It's a country place in the South--an old Victorian transformed into an "establishment." There is bead board on the walls and a creaky swing on the porch. The floor is pine, and the ceiling is framed with crown molding.
But for all its adornments, this shop, appendaged in patterned wall paper and gingerbread trim, would be nothing without its heart: "the girls" who bustle inside.
No old fashioned women drinking mint juleps or prone to the vapors. These Southern women are the hardiest stitches in a quilt, on their feet from 9 in the morning until 8 at night. They have calmed the frizzies and the nerves of weepy brides, built beehives of sophistication in wannabe prom queens, and gently administered weekly sets to stoop-shouldered, eighty somethings who leave on rainy days wearing plastic bonnets.
The girls bustle around in black smocks and fill the air with husky, cigarette voices, accordion laughter, and the smell of coconut conditioner. Their fingers shampoo the way a sea anemone moves, reaching forward then pulling back. They examine spit ends and stir a swirling palette of color. Painting sunlight and restoring youth. Scissors flash, razors hum. Hair falls like golden, auburn, and chestnut leaves on an October afternoon.
I have been going to the same beauty saloon for 11 years. Although they are in the business of transformation, I have watched "the girls" transform themselves--into butterflies--and they have witnessed the same of me. We have become, among other things, wives, mothers, professionals, thinkers, drinkers, activists, volunteers, risk takers, recluses. We have talked about ex-boyfriends going to jail, what the hell happened to Britney Spears, Mexican restaurants, and recurrent bladder infections. We have shared "cures" for morning sickness and hangovers. We have cried over diagnoses and losses, and celebrated accomplishments and additions.
Once every five weeks for eleven years.
Skinny after weight loss, four days before the baby was born.
Long curls. Bobbed hair. Let's shag. Pixie.
Blonde. Red. Dark brown.
Rene Russo, Selma Blair, Meg Ryan, Winona Ryder and Isabella Rossellini pictures folded into my purse.
Sunny days. Gale force winds. As cold as five below zero.
Always warm on the inside, and I am always warm when I leave.
For more Sunday Scribblings about "hair," click here.