Friday, 18 May 2012

Beauty Salon Blues

Image: Hair with Scissors

'Hillary Clinton has gone back to nature',
somebody mentioned on a blog.
I forget where I saw it.
Perhaps it wasn't a blog,
perhaps a newspaper said it.
After all,
a woman's age and her appearance,
are always worthy of a snide remark.

I don't want to go back to nature,
my old face cannot take the weight of it.
The girls at the hairdresser's are young,
they look the part, beauticians,
polished, licked and smooth of face.
No beauties, though,
their faces emptied of intelligence and humour
by artifice;
boyfriends and babies, last night's reality tv,
are topics of their conversation.

My temporary girl,
a raven's plumage on her head, pink cheeks,
a missing chin and vacant eyes,
attempts to turn my rat's tails into a Roman helmet,
while what I wanted was a simple, quite old-fashioned 'bob'.
Highlights and lowlights she can manage,
my grey is nicely hidden,
but while she cuts and snips and layers,
her blank gaze swivels from my head,
as if controlled by magnets,
to moving shapes beyond the windows,
huddled against the rain,
and I resign myself to being made to look like
someone other than myself.

The mirror she holds up confirms my fears,
my head is smooth and shiny, the helmet fixed in place.
She smiles at me, 'that's better'.  I nod weakly.
I pay her, tip her (why, she hardly even tried to please me).
'Five weeks' ?, she asks.
I gather all my courage, ask 'when will my girl be back'?
I feel so mean, I hesitate, not wishing to offend her.
'Not for a while', she says, her face fixed on the pages of the diary.
'What is a while' I ask, a little braver now.
'A long whi-yelle' she says, two syllables, the emphasis on 'yelle'.

I slip my card into its slot, and close my diary.
'I'll ring you, round about five weeks', I say.
A coward to the end.
Go back to nature? Maybe a thought to bear in mind.


  1. I am so glad I have found a hairdresser I like, at least for now. It infuriates me too, to pay someone for a cut I don't like. Hope "your" girl is back soon!

  2. Hello:
    How this captures not only the vacuous nature of so much of the 'salon' experience, but in it you so successfully identify those small details [is that tautology?] which reveal with wonderful accuracy character, conversation and the minefield which a visit to the hairdresser can, in reality, become.

    Thankfully, these days our hairdresser is here in Budapest so we miss out on the 'boyfriends and babies' and 'last night's reality tv'.

  3. I'm off, today, to get my hair cut in anticipation of next week's wedding - don't want too 'fresh' a cut. I haven't coloured my hair, choosing to let the grey come in as it will, but sometimes I think I'm making a mistake. A week before a wedding is not a time, however, for experimentation.
    My hairdresser is a nice woman who gives me a good cut on a good day. There have been, however, bad days. When her brother was ill I endured a season of bad cuts. When she sold her building and was planning a move I never knew how I'd look at the end of an hour. It's just hair though. I tell myself that it will grow back and that I can always fix it at home.

  4. I don't color my hair, let the gray show but at 62, I really don't have much gray and you have to be close to see it. But my hair is unruly, curly here, straight there and it wants to fall in my face which I hate. don't like bans and besides that's the curly part. I usually only get my hair cut about twice a year content to let it grow out. I have a new hair cutter, been to her twice. The first time she cut it as I suggested, never had it cut that way before and wanted to try it. big mistake. the second time I told her to do what she thought best and got a really good cut so now I'm ready to go back. It's hot and my hair is long enough to put up in a pony tail, a sure sign it's time to get it cut.

  5. Sometimes it is not being a coward at all, but shows that you are affirming & valuing yourself. I have overheard a few people say they have "let myself go" because they were no longer searching for men or jobs. That is just sad. Do what you want, but do it for you.

    Hair dye, designer clothes & shoes(let us not forget handbags), French perfume. I do all that for ME, with no apologies or cowardice in sight.~Mary

  6. I'd wait a while
    goodness...a bad cut can put me in a snarky mood
    but I am glad you like your color....
    and I also have tipped when I went home and cried
    We are weenies I guess...but goodhearted ones
    time for a revolt....what do you say....?

