I don’t like asking for help… It makes me feel weak, as if I’m giving up my independence, and I don’t like showing people that if I don’t trust/know them. Maybe you can relate to that.
So imagine my horror yesterday, sitting in an African hair salon getting my hair done when I find myself in the position of needing to ask for help. From strangers. Strangers that I just met. And not only strangers I had just met who were handling my hair, but also the first black people outside my family I had spent hours with all summer.
It was a hot mess. And yes, I do mean hot because you should have seen me sweat.
Here’s what happened.
I’ve been looking to do something different with my hair, we all need change every once in a while, and I realized that I haven’t done braids since my sophomore year of high school. Plus, I need to protect my edges because they’ve been breaking lately and hair breakage is no good. So why not go for braids?
Once I knew what I wanted to do, I had to figure out who I was going to have do it for me. As much as I wish I was skilled enough to do my own braids, it would probably look terrible and that isn’t quite ideal either.
So I took to Google, looking for a braiding salon with good ratings and not too many nightmare reviews—they’re all bound to have a few if we’re all being honest with ourselves. But I found one, picked it, called them, and made my appointment. Cool, so that was that.
Except that this was the first time I have ever gotten my hair done in braids and I’ve 1, gone my myself while 2, paid someone neither my mom nor I actually knew personally to do it. I was a little nervous to say the least. But as they say, I guess this is the time for adulting or whatever that’s supposed to look like.
Alas, there I was. Thursday morning, I got my things together, ate a sandwich as I drove (bad habit, I know), and I parked terribly in front of the salon just in time. That is, after missing my turn the first time and having to make two U-Turns just to get back to the right place… But I mean, I made it.
That’s when things started falling apart.
The moment I walked in the door, my nose started to bleed. A lot. And this is as another braider is directing me to their nice white couch to wait for my braider to arrive. Excuse me while I go be embarrassed and hold toilet paper to my nose for the next twenty minutes, fixing my park one handed because, well that was the most crooked park I’ve made all summer and I was embarrassed by that too.
If you haven’t noticed, embarrassment and nosebleeds happen a lot in my life. Idk, I’ve learned to live with it.
In a half hour, my nose finally decided to chill, my braider showed up, and she started doing my hair. Easy process to start. But then she began slipping in between french and english while she braided and I really hope she wasn’t talking to me because I would not have known. I took Spanish in high school and college… I didn’t understand half of what was said in that salon yesterday.
But wait, there’s more.
Because about two and a half hours in, I started sweating profusely and could not seem to sit still. My hands started shaking endlessly, chills were running up and down my spine like a track practice, and the sweating would not stop. Considering my braider was right next to my forehead, she noticed about 15 minutes after it started and I tried to tough it out but in another 15 minutes, I was ready to pass out, puke, or both. If you’ve never gotten your hair braided or seen the process, just know that these things are not supposed to and do not usually happen.
Yesterday was rough.
But back to me and my sweating nausea; if you know me, you may also know that I sometimes forget to control my facial expressions. Both braiders in the salon could tell I was getting increasingly more uncomfortable and didn’t know what was going on. So in a few minutes, my braider asked me if I needed anything. I told her it was cramps but it would go away—there was me and my pride, getting in the way as usual.
Minutes later, that pride had nothing on my pain because she offered to go to a convenience store next door to buy me motrin since I had none on me. Reluctantly, I said yes… I had to, there was no winning in this situation but there was a possibility of relief. I had to reach for it.
While I tried to understand how I just let a stranger go out of her way for me, as if that wasn’t hard enough for me to do, the other braider offered to make me cup noodles, saying she had some and it would probably help ease my stomach… While attending to another customer, the other braider who wasn’t even assigned to be working on me or my hair offered to make me food free of charge and I had no clue how to react to this overwhelming show of hospitality.
It reminded my of my 10 aunts on my dad’s side—always trying to feed and take care of people, it’s a part of the culture. In that salon though, it was honestly really overwhelming to be surrounded by a culture you’re told that belongs to you even while spending so little time around it, and I was at their mercy because ultimately, they were the ones who could help me not feel so awful in those moments.
Politely declining the noodles—reluctantly, there’s only so much pride hospitality a girl can take—my braider came back and handed me the motrin, reminding me to drink some of my water with it. Then, instead of continuing my hair, she sat down for a break and told me to let her know when I was ready.
If I knew how to cry thankful tears, I probably would have done it then because I’m not used to this kind of kindness from strangers, even when I recognize that nature in my family or aunties and uncles from my parents’ college days.
So I’m trying to gather myself and munching on a protein bar I had in my bag, attempting to ignore my embarrassment, and somehow I was feeling a whole lot better in another 20 minutes. After an hour, my braider finished my hair and, in my opinion, I was looking pretty great. Before my body could make anything else go awry, I said a few more red faced and apologetic thank yous to both braiders, before tipping them a bit extra, and hightailing it out of there. I just needed to get out of there at that point.
Finally finished, I was happy to get back into my now well-parked car and do just that.
After all that, do you see what I mean about the hot mess part? If not, just go back to the last time I mentioned sweating.
The thing is, I had no choice but to swallow my pride and ask for help from people I didn’t know. Yet, I was rewarded with kindness and somehow, I realized what it meant to have grace in the face of something you can’t see coming. I mean, I definitely wasn’t planning for a bloody nose before getting sick like that. Otherwise I would have planned better.
It just happened, the way a whole lot of things in our lives do, things you can’t control nor can you see them coming. All any of us can do is handle it with grace—sweaty or not—and find a way to be okay with asking for help when we need it. I won’t say that it was easy, clearly it wasn’t, but I can tell you that I was surprised by the outcome after I did.
I hope that you give that a try next time you need it; trust me, sometimes it’s a whole lot better than suffering in silence.
Good luck and thanks for sticking with me through that story. Was it worth it? I would love to hear any of your embarrassing or humbling stories if you’ve got them; I’d like to think we all do.
I’ll see you all soon. Happy Friday.