Monday, August 15, 2011


        I have always been very open and honest about my childhood tragedies involving the ever growing Chia pet on top of my head. After nearly 25 years of keeping the beast at bay I am slowly acclimating myself into the world of African-American hair. There is no better place to witness the limitless possibilities for the naps than in the Southern United States. However, most recently, my focus on this subject has shifted from a personal investment to an interest that caters toward my lovely chocolate friend Evangeline, whom turns 26 tomorrow. Evangeline is emotionally committed to hair pieces in a way that puts my co-dependent relationship with Ketel One to shame. It made perfect sense that my quest for a birthday present for Evangeline should not do without a trip to an African-American wig shop. Dallas, I have experienced from several trips on public transportation, is the Mecca of detachable hair. I had really hit the jack pot. It did not take me long to discover the crème de la crème of wig suppliers. This establishment located in the heart of Dallas, Texas is better known as Gold 7 Beauty Supply!

          I'll start from the beginning. First of all, Gold 7 is located in a cul-de-sac of sorts in North Dallas (one of the more "urban" sections of the city). In this small array of businesses on Forest Lane includes not one but several African-American beauty related establishments. As I google mapped my way to the location I was bombarded with two beauty shops, a wig store, a place for supplies, and right in the center of the strip mall was Gold 7 Beauty Supply, the Jesus of Black wigs. I had imagined that a store solely dedicated to hair that isn't yours couldn't possibly be any larger than a CVS. I pictured a small room filled with some hair care products. At the end of the room I imagined there would be a counter with a friendly Black woman. Behind her, I envisioned a small selection of wigs and hairpieces that could be requested to be pulled off the wall for further inspection. I really thought this place was going to be a quaint little shop with some Black ladies looking to get their wig on. Apparently, I slightly miscalculated.

         Gold 7 Beauty Supply is the size of Kirstie Alley! This was no CVS, this was a WAL-MART for Black hair! When I walked through that door, I immediately collapsed. I can't remember which knee gave out first but I was too overwhelmed to care. There was just long flowing hair as far as the eye could see. Was this a horse ranch? The small counter that I had envisioned in my mind in fact went around the entire perimeter of the store. All four walls were covered with displays of different pieces with varying lengths, colors, textures, and styles. In front of me were aisles upon aisles of God knows what filling the shelves. Surely there couldn't be this many options for things to attach to your own head. This was one of the few times in my life that I couldn't fully absorb every detail of what was in front of me. There was just too much to take in! My vision was overstimulating with synthetic abundance. Yet, I had travelled all that way so I had to pull it together. I was determined to somehow make some sense out of all of this chaos to emerge triumphant in my quest to retrieve a shiny new hair piece for Evangeline's birthday. So I slowly ventured forward.

          Because of my awareness of the fact that I clearly had no idea what I was doing on account of my being a weave-virgin, I discovered quickly that I needed to escort myself to the nearest person of customer service located all around the perimeter of the store behind the counters. As I made my way around the room in total astonishment of the bevvy of wigs, weaves, and phony-ponies in search of some help, I couldn't help but notice that the persons whom appeared to be working for Gold 7 Beauty Supply were 4'11''. I am not sure what would interest Asian people to sell hair to Black people other than the obvious lucrative aspect but clearly Crouching Tiger Hidden Ponytail Weave is in the making. I walked around the store staying on the periphery witnessing each and every customer service representative who had clearly just arrived off the boat from Beijing all suffering from the vertically challenged syndrome. As I continued to make my counter-clockwise surveyal of the establishment I had ultimately confirmed that everyone employed by Gold 7 Beauty Supply was Chinese and that every person whom was shopping was...well...NOT! All the customers were Black women (plus me). This was ludicrous! Black people need to boycott. How can we let the Asian community take over the one thing that is unique to our culture? The way our hair grows out of our own head is unique only to Black people and yet we're letting the Chinese profit from our nappy needs! Really? Yet, I was quickly reminded by Jesus that I had ventured from far and wide to find Gold 7 Beauty Supply not to make online political statements at a later date but to find a new ponytail weave for Evangeline. Let the journey begin.

