from 20 years ago would have slapped the comb out of that woman’s hand, reached in her pocket and yanked the $140 out and then gripped up Kaitlin and hot-tailed it out the door.) But what would that reaction today have taught Kaitlin today? I am very mindful that I am crafting a beautiful, smart and creative young lady who is one of the most respectful kids I’ve ever come across. She’s an artist, chess master, 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 ignorant and an ass-hole like the braider was. So I said my peace, kept my peace of mind and allowed the disgruntled woman to continue braiding Kaitlin’s hair.
Even after the lady complained and complained and talked down about Americans and continued to bash her boss, and fuss and argued disrespectfully 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.”
Do I think the lady deserved coffee? No. But who knew Kaitlin would teach me a lesson about kindness at the end of the day even when someone was being so UNKIND to both of us. I could not be more proud of my kid.