When you cant get a comb through Summers hair without it breaking, you know its time to get the proffesionals in.
As there are no afro hair dressers in our local area, we trek down to the ghettos of Deptford early on a Sunday morning. We reach at 10am and the market is already buzzing. Summer is well known on the market due to it being part time dads local hang out. As we make our way to the hair shop she is greeted by stoned rastas dancing to the music in their minds and muslim grocers give her apples and mangoes as we pass.Everyone here knows Summers name. The closer we get to the salon the more nervous she gets. We both know what lies in store. A total arse kicking to her head by an angry Jamaican hairdresser who should have been in church rather than "fixing dis pickney head" Summer gets pulled and yanked around the shop floor, her hair braided so tight -it looks like she is chinese.
She is scared, but not as scared as me. There are 2 times when I feel incredibly white and out of my depth, in the patty shop and at the afro hairdressers.
From the moment I walk in a row of black women look me up and down, look at Summers wild mane and then openly kiss their teeth at me. The hairdresser rolls her eyes and inspects Summers hair. Its like when someone brings a matted puppy to Rolf Harris in animal hospital. Tears well up in their eyes. A team of them armed with greese and afro combs begin the assault on Summers head. And then someone cracks. "I'm not sure we are gonna get through dis hair" they always say this, they always make me feel bad - and then they always manage to fix her hair. I know what they're thinking when they see me helplessly hand over my daughter for grooming ''If your gonna have a baby with a black man, at least have the decency to be able to do her hair'' but listen, I didnt know it would be so hard, she didnt pop out of my womb holding a copy of Black Hair magazine, there was no instruction manual. It's not like I have'nt tried either. No matter how much greese I put on her head its still dry an hour later, no matter how many times I fight Summer to comb out her head a minute later she does a head stand and her head is one big dreadlock. I have had tutorials from part time dads mum and friends, but I just cant do it.
At the hair shop, even customers are coming up now to have a look and a comb, I am sat helpless feeling ashamed, playing with my phone. Summer is crying. The Jamaican ladies fuss round her and throw me cursing looks. This is not the friendly atmosphere of Desmonds, there is no crazy antics from Pork Pie to break up the tension - It takes a chinese lady selling hooky DVD's to stop their relentless assult on Summers head.
We have been in the hair salon for nearly 2 hours now , I am tired scared and hungry, Summer has convinced them to plait in some blonde streaks. They ask me to go to the hair shop on the market to buy the hair and some more black hair utensils. I hate the hair shop - Its like shopping in LIDL, its products you have never seen before, rows and rows of different greese, hair, clips, weave all from different countries around the world. I don't know really what I am meant to be getting, but am pleased to get away from the angry hairdresser. Whilst scanning the shelves I see the holy grail of black hair (well to a white mum anyway) its a box on the top shelf, the product picture is of a beautiful young black girl whose hair is long and straight, smooth glossy hair accesorised with pink clips, this girl looks really happy and pleased with herself, she doesnt look like the type of girl whoose mum gets judged at the hair salon. It doesnt look like a girl who has to wake up 30mins early just so her mum can tie her hair in a ponytail, this girl doesnt have to wear a showercap in the sand pit at school.......why ?? because this girls mum has done something radical and taboo, she has allowed her daughters hair to be relaxed (chemically straightened). I wish I could reach that box - but I can't, I would have to ask for help and no doubt the customers in the shop would judge me and call the black hair social services, because its believed that relaxing a childs hair is equal to commiting puppy rape in the black community. It's says on the box that it is perfectly safe and I reckon there are a tone of girls out there in America living the 'So Soft, So Easy' hair dream. But I am not allowed the dream. I gather 3 of everything I was sent to get because I am not sure what it is that I was really meant to be getting.
When I enter back the salon, Summers hair is practically done, she looks like she has had a face lift too - she is swisshing her new long tame plaited hair around. I hand over the bag, the hairdresser looks in and laughs and shows the contents to the customers, who all laugh too. One of them even comes up and hugs me. 'You have a recipt?'
'Yes' I wisper ... ''well take it the bludcart back cah you nah buy noting right'' she chuckles. 'besides her head is fix now anyway, we tink it best you just leave us to it for a while' yeah leave you to it so you can cuss me freely!!!
I dont blame them though, 3 hrs in the hair salon and it costs £20!!! amazing value from the black community. I walk Summer back down the market, the Rastas wolf whistle Summer as she puts on a little dance show for them, whipping her new hair around her head like a crazed stripper. As we walk past the hair shop I see the poster of the 'So Soft, So Easy' girl, she is still looking smug. I'm coming back for you Easy girl, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but oneday I will take you home with me.