Being a Beautician

One of the results of COVID was letting my hairstyling license lapse. I only had one customer and I couldn’t safely be around her with her age and my inability to wear masks. It was kind of a relief because I never liked doing hair anyway. I was the only girl in beauty school who had never used a blow dryer or curling iron.

Back in the late 1970s there was a cusp between what hair salons had been and what they were becoming. Picture women in rollers under big hair dryers. Perms where the rods were connected by snake-like cables to a machine that cooked the hair (and sometimes caught on fire). And the transition to young men wearing their hair longer and not wanting to go to barbers anymore for crew cuts and flat tops.

That was my clientele – little old ladies with pin curls and finger waves and rollers. And young men who wanted their hair long and designs shaved into the sides, and tails. I didn’t have a clientele of women who styled their hair and highlighted it and got facials and manicures and their makeup done.

I couldn’t relate to those women somehow.

There was this one tiny, very old lady. Her hair was short and steel gray, except for an inch-wide white stripe she’d been born with that ran front to back down the center of her head. Instead of hiding it, she wore her hair curled up into the stripe to emphasize it. Can you imagine the kind of woman she was just from that one tiny piece of her personality?

Two elderly twin sisters came in together. Gladys died her hair carrot red and had so many stories to tell about her wild days and the mischief she still managed to find. She loved beer and hated her hot flashes and loved chatting up the young men waiting for haircuts. Her sister, on the other hand, rarely spoke and spent most of her time glowering at Gladys and shaking her head. She was the proper one, and when Gladys passed away she never got her hair done again. Can you imagine what they must have been like as young women?

I worked with a woman named Denise who wanted to ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle. But she didn’t want to rely on a man to help her if she dropped it. So she started bodybuilding in order to be able to lift the bike by herself. She ate raw liver at lunchtime and went on to compete in bodybuilding. And to own a Harley. I lost touch with her when she met a guy and they moved to Alaska to homestead. I imagine her tossing logs as they built a cabin.

There was a young woman who had been through a horrific trauma as a teenager and carried the scars hidden under her shirt, rarely shown to anyone. She was tall and lean and tattooed (shocking in the 1970s) and smoked and drank and had snakes for pets. She always carried a knife and said she would never, ever, be a victim again. One night after a Journey concert in Seattle, she and her boyfriend went in to a 7-11 store and ran in to Steve Perry playing the pinball machine. They played pinball for an hour or so and it was a story that always made her happy when she told it.

Oddly, there was a woman named Linda who told people I was psychic and could clear bad vibes in the air. I never knew where that came from.

I can cast spells on cats though.

I see this post is rambling and getting too long. Thinking about giving up that license and how much I really did not like doing hair, I realize now that the stories were what I actually did like.

How funny that it’s taken me so many years to realize something so obvious.

7 thoughts on “Being a Beautician

    • I had to force myself to stop. So many stories. Including one about a guy wrapped in duct tape who came in one night, put his hands around my throat, and whispered ‘you know who I am’. That Denise I mentioned that was the body builder? She was in the back room, came charging out, and chased him off. We never did figure out who he was.

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  1. So funny that you went to beauty school having never used a blow dryer or curling iron. But I can relate, having wild unruly curly hair too. Like you, I wasn’t crazy about doing hair. It was the atmosphere of the salon and yes the stories that are given to us, unsolicited. It always seemed like we were therapists as much as beauticians! Love your stories. P. S. I still keep my license because you just never know. Ha ha.

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    • I wanted to be a world famous archaeologist or a world famous writer. Mom gently suggested I remove ‘world famous’ from my goals, and then not-so-gently suggested I remove writing from my goals. She signed me up for the hairstyling class. And yes to also being therapists, marriage counselors, attorneys, etc.!

      Liked by 1 person

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