What’s beautiful about a beauty parlor?

Even after 30 years of getting my hair permed, I’m still not used to all I have to go through at the hairdresser’s. Especially when I have to look my worst before I can look my best.

As someone who puts her lipstick on before taking out the garbage, I deplore coming away from the shampoo chair with my hair plastered to my head, and I pray that I don’t meet anyone I know.

Fearfully, I peer around, hoping that other customers look as bad as I do. But, suddenly, Horrors!, it’s not other women I see there, but my neighbor’s husband. Worse, he sees me!

If there’s anywhere a man shouldn’t be it’s where my hair is plastered to my scalp. The fact that his wife looks as bad as I do doesn’t matter. She’s married to the man. And why couldn’t she leave him home?

I return his wave weakly as the hairdresser summons me to her chair where she begins to twist some 250 rollers all over my head. And I thought I looked bad after the shampoo! Can he see me? Can they throw a towel over the mirror so that I can’t see myself?

Finally, with half the contents of the salon on top of my head, the hairdresser leads me to a dryer.

“I had them warm this up for you,” Daria says. “Is it hot enough?”

They must have turned it on at 6 a.m.! Waves of heat are emanating to the Chinese restaurant next door. Even the mailman takes off his jacket when he comes in here.

“Daria,” I ask, “can I get the dryer at the end. This is kind of warm.”

“It is?” asks Daria as she mops her forehead. “Okay, but that one will take a while to warm up. Make yourself comfortable, though. Here’s a magazine.”

Now there’s a good idea. At least it seems so until I try to put my glasses on and find I can’t squeeze them under all the towels and plastic wound so tightly around my head that they’re cutting off the circulation to my cerebellum.

“What do you think of this color?” asks the woman in the dryer next to me, as she thrusts a newly painted fingernail at me.

“Interesting,” I say. I find that interesting and unusual are words you can count on to cover almost any situation. “Maybe I should get my nails done too.”

Suddenly a table is wheeled right up in front of me, and I can only hope that the manicurist’s talent is as acute as her hearing.

“You’re lucky that I have a cancellation,” she says, as she picks up my right hand and holds it up for all to see. “Wow, what have you been doing to these nails?”

Not much actually. I thought if I left them alone they would know how to grow on their own.

“Cindy’s very good,” says my neighbor, as she waves all 10 fingers at me. “And she’s got a lot of great colors.”

If that were the case, I wondered, then why did she end up with such a vile shade. Before that could happen to me, I pulled my hand back from Cindy and reached for the color chart.

“How’s this?” I ask, pointing to a moderate rose that looked as if it had sneaked in there.

“Well, if that’s what you like,” she says. “Let your hand soak in this water first, and I’ll get the polish.”

As it turned out, my poor hands didn’t know what was ahead of them, and neither did I. In fact, I was hardly aware I even had cuticles until Cindy began pushing them back to my knuckles.

“Ouch!” I shrieked. “That hurts!”

Apparently Cindy was used to customers with a much higher pain threshold than mine. “Oh this is nothing,” she says. “Just hold still now and your nails will soon be lovely.”

And they were. I had to admit it. But they were still wet when my hair was dry. So while Daria combed out my hair, and for an hour after that, I kept holding my hands up in the air.

Finally it all paid off, and I looked as I’d hoped I would. Not that my neighbor and her husband were still around. But I was sure to see them again — the next time I looked my worst, naturally.

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