Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Did I Get So Freaking Old?

I knew it was coming. I was warned repeatedly (usually by people older than me) that it was inevitable. Someday, somehow, I was going to get...old.

Surely, this wouldn't happen to me. I might be wrinkling up enough to qualify as a spokesmodel for the raisin industry, but inside I was still juicy.

Until today, that is. Today, I feel like the turkey in the movie Christmas Vacation. You know...the one that exploded into a dust storm of dried turkey bits when they cut into it. Seriously, I may henceforth be required by law to have the words, "Caution: Extremely Flammable. Do not allow near open flame" tattooed on my forehead.

What happened, you ask? I went and got my hair cut, that's what happened.

Now, I've had my hair cut many times. Every four or five weeks in fact. But today for some reason, it just dawned on me how much the experience has changed in the past, oh, thirty years or so.

Used to be, there was a local beauty parlor in the neighborhood (yes, that's what they were called, beauty parlors, not salons, or hair-atoriums, or whatever the hell else they call them these days. Oh, and a man wouldn't be caught dead in a beauty parlor - unless he was gay and doing the cutting - they went to the barbershop). This beauty parlor had been in existence at that same location for as long as you could remember, probably since the invention of the scissors. Not only did you go there, but your grandmother, aunts, mother, sisters, cousins, and everyone girl you ever knew since grammar school went there as well.

Everyone knew everyone else. The beauty parlor held the distinction of not only being the only place in town to get your 'do done, but the best place to get your gossip fix as well. You had a standing appointment, and woe to the woman who missed it. Squeezing you in required you be read the riot act in full hearing of whoever was in the parlor that day, but it would get done, even if the beautician (not stylist, mind you) had to stay late. in after hours. Nowadays, you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than to get an after-hours appointment. In fact, back then, if you were sick, the beautician might just make a house call.

I remember the parlor in my neighborhood. It was on the corner, right next to the funeral home (and yes, I think some of the beauticians earned a little extra money doing color and sets for the recently departed).

There were three chairs in the parlor and only one wash station. There was also a sink in the back of the parlor behind a curtain that I think may have been a converted bed sheet, where perms were applied to lessen the stench in the parlor. Also in the back were two dryers which looked - and sounded - like jet engines. Good luck trying to hear anything short of a nuclear explosion while under those babies. There were always two elderly women parked under them, their hair pulled up into giant rollers the size of toilet paper rolls.

The thing is, getting your hair done back then wasn't a chore. It wasn't something you fit into your schedule - your schedule was built around your hair appointment. It was an afternoon out with the ladies, gossiping and trading photos of your kids and recipes. In other words, it was a social event.

Nowadays, with all the chain hair salons around, it's no different from coasting through the drive thru at Mickey D's. Ten minutes tops, from wash to blow dry, assembly-line format. Chances are good that the person who cuts your hair this month will not be at the same location next month. Every time you walk in, you take a chance that you'll walk out looking like Don King on a bad hair day.

Back then, you went in and got a hair cut. That included the wash, product (which amounted to hair spray, or if you were lucky, a little mousse), style and blowdry.

Today, everything is separate, like an ala carte menu. Oh, you wanted conditioner? Tack on another three bucks. Blow dry? Another five. I keep waiting for the day they start charging you by the snip.

Thinking about all this was what forced the astonishing revelation on me. I'm old. I realized I remember the "good old days." You may as well set me down on the front porch with fifty cats and a basin of snap peas on my lap.



  1. Oh my God - I was just thinking this is just like the parlor my Grandmother went to and that we always went to as kids (my cousin and I would go there with grandma and sometimes my mother or my aunt would go to)... I miss the good old days!!!

  2. Nothing wrong with a front porch and a basin of snap peas. But, yeah. These days that kind of beauty parlor does still exist, but I'm several shades too pale to go in. (I cut my own hair with pinking shears)

  3. I remember that sort of beauty parlor, and frankly, the place terrified me.