Beauty Scape

I came very late to the habit of going to the salon. For 30 years I wore my hair very long (and usually pinned up in a bun). For 15 of those years I dyed my hair various shades of bottle blonde.

The color started as a poorly controlled impulse. Once when one sister was dying the other sister’s hair blonde in the kitchen, I scooped some of the left over goop from bowl and pulled it through my hair in a streak. It wasn’t long before my whole head was blonde.

Because it was so long, and I was dying it myself over the bathtub, it wasn’t long before multiple shades were apparent. At the time it was vaguely Madonna-esque, now I think now they call it ombre. Looks a lot different when its deliberate.

Ten years ago I decided to cut my hair. I can’t remember the reason why, now but something must have prompted it. Now I go to an “Aveda Experience Salon” for cut, curl, color and whatever else my stylist thinks is a good idea. Who am I to argue?

Sitting in the salon chair with my eyes closed the other day, listening to the sounds of high heels clacking and dozens of voices rising and falling, I thought about the difference between this and the sounds of my mother’s beauty parlor.

Until I was an adult my mom went to the beauty parlor once a week to get her hair washed and “done”. This was a Saturday ritual that started with a 7 am trip to the West Side Market, a stop at Zannoni’s Italian Imports for whatever, and Mazonne & Sons for bread. And then Patsy’s Beauty Parlor.

Patsy’s was a store front shop with two chairs, 4 drying chairs and lots of hairspray. Instead of the thumping bass of my Aveda experience, Patsy’s sound scape consisted of WGAR Country radio, the whine of dryer hoods and middle-aged women, smoking and bitching about their good-for-nuthin, kids/husbands/neighbor. The smell was Benson & Hedges diluted only by industrial strength Aqua Net.

I’m sure those Beauty Parlor sounds and smells still exist somewhere, along with the pink foam sleep bonnet my mother wore at night to protect her complicated basket weave of a hairdo.

Often when I think of my mother – it is mother’s day after all – I fall into a rambly comparison of her life to mine. Middle class daily life versus childhood memories of her poverty class daily life at my same age. An attempt I guess to further understand who I am by trying to understand who she was.

Sometime after I was out of high school my mom stopped going to Patsy and switched to the JC Penny salon at the mall. The basket weave was replaced by a layered bob that took a bit of work with a curling iron to fluff it up.

She never told me why she decided to change her style. Lost to time like my own reason to cut my hair. Another twisty thread for me to pick at when I turn my kaleidoscope on memories of my mother.