Why do we women spend so much time, effort and money on our hair-dos? Why is the perfect cut or the perfect style so elusive?  Why does our ‘do only suit us for about one week out of the year? and why do we care so much?

You guys don’t go through this. All you ask is a decent barber and a comb with most of its teeth. You probably don’t spend more than 2 or 3 minutes a day on your hair and you’re happy. If you can comb your hair with a damp towel you’re even happier.

My husband’s idea of a decent barber was me. No, I didn’t have any training but I did have a few things going for me. I owned some good sharp scissors, I was usually available, and I was cheap. Besides which, he had lots of curly hair, which is very forgiving. On occasion, if I didn’t happen to be available he’d been known to pick up the shears and hack off his own hair. As I said, curly hair…

I only need an operator for a new perm 3 or 4 times a year, no weekly visits. In that respect, I’m fortunate but even then I can run into snags. The last time I called “my girl” to make an appointment, she was recovering from a broken wrist.

“But don’t worry, Sugar, we have a brand new stylist for you. She’s young and full of clever ideas. Besides, she’s just darling. You’ll love her.” So how young is young as compared to too young, and how darling does she need to be? All I want is a good perm, not a new best friend.

Just “darling” turned out to be a walking example of Miss Clairol’s worst nightmare. A 24 inch purple swatch dangled from a bright orange top knot, set off against green bangs. Maybelline’s entire line of cosmetics decorated her face and  2 inch nails. Tight jeans and  stilettos completed the look. Let me assure you I was more than a little nervous as I stressed exactly how I wanted my perm done, right down to the timing,  which happens to be crucial. Oh, and no color, definitely no color. I tried not to shudder as I looked at her orange, purple and green ‘do.

“Doncha worry now, Hon. I’ve done lotsa perms, either 2 or maybe it was 3. You’re in good hands.”  This assurance was given to the tune of loud gum popping and chomping. Somehow I had a hard time putting a lot of faith in her, but Hey, I’m here now. In for a penny, in for a pound, or one of those old sayings, let’s get this rolling.

Just as I hesitantly seated myself, Adele’s latest hit “Hello” blasted out from the vicinity of a tight jeans pocket and she turned her back, parked her gum on the mirror, and spent the next 20 minutes twittering away with her back turned while I studied my nails, eyed the other stylists and clients and  stewed over the whole situation. Finally she hung up, grabbed a bag of Lay’s Kettle Chips and began stuffing them down.

With a remark that might have been  “I mffed mrunsh” she handed me the bag of chips and offered some. I declined. She stuffed another handful in her mouth, wiped both greasy, salty hands down the sides of her jeans, and finally picked up her shears.  I decided the grease might possibly do my hair a little good in some weird way, but I was pretty dubious about the salt.

She started snipping away. But wait, don’t we do a cape, a shampoo and then a cut? I brought this to her attention.  “Doncha worry now, Hon. This’ll be better.”  With no cape around my shoulders, tiny snippets of hair fell like snow – or dandruff – down my neck, across my lap, everywhere but on the floor where it could be swept up. She began slowly, slowly clipping  away barely noticeable amounts of hair. Surely I needed it to be much shorter? This was taking forever.

She popped her gum, parked it on the mirror again and delved into the bag of chips. “Adele” rang importantly, good for 17 minutes of twittering this time. Time crawled. What time do they close this place, anyway? I should have brought a sleeping bag.

After 45 minutes of slo-mo snipping, gum chomping and twittering, I was finally ready for the shampoo bowl. Grabbing a small towel, she gave me a fast wash, rinse and rub, throwing the sopping wet towel across my shoulders. Out came the rods and the perm solution, pungent, acrid smelling and eye stinging. WAIT! What was going on? She was rolling my hair from the bottom up! I questioned this, only to get another “Doncha worry Hon.”

By now my clothes were soaked, my eyes stung, perm solution dripped off my chin and I was gasping for air. Somewhere between the neutraliser and all the rinsing, a passing operator mercifully handed me some dry, clean towels. The bag of Kettle Chips was nearly empty and “Adele” was briefly quiet. Maybe we’ll get through this yet.

The jolt of the blow dryer turned on full force startled me. The hotter the air got and the drier my hair got the more it frizzed up. I wondered, can this be right?  Where were my soft curls? Why was I looking like an steel wool scouring pad? At least the heated air was drying my clothing and blowing all the bits and pieces of hair away.

4 long hours later, my frizzy ’do smelled of rancid Kettle Chips and had a mysterious pinkish aura, but it did seem to be done. I wanted this to end. I was so ready.

“So what do I owe you?”  “It’s just $90.00, Hon.” A bit much but I opened my checkbook. I’ve paid more.

“Plus $30.00 for the cut.”  Oh, the cut. I see. By now I just wanted to get out of there so I sighed and picked up my pen.

“Plus $30.00 for the shampoo.” My blood pressure went up and the pen quivered in my hand.

“And then another $30.00 for the blow-dry.”  Her gum crackled. Steam came out of both my ears, threatening to melt my new ‘do, bad as it was.  My mouth hung open and for the first time in my life, I was totally speechless. All I could think was  “This can’t be real!”

“Oh, yes, I forgot,” SNAP POP with the gum, “That’s another $30.00 for the Scalp Rejuvenation Therapy.”  and she was back to the Kettle Chips.  What the heck was Scalp Rejuvenation Therapy? Was that the 20 second fingertip scratch and rub?

“But I’m only charging you $20.00 for the mousse, setting lotions and spray.” More crunchy Kettle Chips, more greasy hands down the sides of the jeans. By now, “Adele” was ringing again.

I went ballistic! I screeched  “Let me tell you how it is, HON, you lost me on the second $30.00. Your tip just went out the door  and me with it, HON.”

I very grudgingly signed my check and let it waft on the breeze I stirred up as I flounced out. I never even learned her name.

I’m seriously considering a ‘do I can comb with a damp towel.


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