  7. Oh, I know, too. I once found a fabulous hairdresser. Unfortunately, we were on vacation, and she lives hundreds of miles away.
    Now, more fool I, I promised my husband I'd let my hair grow long again if I could have a grey and black kitchen. Fortunately, my hair grows fast, but there will be some awkward lengths to be endured before I can pin it up.
    Sorry I haven't been commenting lately, but I have been away, visiting my family.
    I hope you are well.

  8. Like Ellen, I only get my hair trimmed a couple of times a year. It's longish and I have no real gray to worry about just yet. And I'm lucky that one of my neighbours is a hairdresser so she always cuts mine in her basement.

    It sounds like your regular girl might be off having one of them boyfriend-generated babies. I'd be tempted to wait it out.

  9. Oh boy can I relate! I hate having my hair cut! After years of struggle with perms that only took on one side (!) -- not a great look for anyone at any age -- and sassy youngsters telling me that only reason my hair was unmanageable was because they hadn't cut it -- I was about to give up. I was so tired of using hot rollers and curling irons and mousse and styling gel and god-only-know-what. So I have gone back to pulling it back into a low ponytail at the nape of my neck. Does it suit me? I don't know. I just know that it enables me to get through the day without going mental! Don't you sometimes envy guys? Surely it shouldn't be this difficult. Personally I think the fashion mags have a lot to answer for!!

  10. OOOO! Delightfully scathing and poetic commentary on the challenges of the salon for those of us who are cowards in that alien (to me) environment. I rebelled upon retirement and cut my own hair and let it go gray. I was happily back to nature until stroke struck. Now I am once again hunting for the acceptable cut and intoning my pre-retirement salon-exit mantra, "Oh well, it will grow back."

  11. haha...oops sorry i probably should not laugh...i cut my own hair so i can only blame myself....i have the attitude it is just hair though you will grow back...i know that is different for you ladies...eep on it being a wi-yelle...

    her blank gaze swivels from my head,
    as if controlled by magnets,
    to moving shapes beyond the windows,
    huddled against the rain,
    and I resign myself to being made to look like
    someone other than myself

    rather like that description there...

  12. I feel your pain. I understand completely how you feel about having some young thing style your hair when she doesn't even take the time to know you and try to please you. Find a new hairdresser is very hard to do. I've been looking for years for just the right one to replace the one I had for years.

    I had to laugh when you said she gave you a Roman helmet. They try that on me. With all my curls it never works and really comes out quite badly.

  13. I just went silvery white slowly and was too idle to colour it . I'm too cackhanded to blowdry , curl , straighten or style at home. So my hairdresser and I have finally come to an agreement about how I should look , given the raw material we were faced with .
    We part amicably every seven weeks .

  14. Short back and sides will do me, neat, clean and suits my grey hair :-).

  15. A good haircut and shiny hair can save the day for any woman. That is why Oprah Winfrey came to the side of that black woman who was trying to budget and refused to give up her beauty parlor visits. Black woman will go to any length to get the hair they want. Us white folks must accept what is left as our hair is not as interesting. I have been thinking of low-lighting my hair to make it a little darker. I now go to a walk-in place and never get the same girl because they do not allow appointments. It is the cheapest place in town, but the other places made me wait 30-40 minutes! Oh, for a great haircut like I used to get when I was younger.

  16. I've toyed with the idea of hiding my grey but eventually decide to leave it ... once its all grey I'll have shocking pink or purple streaks!

  17. My daughter-in-law cuts my hair for me. No bangs, just trims my very straight hair in a blunt cut. I had been butchered so many times at salons that I decided to just let it be natural. Straight, thin, dishwater blonde, as we used to say. No grey yet. I wonder if I will leave it alone when it starts to go grey? LOL!

    I'd wait and call to see if your regular girl is back, too.

