I grew up going to the beauty shop with my mother. For my entire life plus years before my blessed birth, my mother has gone to the beauty shop every week. EVERY. WEEK. She has a standing appointment with a saint named Marta and their relationship has lasted over twenty-five years. Marta has even come to Mom's home to do her hair when she was recuperating from surgery. Before that her "stylist" was Janet until Janet left the state. Okay, she moved or relocated. I always joke that if my dad's funeral fell on a Friday at 1:00, she might not show-up for it because you do not interfere with her hair appointment. Now, I joke about that, but it is in the back of my mind that one does not mess with one's hair appointment. No pun intended!
My mother is a true southern/Texan woman of her age bracket. She is from a time when every week women washed, rolled, sat under a hair dryer, had a comb-out, teased, combed and sprayed their hair with chemicals that would preserve a wood finish or possibly a hunter's game. NO. LIE. Let's not forget her regular perm. How her hair has not disintegrated from the ammonia amazes me. I have seen some amazing things and my mother's hair is one of them. And if my mother's coiffure is not enough of a statement, then life at the beauty shop would definitely be so.
Some of my earliest and constant memories are of a beauty salon. The smells, the sound of hairdryers, the chatter of clients and stylists. There's always a waiting area and children are NOT allowed to wander, run, or play in the artists' studio. I always wanted to get my hands on those little plastic rollers in the hair roller tray but I would have had a better chance ice skating in hell before that was ever allowed. Photos of lovely models with perfect hair decorate the walls. Mom's appointments were usually on Saturday mornings and she didn't like leaving me home with my brother to avoid conflict. I used to sit in my assigned seat at the front of the salon and read. Now, my mother would tell me to take a book, but once she was out of sight, I would delve into the juicy movie star/celebrity gossip magazines that were the staple at salons. I would just like to point out that as an elementary school student, I was privy to ads from "Fredricks of Hollywood," the romance of Elvis and his teenage Priscilla, Tammy Wynette and George Jones's two marriages to each other, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner's reconciliation, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland's drug related deaths and many many more pieces of history not found on PBS or Captain Kangaroo. The stuff I read could have inspired a "Harper Valley PTA" sequel. Please don't be judgey, though. It was the times and I was an active child who could have run wild in the neighborhood during the hour Mom was away. Oh, one more thing, my name "Jana" came from a movie magazine. I swear!
As I grew up and my hair grew, the salon culture followed me. As an elementary aged child, my mother would take me to the Jessie Lee Beauty School in Lubbock for a cut and perm during the summers. Some of my pictures show my hair looking like an Aborigine's but by September, it was usually under control. My hair grows freakishly fast and I was allowed to grow it long (that's they way we said it in West Texas) for a couple of years. I finally returned to the salon before 7th grade to have my first "Dutch boy" haircut. IT. WAS. AMAZING. But after a time of having to maintain the style, down the hair grew like a renegade Rapunzel. Every few months, Mom would threaten or cajole me to go to the salon to trim it in an effort to contain it, but there was no stopping it. It was thick, hot, and heavy. It eventually gave me headaches, broke through the extra large ponytail holders, and in a windstorm could reduce me to looking like a brunette Cousin It from The Addams Family. Finally, it had to go.
My first visit back to the salons was in Little Rock at "Russell's Red Carpet." Russell was an icon among the teen Farrah Fawsett wanna-bes. When Russell took a look at my hair, he grabbed scissors and hacked off at least ten inches before attempting to shape and style it. He put several strands in my lap like a trophy and went to town. That was the beginning. Because of my crazy hair, to maintain any control I started going to the salon every 4 to 6 weeks. Even in college, when I might miss a class or assignments, I never missed my hair appointment. I never went back to the long, down my back, hair of my teens. The thought just makes me sweat.
Over the years, my hair style and its color has changed. It has been extremely short to the point I told people I could not make good decisions because my hair was too short! Don't ask me, look at my head! For a few years, I was blonde because my stylist at the time told me it would hide my white hair. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I not only grayed early but my natural hair color is white. White as an old lady's! Luckily, my current stylist sweetly told me on my first visit I needed color in my hair because I was not a blonde. Wasn't that sweet? That's like a stranger telling you your dress is caught in your pantyhose or you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe! She cared how I looked and I don't think it was just because I would give her salon a bad example of services!!
I have only had a handful of stylists because when I find one I like, we are in a relationship. One stylist moved out of state and left a note on the door and even when she returned years later, I just couldn't commit to her. She let my hair down. And breaking up with a stylist is so stressful!!! I have hidden in aisles of Walmart to avoid a stylist from days gone past. This is probably because I still re-lived the trauma of having her stare me down and ask me who was cutting my hair. I know I looked like I had a light shining in my eyes and was being asked to write my crimes down on a legal pad for the investigator. "Um, well, I just. I don't. Hey! Is Tide on sale? Gotta go!" I still avoid that woman!
For several years, I have gone to a young woman named Oyuki. She owns "Oyuki's Salon" in Douglas. Her salon is clean, busy, and is a safe place to let your hair down. Okay, yes, that was intentional. It is not a spa but the care I receive is top rate. She knows me and she knows my hair. If there is gossip, it is said quietly and respectfully. Oyuki does not carry tales. I don't even give her instructions on what I want done to my hair. I walk in, wait for her to quietly call me to her chair, and she just does it. No stress, no drama. Occasionally, I run into a woman who is the local bail bondsman and she might share a few adventures. I know she is packing heat in her purse next to Oyuki's tip and I look forward to seeing her. I have seen older women wander in, have their hair brushed and styled, wander out without leaving any money behind. When I asked Oyuki, she smiled and said they were her mother's friends and it all works itself out. It's a sweet place and she is a trusted person to me.
I watched the HBO documentary "Habla: Women" recently. A man from South America who immigrated to the US spoke about his relationship with women as their hair stylist. He talked about seeing women without make-up/styled hair/sick/unhappy/scared/experiencing a life crisis, and when they were at their lowest. He had seen so much. He spoke of how the salon should be a place of refuge and the stylist being someone a woman can trust. He was right. During my lifetime, my mother inadvertently taught this lesson to me. When our hair looks good, we feel good. Mom has Marta and her tiny salon. I have Oyuki. Valued women we can trust with more than just hair.