I’m fed up with “hair salons” and want to find a good “beauty shop,” or even better, a beauty “parlor.” When I was a little girl, I’d tag along with my mother and grandmother to Bee Bee’s Beauty Barn, which wasn’t in a barn, and considered itself a “shoppe” — ultra fancy with an “e” on the end. Beauty shops always had a party atmosphere. Everyone was happy to see us, and threw their arms around us while they swished big vinyl capes around our necks. Only women were allowed inside the beauty shop, and men were appropriately sent to the barber shop. When my hair was done, they’d give me a coloring book or toys to play with on the floor, while the ladies had their hair done. They’d laugh so hard they’d often have tears streaming down their cheeks and I wasn’t sure if the crying was from the funny stories, or from the noxious cloud of Aqua Net hovering around their poufy heads.
Modern Hair salons seem like funeral homes compared to beauty shops. Everyone is wearing black, so they look like the Darth Vaders of the hair world, and their hair is stringy straight with no pouf to it at all — which is the sign of a shifty person. It’s dark and quiet inside, except for sounds of a rain forest in the background. The worst part of modern salons is that men feel welcomed and are often seated right next to the ladies. As if we want men-folk to see us with who-knows-what in our hair, looking like drowned rats. The young girls feel perfectly at ease discussing our split ends or greying temples right in front of strange men (or so I’ve heard). Instead of selling shampoo and conditioner, salons only offer, “product.” Everything is a “product.” Smoothing serum, gloss serum, it’s all product to them. And when they ask you what product you are currently using, let me just warn you, don’t tell them it’s anything from the drugstore.
Calling for an appointment at the old beauty shop was easy. “Tomorrow afternoon? Why of course, It’s your anniversary, isn’t it? Come on in and we’ll have you looking great for dinner. I heard your sweet husband is taking you to the Catfish Hut for dinner. You’ll be the prettiest one there.” But if you call the salon, you’ll likely hear, “When was the last time you were here? Did you see Courtney, Kortney or Quartney? She can see you in four weeks, three days and two hours.” You try to explain it’s your 23rd wedding anniversary and you have to look good for your date, but Kortney just laughs and says, “That’s such a coincidence. You were married exactly a year before I was born!”
The ability to hear gossip is the only consistent thing at both types of hair establishments. I don’t call it gossip, because that’s tacky. I consider it more a form of passing along important information. The beauty parlors shared information such as who got a new dog, who got a new job and who got a new baby — whether they were ready for it or not. Modern salons tend to talk about celebritites (I’ve never heard of — which makes it useless) or people in town under 20, which makes me keep asking, “who is his mama? Who is her daddy?” They don’t like that for some reason. I actually stopped going to one salon, where they over-blonded everyone, because the owner started making up her gossip. Along with their line of serums should have been a truth serum.
This story first appeared in AL.com in the Huntsville Times, Birmingham News, Mobile Press Register and The Mississippi Press.