  18. Friko, I have a stylist who was trained in the methods of the late Vidal Sassoon. That method of scissoring was such a breakthrough decades ago, that the method still retains its strength.

    I used to visit one of the NYC Sassoon temples, but now am happy to visit a disciple who knows all my cowlicks and textures. Having a fresh cut, as I do now, is such a treat. This styling will keep me going well into mid summer. Wish that I could introduce you to this lovely lady with a good eye and hand and a good ear for what you are after.


  19. I dread hair salon days mainly because I go to a cheap Korean one in Chinatown. He has his brilliant days and his whoops! days and I'm never sure what it's going to be when I walk in. It would help if I could speak Korean so I could tell him what I want. I always go armed with pictures but apparently, that's not enough. However, for a third of the cost of a hairdresser in my area and because he's so patient with my dreams...I cannot complain.

    I was laughing at your description of vacuous faces, until I got to the reality TV bit. Oh oh.

    1. P.S. where did you find this REPLY function? I notice it on other Blogger blogs too but can't seem to find it on my layout/template. Is there some secret code I must enter to get it? :(

    2. georgia little pea: To get the reply function go into settings, then into comments, then enable comments embedded below the post, save the settings and presto the reply option appears.

    3. THANK YOU! I used to have my comments embedded but then some readers had problems commenting so I was advised to change it to something else. ARRRGH! Will have to try it again since I do love this REPLY function. So odd that Blogger only enables it for the embedded format and not others.

      Or maybe not. Blogger is just odd. THANKS AGAIN! :)

  20. My only requirement of a hair cut is that it be 'wash and wear'. No products, no drying required. And I loathe the chit chat and used to make up imaginary scenarios (which I promptly forgot). Fortunately these days a truly lovely woman listens to my requirements and cuts my hair quickly and well.
    I do hope your normal hairdresser is back soon.

  21. My daughter is a hair dresser and cuts my hair most of the time. Between visits to her, after trying just about every salon in town, I found a little girl who knows how to cut. And I do mean little. I wish you could see her, Friko, you would be able to do justice in describing her. I doubt if she'd reach the 5 foot mark, and is tiny - face, waist, hands - except for quite large breasts. She has to raise her arms to work around them. She has the cutest little face, reminds me of a Hobbit. A wildly flamboyant Hobbit. She has this way of catching my eye in the mirror and giving me a little conspiratorial grin. I think the conspiracy is she is going to make this short, straight, grey hair look good, despite the person wearing it. The other girls in the salon sound and look like your 'temporary' girl. But I have a gem. Two gems, her and my daughter, the rare hairdressers who realize that, no matter what extras we may go in for, it all starts with a good cut. Hope your regular girl returns soon!

  22. Ah, yes, know this well. My hair, which was coarse, thick, and curly, has become, in recent years, thin, fine, and limp. To avoid some new person's inevitably bad idea of what to do with it, even though I moved out of New York City a few years back, I have managed to arrange my city sojourns so I can keep going to the hairdresser I've had for a thousand years. At least good old Tom knows what my hair used to look like and understands that now we are dealing with an alien being that landed atop my head.

  23. My hairdresser is my age. I have curly hair and I always get a new hairdresser by looking around me for people with curly hair and asking them who cuts it.

    I let my gray grow out but have recently colored it for now. Not sure whether, at 63, I want to look my age or maybe very, very slightly younger.

    My idea of the world's worst job has always been as a receptionist in a hair salon, with all those conversations.

  24. We must be twins Friko. Just about to post a story about my just got haircut. I heard the words coming out of my mouth and couldn't stop them... give me a summer cut. Didn't recognize the guy in the mirror. Oh well, as my dad said... the only difference between a good haircut and a bad one is two weeks.

  25. I also must have something I can wash and that's it. No need even to blow it dry. Makes me happy to have white hair clipped close to my head. The only problem is needing a cut more often. Your poem is perfect... even though I wasn't there, I know that I might as well have been, the description is perfect. Hope your girl will be back before five weeks. :-)

  26. While I love going for a massage at the nearby "wellness temple", I actively dislike going to the hairdresser's - although I like the people there. Before this comment will turn into something blog-post-length, I suppose I should really turn it into a blog post some day!
    As for going natural - why not? You are certainly the only person in the whole world who thinks your face can't take it. Most of the time, we are way too critical with our own appearance.

