The Beauty Parlor — Losing the Female Cultural Center

While sitting in the salon this past Friday, I was listening to a couple of the little old ladies who were in for their weekly do. You know, the ones who come in, get their hair washed, set, dried, fluffed and puffed, and after a heavy lacquering of hair spray, are on their way until the next week.

But, it really got me to thinking about the salon as a social gathering place. Sure, we go in and have our hair done, but most of us are tied up in a book, or our smartphone, and this gathering space of friends has slowly changed into another stop in our day, without taking the time to enjoy all it has to offer. Long gone are the days of weekly “do’s,” as we extend our time as far out as possible, so as to save money and eek out a few more minutes of “busyness” in our day to day life.

I remember taking my late Grandmother to the salon for her weekly fluff and puff, and what I witnessed was the equivalent to the proverbial hen house. Everyone was in there clucking away, sharing recipes, showing photos of their grandchildren, catching up on news in the community and, of course, gossiping. Plans were made for social gatherings outside of the salon, including their families, and inviting other friends by ringing them up when they got home.

The beauty salon is the place for female cultural experiences.

It’s all very Mayberry, and somewhat Foucaultian. But that’s the beauty of it. For many before us, and until recently, beauty shops were the cultural centers of female life. The social network of their neighborhood. While I realize there are some overarching statements here, if you’re a woman, there is something hallowed about being in the heart of a salon. It’s a sacred moment of self-care, where you, and others just like you, are taking part in a ritual which brings comfort and aids in what is an almost sacred quest for femininity, support while aging, and often times, unrequited feminism. Our hair speaks for us, loudly, boldly and with with utmost certainty.

This loss of connection in the salon means we’re missing out on community. In this life of connectedness, we’re not truly creating and maintaining real human connections. Now everyone is sitting with their face stuck in their smartphone and no one is making a new connection or communicating anything that isn’t via a miniature computer.

So where does this leave us?

It leaves us adrift in sea of people all with the same common goal. While I’ve made some amazing connections online, and many are real life friends now whom I’d trust with my life, I still enjoy that time sitting in the chair at the beauty parlor, talking to the people around me. These days, it’s not an established relationship, but I’m not out to make a new best friend. Yet, I love expanding my circle, meeting new people, and then taking some time to lose myself in a new hair magazine, wishing I could pull of bangs and platinum blonde hair.

  • Anne Parris

    I’m getting my hair done tomorrow (Jungle Red!) and I’ll be thinking about this when I’m in the chair.
    I used to go with my Granny when she got her hair washed and set, and it seemed like such lady-fun.