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I Have C-PTSD, and My Safe Space Is the Beauty Salon

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I rarely believe safe spaces actually exist.

I’ve been used, abused, discarded, and hurt in the “safest” of spaces, and it’s due to that I’ve stopped believing in the concept of safe spaces, especially as a Black Queer woman. There is no space I feel inherently safe in, which immediately triggers my complex-post traumatic stress disorder symptoms (C-PTSD). I immediately become hyper-vigilant, hiding behind a mask when I’m supposed to feel safe and relaxed. Well, except for one space.

• What is PTSD?

Black owned and dominated beauty salons are the one space I always, and I mean always, feel safe in, and I believe that boils down to a few factors.

Between epigenetics and intergenerational trauma, I firmly believe it’s normal and natural for Black folk to feel less at ease in some spaces than others. It’s a matter of survival, and it has been for generations beyond me. It’s why my grandmother taught me to wear business casual to the doctors’ office or car dealership. It’s the same reason that my family was concerned when I cut off my relaxed hair and went natural. Survival, which is a mentally strenuous place to consistently live in, is inherently traumatic. Black women have to watch how we show up in the world daily, but when I’m at the beauty salon, I don’t have to worry about that.

My looks don’t matter nor does the money in my pocket as long as I can pay and tip for my service. I’m pampered and tended to, receiving a level of self-care towards a very sacred and special part of my body that does represent my culture and history, all while being surrounded by people who look like me and understand certain innate things about my experience. It’s the one space I’ve never been hate crimed and I haven’t had to deal with micro or macroaggressions. 

It’s the one place where I can actually let my guard down, and I can for all of six to seven hours feel like a regular human being, and not a marginalized and exploited member of society, and I’m just Brittany. Brittany who loves frilly dresses and desserts. Brittany who is a hopeful romantic against all of her better judgment, and for whatever reason can’t release the hope she has in the world. There are very few places like that that exist in the States for Black women, and it’s a feeling I would love to create in my own spaces. I don’t quite know how to do that, and I do think the level of emotional and mental reprieve and sisterhood that happens in a salon is something that should be studied. This is the reason why I will always prefer to go to a salon versus doing my own hair. Salons allow me to breathe and exist, and it mentally serves me in ways I truly believe nothing else can. I wish I felt it elsewhere, but alas. 

Black hair is so important to me, and I’m thankful for this one singular safe space that allows me to feel like a human being. 

Getty image by NickyLloyd

Originally published: September 15, 2022
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