  27. I find sitting (in front of/behind) a mirror for that time most unsettling. You see so many versions of yourself. A good hairdresser will make you feel like the best version of yourself. Bad hairdresser - the you which you've tried to bury.

  28. For years I was dyed hair, or is that died?
    Lucien from Paris pulled and piled brown curls on my head.
    Manicured nails, makeup perfect, Channel No. 5, Bruno Magli shoes,
    earrings and bracelets of gold and gems, New York City suits, I conquered the city.

    Now I have closely cropped, thin, white hair.
    Nash from Lebanon (its always a guy)
    clips and says "nice."
    No more arifice here.

  29. I'm mean. I don't tip if I don't get what I want. I went through a couple years recently trying to find someone, anyone who could cut my hair as I wanted. Or even as it looked good, if not my wished-for style! I finally found "the one," and I will remain with her until one of us dies. She is not allowed to take leaves. She is not allowed to die before me. That is the rule.

  30. Friko, this is brilliant. I sucked on every word like a sweet after midnight.

    I think a good hairdresser is a treasure at any age. There's nothing coward about you, by the way. You were just trying to keep it civil.

    Stay beautiful.

  31. There is only one person who can cut my hair and not make me wish I were someplace far away. She actually reads good books. She travels. There's always something to talk about. When she's not there, I don't say a thing, then go ahead and tip somebody else to give me a bad haircut.

    I hope your person comes back soon. It might be worth waiting a few extra weeks.

  32. I like the gals who cut my hair. They seem beautiful inside as well as out, and they often make me feel beautiful, too (well,at least better than I looked prior). Yes, I have 2 of them at 2 different shops. If one is away, I go to the other. However, I have experienced the dilemma you speak of in your poem. How is it we can be made to feel small by those who have no stature or status at all. Human nature, I guess.

  33. Finding a hairdresser is a trial. I had one, she moved away. I suffered for a year or two. Then we moved and one of the best things was finding a GREAT hairdresser. Alas, now we've moved back and I still can't find a good one.

    A good haircut makes me feel like a million bucks. A bad one makes me want to wear a paper bag over my head.

    Here's hoping your regular girl returns soon.

  34. Last time when I had my hair cut, I visited a new hair salon for a change. The staff’s understanding of “short” was different from mine and I was so uncomfortable with my new hairstyle for the two weeks at least. All right, hair grows anyway.

    When I look into the mirror after washing away my make-up before bed, I’m forced to realize my age. I tell myself that ageing is not deteriorating but natural progression. Let’s not be so concerned about the appearance. There are many women who look young but really think and act old.


  35. Which is the reason I went natural years ago. Paying and tipping for a hairdo that makes me unhappy happened for the last time about fifty years ago. Seeing Clinton without the makeup gave me such respect for her. She looked like a woman intent on a difficult job -- not her image.

  36. I saw myself in the mirror after crying during this week of sadness and thought "You've got to do something about yourself." And not crying wasn't an option. I was so stressed, I even missed my hair appointment and boy, am I paying for it now. This is a lovely, funny, perfect post and just what I wanted/needed to read. Thanks.

  37. A few years back after a particularly nasty episode with the hairstyling wife of my godlike handyman (I only uttered a tiny miaow of protest) I decided to grow my hair greyly for once and for all.

    I am surprised at how little grey there is (ps I would love white) and I so love being able to chignon it and know that I am one of a kind in the world desperately seeking youth in a bottle, a scissors or a knife.


  38. That is one vicious circle - longing for a haircut and being disappointed only to end up fixing it again. I hardly remember the times when I have been all pleased and pretty with a haircut. It just never seems right, even after the string of instructions and charades one goes through.
    Hope your girl's back the next time you visit.

