Paula of Lost in Translation has set up a non-challenge Challenge called Thursday Special as an avenue for bloggers to “wake up their creativity and show their own ideas and interpretation of the world”.
As I was sitting in the chair in the beauty salon the other day, I had a revelation that I wanted to write up to share in the Thursday Special this week.
On that day, I had to spend almost two hours in the hair salon to perm my hair. I was leaving for a trip on which I had to attend formal occasions and professional presentations. I would not have time to take care of my hair which was normally short and straight, let alone get ready in my hotel room with curlers like Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. My solution was to perm my hair, with a plan to finger dry it after shampooing it myself.
The shampoo was the best part of my appointment with my hairdresser, Maria. I lay down in the reclining chair and rested my neck on the groove of the sink. I closed my eyes while my Maria showered my hair with lukewarm water. She worked the shampoo solution all over my hair before rinsing it off. She was efficient but never rushing when she repeated her action with the conditioner. Then I felt her fingers, gentle but firm, starting to massage my scalp. This was the moment I was waiting for. My already half-relaxed body let go completely. At the end of each stroke, her fingers applied pressure to the vital points on my head. If one aspired to an “ohm” moment in transcendental meditation, I already attained my “ah” moment at Crowning Glory, with my hairstylist giving me a head massage. I forgot that I had left my house all stressed after a hectic week; I forgot that I had a list of errands to run after my hair appointment before I could to go home to pack for a trip.
“Let’s move to the other chair,” the voice of my hair stylist Maria sounded distant, but brought me back to reality before I drifted into an altered state of consciousness, with my hair wrapped in a turban and I was now sitting upright. I followed Maria to her station and talked about the purpose of my visit.
Still, for the moment, I watched Maria put the curlers on strands of my hair sandwiched between two thin pieces of paper and she squirted a chemical solution on them. I noticed how the method had not changed since my first perm that was inflicted upon a reluctant me by my mother when I was six years old, even though the stink of the chemical seemed greatly reduced comparing my present experience to that retrieved from my olfactory memory.
After Maria had left me with my head of curlers covered in a towel under a shower cap, and a cup of coffee and a magazine to wait for my hair to curl. I noticed the animated conversations between the customers around me and their hair stylists. The lady sitting beside me was having a blow dry. She raised her voice that I guessed the entire place could hear her.
“I have to be there almost three or four times a week. She says she is taking a course and has to stay back to do her homework. Then I get a call from Tom the night before asking me to stay with the kids when they go away for the weekend,” she did not sound pleased. I was more amazed though by the neutral yet tactful response from her hair stylist, “So it must be very inconvenient for you.” “You’d better tell her,” the lady said, “I know Tom wants a break but can’t she ask and say ‘thank you’ to me?”
When the blow dryer stopped, her voice subsided, and I was drawn to the conversation between an elderly gentleman and his hairstylist. He sounded tired but only too pleased that he could be out of the house for a brief moment to get a haircut and vented about his circumstances. By the sound of it, he certainly needed this reprieve from the constant strain taking care of a spouse suffering from dementia.
The two customers were not the exceptions, I realized. My mother, who is in her eighties, goes to her hairdresser for a “shampoo and set” every week before she meets her friends for lunch. Her friends apparently do the same. During these regular visits, my mother, like many customers, chats with her stylist. Only on one occasion when I met her hairdresser that I realized how much she had told her hair stylist about me and my family.
My revelation is that the hair dressers are there not only to create an attractive coiffure for the customers and pamper them with head massages, but they also become a social resource to some customers over the course of regular visits. These encounters of an hour or so transform from small-talks into a social support session as well. If the customers are willing to talk, the hair stylist becomes an engaging individual for them to open up to like a friend, or if I were bold enough to speculate, a therapist-of-sorts.
I believe that face-to-face interaction is fundamental to social relationships. Powerful as the social media for fast, instant and brief messages, they cannot replace what real human conversations can offer. A visit to the hair dresser is one of such encounters. You become relaxed after the shampoo and the disarming head massage. There is verbal dialogue, visual contact and body language in the interaction. The hair dresser is always ready to listen. This is the essence of human interaction that technology cannot replace. Maybe that is why most of us find a visit to the hairdresser so desirable.
I felt very content with the hair treatment and my beautiful perm when I left Crowning Glory to get on with my day. I also felt good that I had witnessed the celebration of REAL human interaction in the hair salon.