DECAMERON TALES #12 July 12, 2020
I needed the haircut and had for some time. Surveying myself in the mirror upon rising it was clear that I, more and more, resembled a Yeti. I spent some weeks trying to decide if the new persona was an improvement. The issue was decided by a new black kitten kneading the back of my head. I started going to a traditional barbershop many years ago. When I say traditional, I mean that the snipper was invariably a pot-bellied guy in suspenders with a cigar in his mouth. I could rarely follow the threads of conversation which invariably centered around sports.
So, when the salon at the top of the hill near our home opened, I made the plunge as did many local men. We were no doubt enticed by a prominent sign out front, “Men Welcome”. I wonder if the cigar-chomping barber might have equal success with a “Women Welcome” sign. I stayed loyal to the same “stylist” for a number of years, following her to a Torrington location. When in the course of time she retired, she passed me off to a much younger colleague, Miss Emily. Two days before my last appointment the salons were closed down.
Spurred by my pint-sized familiar, I called for an appointment. Many rules! A mask was mandatory of course. In addition, I was to be spritzed with sanitizer and my temperature read. If the thermometer was a mercury filled glass tube things might very well end abruptly. Those of you who’ve raised children will appreciate my caution here. As it turned out, the inspection routine was uneventful.
The level and nature of conversations in a salon is markedly different from a barbershop. They certainly are not more edifying or genteel, but they are often so unusual and exotic as to hold me in rapt attention. I quickly learned that this is terra incognita and it’s best not to speak until thoroughly versed in the tribal mores. I learned that lesson the hard way. A woman in a red dress finished her appointment and was scarcely out the door before the stylists, by common consent, were analyzing her motives for wearing a dress on this Tuesday. Is Tuesday not a red day? It never occurred to me that there were any particular motives involved for a choice of outfit. When I approach the closet, bleary-eyed in the morning, my day’s garb is on the closest hanger.
When I suggested that might have been the case with her, the young women stared at me as if I had baby eels coming out of my nose. Lesson learned!
Also fascinating in the experience of a women’s salon are the wide variety of methods used in the pursuit of beauty. Particularly intriguing is the goo ritual. Tufts of hair are slathered with a goo with a paintbrush and then rolled up in tinfoil. I initially thought the procedure involved electricity. Alas, it’s chemical. The result is a head of rotini curls. My imagination ran away with me, I fear. I eagerly anticipated a brilliant electrical flash, the delicious aroma of ozone and a modern interpretation of Elsa Lanchester’s role in the 1935 monster movie.
My first return to the salon several days past and much had changed. The chairs were further apart and the only sounds were soft murmurs. Even the lighting seemed dimmer although clearly this was not the case. Seemingly, the life had been drained away. The verve and enthusiasm reduced to a whisper. If the State held to its initial thought requiring stylists to wear gowns, it would have surely resembled an pharaonic embalming parlor. The comfort zones of our daily life are scrambled. The atmosphere was not fear but disquiet.
I shall continue to carry on with reasonable precautions and observe the passing parade of follies with interest and occasional amusement. This too shall pass.
PS I consider myself an exceedingly lucky man that Sal cuts her own hair!