  39. I'm a wash and dry kinda gal, and color it myself after too much money and too many mishaps at the salon. I just want a simple undercut, much to the young girl's chagrin. I know she wants to whip me into shape, but this is the shape of things and will be for as long as I'm in charge. Straight and simple. Last time, she cut my bangs so short and blunt I thought I'd gone to work in an art gallery again.

    I could so relate to this. I did the same thing: "I'll call and make an appointment."

  40. Since my cancer my hair is coarse and grows very fast so I just get it buzzed. No fuss. Still manage to look okay even with no make up. I think our image of ourselves is all in our self perception. How we feel matters more. I love the way you express yourself.

  41. Good haircut! If you've got a good haircut, you're in a cheerful mood!

  42. Oh..I can so relate to this. Amazing how attached we get to the one who we put our greatest trust to 'cut' our hair!

  43. Dear Friko, what does the expression "go back to nature" mean? Is it where we'd be face- and hair-wise if we let nature take its course? I'm not sure. The one thing I do know is that whereas I wore my hair long when I was a child, now I like it short, shorter, shortest!

  44. We are so used to our beauticans, after all they know our hair best...The shorter, the better is my kind of hairstyle.

  45. Thinking a woman's head of hair is so much more than just a "haircut and set" - it frames our face & gives us our uniqueness. This has been uppermost on my mind recently as I visited with a close friend who just completed a horrendous round of chemo - her concern was the total hair loss and hardly a mention of the physical discomforts she had to I looked into her eyes while we spoke, you could see the sadness at feeling less feminine without our "crowning glory" - as everyone else has mentioned though - hair differences are temporary and it does grow back...

    Hoping you can discover a new hairdresser that is more in synch - those empty eyes would have put me off too.

  46. I hate going to the hairdresser and am rarely pleased with the result. I suppose really I'm not generally pleased with my appearance and that's not the hairdresser's fault - she has to work with the material she's given.

  47. I have not visited blogs for a while and enjoyed coming to yours and reading your last posts. I do not like to go to the hairdresser but I like my hair to be shorter than my husband….
    It was interesting to read why you and your commenters blog and their comments. I started blogging so my grandchildren could read about my background but now I blog mostly about our travels. I show a lot of pictures so that my husband will remember our trips – since he has a medical condition. My posts are long and I show many pictures – I feel that bloggers don’t have to read my posts if they don’t want to or look at my pictures. I appreciate it if they read and comment but I understand that most people are busy. If someone asks me a question on my blog I’ll go to their blog and answer. I usually try to go back to my last comment on a post if I know that blogger answers comments. I also try to read all the posts I missed but I don’t comment on each. I enjoy blogging and feel it should be a pleasure, or why bother. I do not have the answer button on my old template though.

  48. Oh Friko - I feel for you .. I found a wonderful hairdresser, old fashioned, I ring he slots me in and I'm away! But I haven't much hair .. and I don't want some pinking thing to mess the little I have about ..

    Great read - we've a good guy here if you fancy a trip to Eastbourne .. they're used to dealing with the wrinklies?!

    You made me laugh .. cheers Hilary

  49. I can admit to you here, and only because my hairdresser is unlikely to find it - that I really don't like going. It's a silly little thing really, you see my hair is ok - quite good in fact - but I absolutely loathe getting all the snitchy bits of hair down my neck!

  50. On a Thursday afternoon in 1995, I walked into a salon and told the woman there I didn't want much taken off. I just wanted it evened up, and feathered a bit around the face and at the back.

    I walked out looking like Sinead O'Connor. I cried for three days. After a week, I finally went back out into truly public places, instead of staying out on the dock.

    I've not been in a salon since. I taught myself how to cut my own hair, have allowed it to grey naturally, and now reserve my crying jags for truly important things - like no more key lime gelato in the grocery store case.

  51. This is so funny and written so well! I have a love-hate relationship with beauty salons as well. If everyone went "back to nature" with me, I wouldn't mind so much. But to be the ONLY one... no thanks. :)


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