        I asked one of the Asian midgets (redundant yet funny) behind the desk that I needed some help, let's call her Beijing. "What are you looking for?", Beijing asked (Unable to pronounce the "r"s of course ). "I'm looking for hairpieces", I said flatly. She stared at me not moving a muscle. I'm not sure if this was because of the Botox or the fact that she's Chinese. I needed to provide more information. "I need the kind that attach to the back of your head with pins", I said as I gestured to the backside of my scalp. "You need ponytail?" she asked. Smiling quickly ensued. I was very glad we were finally on the same page. "Aisle 1" she stated. So I made my way over to Aisle 1 where I expected to search the shelves to find the section that housed pre-packaged ponytail weaves where I would have to make the simple choice between long or short, curly or straight, black or blond and then be on my way. I arrived at aisle one. This is when reality set in. The ENTIRE aisle was filled with nothing but ponytail weaves! Can you believe it? Shelves upon shelves just filled with different assortments of the phony-pony! There were limitless brands offering several varieties of color, shape, texture, length, buoyancy, personalities, and odors. After a deep breath I decided to just take it one weave at a time.

        I started with the shelves on the left filled with weaves hanging in different packages. As I began to read the different labels investigating the styles, brands, and prices I immediately became confused on one non-important yet incredibly intriguing aspect of these products: the brand names. I was perplexed because it seemed to me that in one row of similarly packaged weaves, there would be a different brand-name at the bottom of each one. "Amy", "Star", "Candice", "Urethra".... it was very confusing. Upon further investigation I discovered that in fact these were not the company brand names at all. Please take a deep breath because what I am about to tell you is quite disturbing. The weaves have names! I am not kidding. The weaves themselves are personally named. No last name, they're like Cher or Madonna. I was beside myself! I think it's weird to name a goldfish but a synthetic piece of plastic, this was too much! However, in my state of disbelief I became distracted by an alluring little piece of heaven named Amy. I must point out that although the weaves were packaged and air sealed in like Kielbasa sausages, the store conveniently displayed one of each hairpiece out so you were able to touch and investigate every nuance and idiosyncrasy of the weave. Amy was the shit! She was about 8 inches long (completely flaccid) with very dark and extremely tight ringlets that just flowed like a bouquet of flowers spilling out of my Grandmother's vase. I was immediately hooked. Amy was the one. However, it was made clear that the lovely arrangement of synthetic fibres I was touching was merely for display purposes which meant I was required to locate its accompanying package on one of the several shelves behind it. This would prove to be quite difficult. After several minutes of trying to compare the government-plastic wrapped hairpiece with the chocolate locks of love of love I was currently holding in my hand I became somewhat frustrated that my fully committed rummaging proved to no avail. There were billions of weaves everywhere and it was nearly impossible to locate the accurate phony-pony. I came to find that there were in fact several versions of Amy which under layers of Saran wrap were nearly undetectable to see if she was the exact one as the clump of illustrious strands I was currently holding. Upon further assessment, I noticed that the version of Amy I was holding had a small tag on it with an encrypted code comprised of an intricate combination of letters and digits. I figured out I could simply match that code to the pre-packaged weaves and I would find success. Quickly I found Amy in her package with the same code as display Amy. Surely this had to be the correct one. Or so I thought. I noticed that there was just one discrepancy between the two phony-ponies. Display Amy was labelled with the color "1" which I figured out is a universal numbering systems for weaves all over the country which indicates that the weave is black. This seems ridiculous to me. Clearly one can see that a weave is black just by looking at it, right? The pre-packaged Amy appeared black to me yet was labelled 1B. I eventually found a packaged Amy labelled 1 (no "B") and compared them side by side. I could not tell the difference between the two phony-ponies for the life of me. I needed Beijing to sort out this confusion. "1 is black and 1B is natural black", she said plainly. This was a disaster. What the Hell is "natural" black? I figured that the blackest of black is like Mortisha from the Adams family but still I don't see what would be "unnatural" about that. People have black hair! This was ridiculous. I asked her to take hair pieces out to show me the difference. She begrudgingly did so and I don't blame her. The removal of the vacuum sealed phony-ponies really was a full day commitment. Not only were they air locked (for freshness I assume) but they also had magnets on them that were bolted through the packaging so people couldn't steal them (I guess it makes sense to be paranoid about people stealing things when they are willing to wear hair that doesn't even technically belong to them). I felt like I needed a magnifying glass to see the very tiny strands of almost brown pieces of the supposedly "natural black" 1B version of Amy. What's so natural about that? Nobody's hair grows with random brown streaks in it! This was absurd. Mortisha it was! I was settled. "How much is Amy?" I asked. "$7.99" plus tax. "WHAT?". I couldn't believe it. You can transform your entire head for $7.99. Was there a Canadian weave-virgin discount I was unaware of? I asked Beijing to hold Amy for me. Clearly this was a sign from Jesus that I really needed to stock up!

