THE HAIRDRESSER MYSTIQUE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t go to the hairdresser often. Just once every couple of months to get my hair cut and colored and thus keep myself as a perpetual brunette. I look forward to those trips. I love the feeling of having someone else wash my hair and blow dry it.

I do almost everything for myself. I do my own nails (badly), except when there’s a big event and I actually want them to look good. I always do my hair myself except for the coloring and cutting. My mother went to the hairdresser every week and never washed her own hair. That horrifies me. I can’t imagine being that dependent about something so basic.

Hair Salon in the 1960’s

I usually don’t like being pampered. I like giving gifts more than I like receiving them. I’m usually the caregiver rather than the person being taken care of. I even feel uncomfortable when I’m sick and I have to rely on my husband to bring me food, water and meds.

Yet I love having someone else do my hair. Maybe it’s primal. Maybe it reminds me unconsciously of when I was a baby and my mother washed me and fed me. Maybe it’s like playing ‘doctor’ when you’re a kid. It’s fun to have someone focus totally on you.

There’s also the social element to the hairdresser experience. I’ve known my hairdresser for about 25 years. She cut my kids’ hair when they were young and she cuts my husband’s hair now. It’s a family affair. We’ve shared stories about each other’s marriages (we’re both divorced and remarried after long-term first marriages). We’ve watched each other’s kids grow up – vicariously. We’re actually pretty involved in each other’s lives, even though we don’t socialize outside the beauty parlor. I gather that’s very common.

My mother was very close with her straight male hairdresser, Dante. He was Italian, married and had a daughter. I loved him too. He did my hair for my first wedding. He was a charming and wonderful man.

My mother also became close friends with another one of Dante’s customers, a woman named Rosetta. They eventually scheduled their hair appointments together so they could have lunch and chat every week. When they got together with Dante, it was a party! As a teenager, I joined them when I could. It was a blast hanging out with them. Lots of conversation and lots of laughter.

My Mom and Rosetta, both with perfectly coiffed hair

Ironically, I don’t like the way my hair looks when I leave the hairdresser. It’s too pouffy and looks too ‘done’. I like the more natural look I get when I curl my own hair. So I brush it a lot and try to flatten it out so I look more ‘normal’ until I wash it again myself.

I love my trips to the hairdresser anyway. I’m even beginning to be able to just relax and enjoy being pampered. But I still don’t like getting my nails done and I hate getting a pedicure. Which is why I’ve only done it twice in my life!

I don’t know what I’ll do when my hairdresser retires. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to look forward to my days of pampering and bonding with my friend and hairdresser.

3 thoughts on “THE HAIRDRESSER MYSTIQUE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. My mother also had her hair done every week and I don’t think she washed it herself either … at least not until she got older, tireder, and didn’t always feel like going out. For a while, I used to do it for her. I think whatever I learned about hairdressing, I learned doing my mother’s hair.

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    • When my mom got cancer, she had to wash her own hair when she couldn’t get out to the hairdresser. I had to help her put rollers in her hair and comb it out for her. It was a bonding and fun experience for us. But I still find it strange that grown women couldn’t do their own hair. It’s something that’s so basic to us today. But I guess back then, the hairstyles made it difficult for people to do the complicated and teased ‘do’s’ themselves.

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      • I think my mother did her own hair when she was young, especially because she had very long hair until well into her 40s. But she had a massive mastectomy in her mid 40s and she couldn’t properly reach her head for a couple of years. Once she got used to having it done, it was a small luxury she could afford, so she did. Had she stayed healthy, I doubt she’d have bothered. She was a very hands on woman otherwise.

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