Monday, August 20, 2007

Coif Calamity at the Canton School of Beauty

Pour etre belle, il faut souffrir. To be beautiful, you must suffer.

I just got back from getting my hair done at Hollywood Beauty Center, where Esteeve, a bubbly Persian emigre who once closed up the store for Sacha “Barat” Cohen and did his hair for $250, made me watch “White Chicks” on a DVD player while he dyed away my gray and gave me youthful highlights. Last time I told him I didn’t think his other favorite movie, “The Professional,” was a chick flick and he should rethink his offerings. At least this time the movie had “chick” in the title. It’s the price I pay, along with the icky smell and the four hours of torment, for letting Esteeve make me “double – no triple – beautiful!” as he always says.

I do it to brace myself for the banks of fresh-faced students awaiting me at UM – Flint. Every year I am a little older than they are, of course, and by now, I’m so much older I’m practically a crone. I vainly think doing something to my hair will help. So I stoically cart myself into whatever hovel of female sado-masochism I distrust least, and reluctantly submit.

It’s a wonder I go at all. In the perilous business of getting “beautiful,” I got off to a very bad start. Today, sitting in Esteeve’s rowdy salon, the memory of my calamitous first encounter with official beauty flooded back.

I was nine, and I kept getting hints I shouldn’t spend so much time climbing trees and getting scrapes on my knees. I felt a melancholy ambivalence. I was proud of being a tomboy, and my mother seemed to like me like that. She was deeply skeptical, if not outright disdainful, of what she considered to be shallow blandishments and alterations like shaved legs, lipstick, padded bras, pointy-toed shoes and dresses that crimped and cut off a woman’s breath. Style? Nonsense, she would have said.

So the impetus for my beauty rite of passage probably came from Dad. An Indiana farm kid turned preacher, my father believed men should be men and women should dress like the Lennon Sisters. It’s not unlikely he noticed his little daughter was a bit haphazard in the “girlie girl” department.

I had naturally straight hair, and usually my mom hacked off a swathe of it for bangs across my forehead, making me look like a small Polish Marxist. I didn’t object or dislike my hair, but I was told if I went to the Canton School of Beauty, I could have curly hair, and, according to my dad at least, that would be a great thing. I could get “a permanent” and go to fourth grade with a whole new look....

For the rest of this account, go to and scroll down to "Essay: My Bouffant Bat Mitzvah."

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