In the 5th grade, I begged my mother for bangs. I wanted to look “grown” since I was about to enter middle school, and I needed a different look (let’s think of Manny Santos in Degrassi, but not to that extreme). However, the only way she believed I could get bangs was if I did something my edges to “tame the curls.” At this point, I would have said yes to anything. I did not know any better.
The day we went to Charo’s Salon in Williamsburg, the place I had been going to since the age of 2 (pre-natural and pre-gentrified Brooklyn), I knew I was walking towards a rite of passage, something that would become my best friend until it betrayed me: the relaxer. The usual clients were already there: under the dryers, in the chairs having their hair blown out, in the back waiting to take out the white product I never questioned. When it was my turn, Mami told me it would be OK, and Charo took me to the sink to start putting the relaxer on my edges. It was a weird feeling at first: cold, thick, and then some stinging; however, I knew I would have to keep it on for some time until it was ready.
With no mirrors around except for those in front of the styling chairs, I had no clue what my hair looked like when time was up. I wanted to run my fingers through my long, curly hair. I wanted to grab the first mirror I could see. All I wanted to do was touch my edges, but I was not successful. An hour later, after sitting under the dryer and waiting for Charo to finish up with the client before me, it was time for my big debut. As soon as I looked in the mirror, I was floored. My edges were smooth and sleek. I could not remember the last time I did not see my baby hairs form a short, curly crown around my head. I thought this was the best product ever invented, and I did not know how I went 11 years without it. From now on, I knew it would be me and my relaxer every time I went to Charo’s, and I did not mind – until the day my mild relaxer was switched for what was considered a “better” relaxer, and my hair was never the same until years later.