I was about 11 years old when I proudly hopped out of a barber’s seat, saying “Do I look cool or what?” It was the last time I ever went anywhere to get my hair cut. Until this weekend.
I am getting married in two weeks and for once, I have to consider “getting my hair done for an occasion.” In the past, I’ve limited my hair styling accessories to just one: a hat. So, for my birthday Phil gave me a gift certificate to the beauty parlor located in our quaint, old-fashioned Greenbelt neighborhood.
It wasn’t surprising when I set foot in the pink and gray colored shop, that pungent odor of pretzels and hair dye just as I remember it, that I was the only person under the age of 55. It made me nervous that I was going to ask for Eva Longoria’s haircut and walk away with something you’d find on a middle-age woman at a West Virginia gun show.
Their customers had been going there for years, some getting their hair cut every week. The employees knew them by name. Knew what hair styles they preferred. Asked about their family members. Some women were so old, they ambled along at a snail’s pace. One, who might have been in her 80s, was the spitting image of Ted Danson, except with cotton denim capris and cheap sneakers.
I took a seat next to the another woman who struck up conversation when she heard that I also had an appointment with the shop owner who had had to leave all of a sudden and was expected back in an hour or two. Plenty of time to tell me about the history of her hair (lots of perms when she was working and lately, colorings to avoid something called a “mousy” gray), and her health (previously obese though self-described as allergic to just about everything, at risk for sugar diabetes, had severe cataracts removed), and her family (two children, though she spoke more about her daughter, a pilot, and son-in-law, also a pilot, who live in Florida with their kids). She seemed like a lady who just wanted to talk but never had anyone to talk to, which made me wonder if she was just talkative, or didn’t say much to her husband (yep, I even learned she was married to a guy who was born in the same hospital as her).
The sad part was when she said that when she was about to turn 65 (her current age), she was fretting it, not feeling like she has accomplished anything in her life (though raising a family that didn’t turn out terribly dysfunctional must count for something, right?!) It was finally something to which I could, unfortunately, relate. My friends too, having fretted over the lack of life’s accomplishments already in our 20s. Geesh. I just hope it’s something that happens prematurely now and not repeatedly. But, she said, on her birthday, her daughter asked her father what he did or said to her mother… that she had a new.outlook on life. She seemed happy enough, from what I could tell.
In a beauty parlor, you notice everyone’s hair and this woman who was talking to me, was like a five foot, elderly version of Valerie Harper, but with brown frizzy hair that looked like a combed-out afro. She said she was going to a family affair on Saturday to see people she’d not seen in 30 years and for the occasion decided to try, for the first time ever, a French Twist.
I didn’t know what I was about to get. I came in with a few photos on my phone of hairstyles that seemed really great for very pretty women with manageable hair (and why does a Google Image search for “hairstyles” and “women” bring up so many photos of Adrienne Grenier?!). “I’m getting married in two weeks, and I don’t know what to have done, but this is what I like. I totally welcome you’re advice!” One and half hours later, some of which was spent under the hair dryer straining to hear the old woman next to me who said something like “they remember all this stuff” in reference to the women we were watching on the Food Channel, my practice wedding hair was complete, and at that point, I could’ve jumped out of the chair and said, “Holy crap… you tamed the wild beast!” It was kind of an Eva Longoria, but fit for Dweebcentric with only a hit of West Virginia gun show. And damned if you can’t sleep on these things!
My new friend came back to the hair dryers to congratulate me before leaving the shop. “I didn’t know you were getting married,” she said, which sounded funny because in almost two hours of talking to me, she didn’t notice that I had said almost nothing except the occasional “yes” and “oh yeah?” She showed off her French Twist and said goodbye.
The next day, while Phil and I were in the town near where the wedding will be held, we met another talkative woman. That I was moving out of her way in one of those typical great-smelling flowers-and-gifts shops, she saw it as reason to explain why she was rushing about the tiny store. “I always do this on Race Day,” she said (that’s Race Day as in Kentucky Derby, not NASCAR… we were in Horse Country). She was trying to find the perfect flower arrangement for her Derby hat. “My husband always says, aren’t you ready yet? You’ve had a whole year to prepare!” she said and we laughed, as I suddenly realized I was stumbling into domesticated adulthood all weekend. Is this what I have to look forward to?!
Cookie, as the tan woman with the perfect white teeth eventually introduced herself, recommended the florist we were attempting to speak to, but who was tragically busy with filling zillions of Mother’s Day orders. “They’ll even scale down for you if you like,” she said. “Nobody noticed when…” she started, but then qualified with “well, my hairstylist noticed, but he’s gay…” We didn’t even hear yet what it was that people, gay or otherwise, did or did not notice. Phil would later joke, “Does being gay give you special vision? Maybe the military could hire him for enemy tracking.” Instead, the man’s special senses had detected that the flowers used at her wedding reception were the same used at the rehearsal dinner. Gasp!! Her reveal came in a hushed voice like the way old people used to refer to cancer.
And then she recommended the salon next door for wedding hair.
I figured the whole thing turned out well enough the first time around and was easy to reproduce, or something like it, that I could go to the store and find the stuff I needed to kind of do this regularly (rather than paying someone else to do so), and all of a sudden, I entered the complicated world of advanced hair-products (advanced beyond just buying some cheap shampoo and conditioner). Mousse. Gels. Hairsprays. Relaxers. Blow dryers. Straighteners. Curlers. “Intended for wavy hair.” “Intended to sculpt curls.” “Advanced formula humidity and keeps hair light.” “Adds shine.” “Adds volume.” And then all the confusing instructions: “Do not touch hair with fingers after applying. It will frizz.” “Use a diffuser. Do not use a blow dryer.”
Don’t use a what?
What is this supposed to do?
What does this mean?
Where the hell is my hat?!!