By Veronica Wells  

I think I got my first perm at about five years old. For most children, it’s not exactly the age of rebellion. Instead, it was the age of conditioning and obedience. I was conditioned to sit still and quiet for as long as possible so I could get the best results. And I was a Black child with a Black mother, so obedience was essential for survival.

The idea of speaking up in the chair only became an option when the burning became unbearable.

I don’t know about the rest of y’all but I have a suspicion that our hesitancy to speak up in the salon chairs stems, at least partially, from those early experiences of being taught to be still, to be quiet, to not complain until you felt like you were in real, physical, irreversible danger.

I was reminded of all of those hours I spent in salons, kitchens, and garages converted into beauty shops when I stumbled upon this tweet.

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“Learn how to say I don’t like that.”

A woman responded:

It seems like such a simple concept. Yet, the last I checked, it had over 180,000 likes, 68,000 retweets and over 200 comments with women talking about the ways in which they’ve contributed to their own frustrations and unhappiness by hating what they see in that mirror and remaining silent. 

There’s something deeper to this.

I know that beauticians and stylists are artists, creatives who likely feel like your hair is their canvas. Still, they’re being paid to do a job. And if we aren’t pleased when they spin us around to reveal their work, why is it so much of a challenge to say we don’t like it? Granted, there are times we don’t believe that the person is qualified to fix it. Still, it’s kind crazy that so many women spend money to get their hair done only to go home and repair the damage. Time and money and more time wasted.

I’m convinced it has a lot to do with this “disease to please” (Shout out to Oprah) that disproportionately affects women. We don’t want to be interpreted as difficult. We want our beautician to like us. We’d rather inconvenience ourselves than anyone else. It seems admirable until you consider the toll it takes on us, running around unhappy and unfulfilled, while the people who’ve contributed to this state of discontent, count our money.

This level of unfulfillment reaches far beyond the realm of beauty services. We have a problem saying “I don’t like that” to our parents, to our teachers, our bosses and coworkers, the people we date, the partners we choose. And most of it can be traced back to the fear of not being liked or accepted.

Jay-Z has been out here doing interviews recently. A lot of it has been about his infidelity, which still makes me feel a certain way.

But in a promotional trailer for his interview on David Letterman’s new show, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,” he shared this anecdote about his eldest daughter Blue Ivy and a day he took her to school.

“I told her to get in the car the other day because she was asking a thousand questions and we had to leave for school.

“We’re driving and then I just hear a little voice (say), ‘Dad…’,” JAY-Z continued. “I turn around and she said, ‘I didn’t like when you told me to get in the car the way you told me’ – she’s six! – ‘It hurt my feelings,’ Blue Ivy said.”

Jay Z replied, “That’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever said to me.”

When I first read that, I’m not going to lie, I thought it was a bit dramatic. The most beautiful thing? Still, after just a couple of seconds, I thought Blue Ivy is a six-year-old. They’re impressionable and Jay-Z was trying to send a message. With the babies, you have to capture them with your words. Hyperbole is necessary when you’re trying to send a message you want to last for a lifetime. And the message he was trying to send to her is that her feelings are valid. They matter to him. And she did the right thing by expressing them.

It’s a lesson the six-year-olds and the sixty-year-olds need to hear.

 Do you find it hard to tell people when you don’t like something?

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