Photo by kimonomania; found on flickr.
I've always loved going to the beauty parlor. It's such an old-fashioned term, "beauty parlor." Or "beauty shop" -- I use the two interchangeably. (Is one more of a southernism than the other?) I don't consciously subscribe to a notion of beauty in which beauty is something which must be purchased, and yet...
My favorite moment is when I settle in to the shampoo chair and tip my head back into the sink and close my eyes. The sounds of conversation wash over me. There's something physically delicious about it: hands working shampoo and conditioner into and out of my hair, massaging my scalp. But there's also something emotionally satisfying about it, too, for me. Feels like comfort.
I used to go with my mother to the beauty parlor on Olmos. I don't think the place exists anymore. While my mother had her hair done I would draw pictures, or link piles of brightly-colored curlers into long chains. I made dragons out of curlers. The women who worked there must have been very patient. I don't ever remember them getting annoyed with me. Maybe it was fun for them to have a nutty little kid around.
My grandmother used to go to the beauty parlor every week. There was a lady who ran a small private beauty shop out of her house; there she would get her hair set beneath one of those ubiquitous bubble-dome dryers. In my memory her manicured nails were always mauve. I think the beauty parlor was one of the few places my grandmother used to drive, back when she still drove: in her big white car with the black bench seats. It smelled like leatherette and tic-tacs.
When I settle in to have my hair washed, I always think "there should be a bracha for this." (I have the same thought on the rare occasions when I spring for a pedicure, usually right before going to Texas, or on the first warm afternoon of early spring when I can't stand wearing heavy boots one day longer.) It's something I do just for myself, and I want to savor it. Is it silly to think of my haircut appointments as "self-care"? They do leave me feeling cared-for.
I always feel a little bit sheepish once my hair is cut, when the stylist asks whether I use mousse or gel at home when I blow my hair dry. I'm too low-maintenance for any of that; I don't even own a hair dryer! I wonder sometimes whether the stylists get together and roll their eyes at people like me. But I love hearing the snick of the scissors, watching the small curls collect on the plastic smock. When I step outside, my head always feels so much lighter, even if she only trimmed an inch or two away.