               Truly I had only made it an eighth of my way through the fabulous land of the pony tail weave aisle of Gold 7 Beauty Supply before finding Amy. I had a lot of work to do. So I ventured back to find some new treasures for Evangeline (and who knows, maybe a few for me too). I discovered a tiny clearance box in the middle of the aisle and realized quickly that I had urges to further investigate the unknown. As I dug through the mound of unwanted, abandoned synthetic misfits I came across a rather sophisticated little bundle of joy amidst the pile of last season's naps. This was one was unnamed (because everything in the clearance box was out of package). She was a small bun with intricate little patterns of weaved strands of hair that criss-crossed along the landscape of this perfect round cinnamon bun. She was too cute and 5 dollars. I had to get her! Feeling completely elated by my new finding I continued to venture through the shelves of hanging display ponytail weaves feeling delighted by every run of my fingers through these synthetic masterpieces. Although I was completely entertained by the bevvy of options, I still did not feel the similar excitement with any of these pieces that would compare to my emotional commitment to Amy. As I made my way to the end of the aisle (about a half an hour later) I was almost ready to checkout with Beijing when I came across a little discovery on the opposite wall. There was yet another un-named piece just hanging unobtrusively on a hanger. She was pretty. She was simple. There was nothing about her that I can put into words that stood out to me yet for some reason she really grabbed my attention. As I slowly became intrigued by her I realized that she too was staring right back at me! Was this love at first weave? I paced myself slowly toward her as she swished back in forth in the wind (the Chinese just LOVE having that air conditioner on full blast at all times). As I gingerly ran my fingers through her (feeling like a pedophile) I realized that there was something shockingly different about her. SHE WAS REAL! I knew this wasn't possible but she felt absolutely, totally, 100% authentic! I had to investigate and figure out what the deal was. I matched her code and finally found the correlating brand in a small package on the shelf behind her. This product, as I found out, is made by a company called Shake 'N' Go and she is made of 100% Indian hair (Slurpee Indian...not Casino Indian). I couldn't believe it! Some poor little girl is walking around India bald right now so that I can bask in the glow of this fabulous headpiece and let me tell you IT IS SO WORTH IT! It's hot in India. Plus, bald is the new hair extension. Sinead O'Conner is hugely popular in New Delhi. She was absolutely perfect. As I continued reading the package, I discovered more great news about Shake 'N' Go. She is versatile! Because of the fact that she is 100% human hair, you can flat iron her to make her completely straight or you can use water to scrunch her up into tightly knit curls for a bouncier more adolescent look! Perfect for R.Kelly fans! This was too much to handle. I was very close to peeing but I retained my composure (insert second R.Kelly reference here....again redundant but highly enjoyable). I quickly skipped my way to the register to pay for my findings. Beijing was busy helping out another customer so she handed my Amy and told me I could go to the register in the wig area. This was something I was not emotionally prepared for.

         The Wig Shop which is a branch, if you will, of Gold 7 Beauty Supply is an animal unto itself. If you are brave enough to go back there you need to fully understand that you may not make it out alive. The Wig Shop is a secretive area of the beauty shop with walls on four sides to protect the identity of the women whom enter this area. You see, the bulk of Gold 7 Beauty Supply is set up like a CVS with several aisles carrying products, pieces, accessories and wigs that are packaged so you just simply shop around, find what you're looking for, pay, and leave. The Wig Shop section is a whole other kettle of fish (African-American fish....maybe Black cod). The Wig Shop is set up like a salon. The wigs are displayed on mannequins all around. Women sit in front of a vanity with lights and office stools so they can fully investigate the possibilities of each wig in complete and utter secrecy unbeknownst to the passers by on the other side of the wall innocently buying ponytail weaves for their friends. Honestly, I couldn't take in any more visual detail than what I have just described on account of my fear of being shot. I immediately felt that I had invaded these women's personal lives by entering their wig sanctuary. I moved VERY swiftly to the register as to be undetected by the onlookers. Guns are VERY popular in Texas. I'm just saying. "Debit or credit?" Shanghai asked me. "I don't give a shit. Just run the card before I get killed!", I was desperate to get out of there. After what had felt like an eternity I finally was able to sashay at an accelerated pace to the exit. I breathed a sigh of relief once I made it through those double doors and metal detectors. Even though I had successfully made it to safety, I thought it prudent to make my way to the bus stop as quickly as possible. Bullets can go through windows last time I checked.

            After over an hour spent inside a world filled with long flowing pieces of detachable pageantry, I feel that I have grown so much as a Black woman. I have a better understanding of the full commitment needed to have a full head of wind-blown hair. It is necessary to devote countless hours and hard-earned dollars coupled with fully investigated research and development if you truly want to look like Shakira from the forehead and beyond. If White people only knew the dedication that Black women and their boyfriends whom pay for this shit have just to take care of and/or disguise what grows out of their own head they would immediately double their annual donation to the United Negro College Fund.

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