Ode to the Hair Dresser Gods

I’ve never been one of those people that had a “regular” hairdresser, I prefer to be spontaneous when it comes to coiffure. When the mood strikes, I usually pop into one of those “walk-ins welcome!” salons or make an appointment an hour or day before, depending on how desperate I’m feeling about my hair.

For years I’ve wandered in and out of upscale salons, hair designers, and the typical old time beauty parlor that used to be where grandma’s would go to have their hair set weekly. You know the place I’m talking about. Lots of pink, chrome, asbestos tile floors, long expired magazines – always a pile of Reader’s Digests and Family Circles with recipes torn out – are you picturing this?

When I was around 12, I remember riding my bike down to the local “Cut & Curl” located in the plaza a few miles from my house. The beauticians all wore pink smocks, gossiping, snapping gum and teasing the shit out of hair or rolling old women’s hair as their clients dozed off in the chair. They always had brassy blonde or red hair, cigarettes dangling from brightly painted, red or magenta colored lips. I would look around with awe and wonder as women of various shapes, sizes and ages lounged under hair dryers, piles of magazines balanced precariously on their laps as they sipped weak coffee from styrofoam cups, their lip colors displayed proudly on the rims. The odor of perms and other beauty chemicals permeated the air of my tacky surroundings as I waited for my appointed “stylist”. I would flip through outdated hair style books to find the perfect cut that I thought would make me look grown up and beautiful.

When I would go to my dad’s barber with him (he’s had the same one for several decades), it was a simple establishment of black naughehyde, chrome and lots of flourescent lites and mirrors. I loved the smell of the hair tonic and shaving cream and they always gave out Bazooka bubble gum to the kids and chatted excitedly about sports or the latest news around town. These men were Italian and they all looked like they could be brothers, bantering back and forth with one another loudly over the tv perched precarisously in the corner of the room with the latest sporting event on. Their black shoes were shined to perfection and they would wear smart looking, crisp blue smocks. My dad would sit on a “throne like” swivel chair and his barber would snap a large, black cape as he dramatically draped it around my father, tucking in the paper collar and brushing my dad’s neck with a big horsehair brush with talcum powder at the end of his haircut. I loved watching the barber as he worked – chatting amicably, smacking his gum as his chrome scissors and comb moved with lightening speed, as he manicured my dad’s hair to perfection. I could sit and watch these gentlemen work all day, it was such a comforting place to visit.

As I matured and moved out on my own, I experimented with different places when it came time to have haircuts, perms and beauty treatments, depending on my economic situation. Super Cuts, JC Penney Salon, upscale hair designers. I was even courageous enough to be a hair model for a beauty school student. My scalp hurt for three days, but she passed her exam and I got a big basket of free hair products and a haircut out of the deal.

One of my fondest memories of my hair salon experiences was when I would go to have my hair done for a formal or special occassion, as well as my own wedding day. The atmosphere was always so electrified with excitement and energy in the shop, it was quite contagious. The technicians would inquire about the big event, asking about my dress and accessories and where the event was taking place. I once had a gay hairdresser, Tom who did the most wonderful big hair styles for me in the 80’s He was my hair dresser for a period of time as well as for my wedding and he used to make me laugh and made me feel truly beautiful. He would pamper me and make suggestions and always used the most wondefully fragrant rose mint shampoo on me. It truly made me feel special. It was heavenly. He was one of the few hair stylists I frequented on a semi-regular basis, until he passed away from Aids in the 90’s.

Today I became a redhead again with a modern, chic haircut. I’ve always wanted to be a redhead, although my natural color is ash blonde. It’s become much darker the older I get. I always love having my hair shampooed, no matter where I go to have it cut and styled. I can never wash my hair as thoroughly as a hairdresser. I never repeat the process either. They suds it all up and scrub it good and rinse it thoroughly, they even towel dry it better than I can. There’s something very pleasurable about having my scalp massaged and scrubbed by somebody else’s hands – it’s pure bliss.

Having my hair done will always be a sacred and special ritual for me. I think of hairdressers as magicians (how many of us have brought pictures in asking to make our hair look like THAT?). They make you feel relaxed as soon as you take a seat in their chair, waiting on you with water, coffee, magazines. Whether they give you a shoulder massage, a scalp massage or put your mind at ease by convincing you how fabulous you will look after they perform their skills on you and you walk out that door. Will your hair ever look that good or feel that soft and silky? I think not. I will always be greatful to these talented, hardworking people, besides, I can never get my damn hair to look as good as they can, that’s why we are at their mercy every 4-6 weeks.

Ode to the Hair Dresser Gods


Joined December 2008

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