If you’ve ever had a long-standing relationship with a hairstylist, then you know that you are part of a close-knit group. A hairstylist is the matriarch of touch-ups, relaxers, and a myriad of camouflage styles to help you through that awkward grow-out phase. You chat with fellow customers while sitting in the waiting area or under the hair dryers, and conversations that start with the color of your highlights usually lead to your personal life.
I am practically related to my hairdresser. Lisa is the cousin of one of my mother’s dearest friends, Glenda. Christmas dinners, New Year’s parties, and birthday celebrations have bonded us as family. So basically, they know all of my business.
Glenda sat down next to me at the hairdryers few Saturdays ago. “How’s E?” she asked. We began to talk about the various happenings in our lives. Caleb, her grandson, finally stopped using a bottle. My 18-month-old had learned to do the Hokey-Pokey and to count to two.
“When will your brother be home from school?” she asked.
“Brian and James Jr. will both be home in a couple of weeks,” I said.
Glenda frowned. “Who’s James Jr.?” she asked.
“My brother,” I said. “He’s Big James’ son.”
“James?!! Your daddy?”
“Yep,” I nodded.
“When did you start talking to him?”
“ A couple of years ago,” I replied. “He found a way to get in touch with me.”
I’m not sure how my mother met my birth father, because I’ve honestly never been interested enough to ask. I was born a few months after my mother graduated from college. They were together until I was about seven or eight. After a conversation about how their breakup was not my fault, James fell off of the face of the earth. He showed up unceremoniously, 17 years later, with a wife and son.
Our reunion has been far from picture-perfect. “It wasn’t my fault,” he said. “Your mother —”
“Whatever,” I cut him off before he could finish the sentence.
We really haven’t had too much to say to each other since. James Jr, and I talk quite a bit, and he tries to spoil his niece every chance he gets.
“I remember when your mom and I worked together,” Glenda said. “James worked in the same building, and Maxine would walk past him as if he wasn’t there. He would try to call to say that he wanted to see you, and she would hang up on him. I didn’t understand how she could ignore him so easily.”
I could. My mother discovered something that I learned when I reached nearly that same age. I was dating Charles, an engineer with an alluring voice and a disarming smile. Charles was charming and attentive for the three months, and then he started to focus on new conquests. As we were having dinner one night, he asked “Do you think that I am blocking your blessing?”
“Say what?” I looked up from my plate.
“I think you want something more than what I’m willing to give. Maybe by seeing me, you are missing the opportunity for what you really want.”
“Well, I don’t think anyone can block my blessings but me. If I know that I’m doing something that is contrary to what I want, then that’s my fault, not yours.”
In the two weeks following that moment, I saw a selfish and manipulative side to Charles that I had been too enchanted to see. We were through.
I ran into him later that year at a club. He stopped me to ask if we could be friends. “I know that I was really selfish, and I’ve changed. Don’t give up on me.”
“Congratulations,” I replied. “Although, that changes nothing for me. My life is moving in a good direction without you, and it isn’t necessary for me to change that. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“Ever?” he asked.
“Never,” I said.
My actions could be mistaken for bitterness, but they are really based on insight. Distancing myself from Charles gave me the space I needed to gain a little perspective. In a way, he was right. He was blocking my blessing, but I allowed him to be there. Charles was not for me in any way — not as a friend, and certainly not as a boyfriend.
When my mother split from James, I believe that she discovered the same thing. James was not what she wanted for herself or for her daughter, so that was that. When you figure out that a person has no place in your life, you really don’t have anything to say.
Some may argue that her situation was different because she had a child, but that is another blog for another day.
It’s been four years since I spoke to Charles, and I haven’t regretted it a bit. He showed up at a party that a friend of mine was having during the holidays.
“Ughh, I don’t know who invited him,” she said.
“No worries,” I told her. “It’s fine.”
He tired to move my way a couple of times, but he gave up after I excused myself from a conversation when he stood next to me. No need to block any more blessings.