“I am a hairdresser and I am proud of what I do. You have many hairdressers who are very intelligent, but they just love hairdressing. [Some people] have this thing about hairdressers being [promiscuous] but that is far from the truth.
“I want people to know that hairdressers are not just people who drop out of school and people who didn’t write CXC. It is a profession people choose… I love hairdressing I would not trade it for anything. But like everything else, it has its bad days and good days.”
She spoke quietly but passionately, many times pausing to choose her words. Now in her forties, hairdressing is all this woman has known and when I first approached her she was a bit hesitant, but later agreed once her name is not used.
Before I continue to chronicle my conversation with this woman of substance, I just wish to talk to some of my readers who have indicated that they prefer to have pieces where the real names of women are used. I, too, would like that but many women are afraid of the public scrutiny and will not talk freely about their life experiences. I respect the women who prefer not to have their names mentioned, as much as those share openly. I want to hear all of their stories.
Back to the hairdresser.
“In this work, you’re exposed to so much things… the good, the bad and the ugly. You’re exposed to the lawyers, the doctors, the hustlers, the night girls on the streets, the traffickers, everybody. You know it is like a combination of everybody on a daily basis; you might not see them all every day, but you see them.
“For me, I learn from some of my customers, you know, the professional ones who advise me and then you get some of the yardie, ghetto rub-down ones who will tell you: ‘Girl, you know wah a do last night? Boom, boom.”
I did not ask her to elaborate on the ‘boom, boom’ but I got the drift, her customers would from time to time share their sexual exploits with her.
“And you know sometimes I am like a counsellor. I had a customer, her first heartbreak she come to me and she cry and tell me and then she would come… every day she crying, and I said one day it’s time for you to move on.”
She also offered to join a gym with another customer, who having just had a baby, said she felt fat and that was no longer sexy. “She was just going through her hormones after getting baby,” she elaborated.
As I listened, I knew she meant that the young mother may have been experiencing postpartum depression.
“Girl, I could tell you so many stories. Sometimes women just want somebody to talk to and I usually listen; I only give advice when asked. I had customers who would come home at me just to talk, that is how the work go you know,” she said this with a shake of the head.
I wanted to ask questions, but I also wanted to give her the opportunity to tell her story as she pleased, let her control the narrative I thought to myself.
“And you know I could listen because my life was not easy, and I would sometimes share with them what I went through and they would be so surprised because to them I look like a strong woman.
“Look me life wasn’t easy, me mother give me away when I de small and I can’t forget that. And the woman she give me to use to drink bad and she had sons; they never do me nothing but I use to feel like they want to.
“So I used to disappear as soon as she gone; I used to just beat it. I was small, but like I know what would happen. One time one was following me to the bathroom and I just run in it and stay whole day,” she said.
At this point she paused as if she was struggling with her next words, there were no tears, no break in her voice but I just knew she was struggling.
“I know why me mother give me away, she de just get married and she husband didn’t like me and she just give me away to this woman… that use to be drunk all the time,” she said in what sounded like disbelief.
“So my life was hard and then when I get big, is like these men used to just use me. I don’t know if it is because of how I grow up, but is like men just with me for money.
“Let me tell you, I just used to have sex for sex sake. Yes I have children, but like I never find that man that really love me and treat me like a lady, treat me really good. Is always somebody who want something and I just keep falling into the trap,” she spoke matter-of-factly.
She was not embarrassed, she told it as it is.
“Is only now at this age I get somebody who I really feel love me. Is like I now fall in love for the first time. I not saying it’s perfect, but is like I now experience what this whole relationship thing is like. I don’t know what it would lead to but I taking it one day at a time and I just enjoying because is the first time like I feel loved. Girl, you might not understand what I talking about but that is how I feel.
“So you see when customers tell me things I could show them certain things, is all about showing them sometimes,” she said.
“But another thing when you are a hairdresser, sometimes you have to really fight for your family life. When a career woman work a eight-to-four job she gone home to she family, but for us, we don’t know what the day will bring.
“We have to keep hoping that the phone rings and that a customer comes in. Sometimes you in the salon whole day and not one customer, but then at four o’ clock you get about four customers and you work until 9 pm, but really you didn’t work whole day,” she said.
“It is tough, much less being a single parent, sometimes your family does really suffer. Now, some hairdressers have cut-off times and they take days off, but they have partners who help; what about the ones who are single and have children.
“I know about working hard so I do what I have to do. I just happy that I with somebody who never even ask me how much money I make, but would just ask if I need help to meet my bills.
“I never know about them things…,” she trailed off.
“I just want people to know hairdressing is a good profession and we are hard working and we love what we do. The only thing is that we can’t get a Caribbean Single Market and Economy certificate. I don’t think that is right. I think it is discrimination,” she said passionately.
“Maybe we have to form a union or something… Yes that is something we have to think about.
“But I love what I do and I say again I would not trade this profession for anything in the world.”
She spoke for quite a while. I have left out some of what she told me for many reasons. Some things said are just not meant to be printed.