Today was my every-five-week trek to the hair salon. I have short hair that is completely dependent on color augmentation. I’m on the downward slope to 60 and I’m still in denial about looking middle-aged, when I really should be concerned about being a senior! I tease my parents about being geezers when, in actuality, I’m right on their heels.
The hair salon is a fascinating sociological study in human relationships. Where else can a diverse, multi-generational cross-section of the community come together for one thing (personal care) and experience another (support)? It’s fascinating.
There are three stylists at the salon we go. They’re talented in their craft, but also have many other talents beyond the salon. One is a musician and regularly performs at various venues in town. Another moved here with her teenaged daughter after her divorce to be closer to family. She helps out in her sister’s boutique on Main Street. The owner was a court reporter before becoming a stylist, determined to make a life for herself beyond her small West Texas town. They each have their own stories that add color, texture, and experience to add to the shared wisdom pool.
The stylists have a lot going on in their own lives, but their clients are very open about what is going on in their’s. Surprisingly, there isn’t a drama atmosphere although there’s plenty of drama. There are weddings and deaths, children’s schedules and exes, health and economic challenges, fundraisers, the newest hot spots (yes, even small rural towns have them) and local gossip. And then there are the philosophical questions that come up (e.g., human trafficking as a form of modern day slavery) and before you know it, the entire salon is involved in a group session that is thoughtful and respectful.
Good stylists are a rare breed. They need to be very good at their craft, but they also must be adept at meeting the expectations of their client. Some clients have very specific ideas about what they want and are most difficult to please – at least that’s how it looks to me. To me, it’s just hair and isn’t the reason you go to a stylist is for them to use their professional skills to make you look good? After all, you are their walking advertisement.
The best stylists also create a supportive network while attending to your hair, without even thinking about it. Inevitably, another client will ask after someone who was in with them before, wondering how a surgery went or how someone is doing with the changes in their life. As they work, they listen and engage. The conversations may change and shift during your appointment, but they always come back to the most important issue and make sure you know they will be thinking about you as they thank you for coming in.
I’d love to be embedded in a hair salon. I bet it would be fascinating material for a book. The neighborhood coffee klatch may be long gone, but the hair salon is carrying on the vital role of informal human connection.