Thursday, August 25, 2005

What I Learned In My 33rd Year

Or maybe, "What Sank In During My Blow-Out."

I've been having trouble finding a salon that is close to me, that I like the look of, and that has hours that work with my schedule. A month or so ago, I found a small place in downtown Nyack that looked promising. They use all Aveda products, they have a nice brick-walled interior with Jane Magazines to peruse, and are a nice walk from my place. So I made an appointment to have a blow-out this morning.

The blowout is lovely, but those people didn't speak a word to me. I sat in silence while I was washed and yanked. My appointment was for 10:30 AM, and the stylist, the shampoo girl and the receptionist were ordering breakfast. And I was SO in the mood for Queen Latifah! I have a birthday tomorrow and a night in the city to look forward to! Where's the anticipatory banter?

Well, I was the only customer in the place. "Is it always this quiet on weekdays?" I asked.

"I'm the only one that's willing to work this early," my stylist replied. 10:30? I thought. The silence settled in again.

When he was almost done blowing my hair out, the stylist wrinkled his nose and said "When's the last time you had a haircut?" I wracked my brain, and came up with July 4th weekend. "I had eighteen inches chopped off back then," I opened.

"You need a cut," the stylist replied. Then back to the silence.

I guess you're not interested in giving me one? I thought to myself. I made a couple of other lame attempts at conversation. I told a funny story about a previous stylist that I thought might make this guy feel superior. (Male stylists seem to like that.) Nothing.

Very quickly, I was done, and the stylist just walked away from my chair without a word. "It's perfect, thanks," I called. He said something under his breath that might have been a "you're welcome," but I wasn't sure.

When I approached the receptionist with my debit card in hand, she informed me rather apologetically that they only take cash or checks. In this she-she place? "It's ok, lots of people don't know that," the gal soothed. "There's a bank right across the street with an ATM."

I ventured to the ATM, came back and paid the bill, leaving a $10 tip to be shared between two people for a $30 style. "You don't need to make another appointment right now?" the gal asked. "Not right now," I replied.

Probably the most unsatisfying salon experience I've ever had. What a couple of snobs.

So I walked down Main street towards home, and my eyes strayed to the little nail salon I've walked past a hundred times. I made a snap decision to spend the remainder of my cash on getting a manicure. I'm going out in Manhattan tomorrow night, I should really get my hands pretty. And manicurists are always chatty! As I approached the door, I noticed the salon had a deal - $23 for a manicure/pedicure. Great, I have $30 left! It's my birthday! Get the pedi too! I walked in, asked for the mani/pedi, settled into the bubbling footbowl, and relaxed.

My pedicurist was as chatty as my stylist. I was crushed, but English was not her language, so I couldn't blame her. She was at least very sweet and gentle, and wordlessly, genuinely concerned about my comfort. Maybe the manicure lady will talk to me, I thought.

About halfway through the pedicure, I noticed a sign on the wall that said "Manicure/Pedicure Special Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

Today is Thursday.

I turned to the manicurist sitting in the nearest chair. "How much is a mani/pedi on THURSDAYS?"

"Twenty-eight," she said.

"You're kidding."

"Is Twenty-eight dolla."

I made a face.

"You want manicure/pedicure, right?"

"No, I'll just finish the pedicure now. I don't have the cash without the special." especially since I know you AND this pedi gal expect more than a one dollar tip apiece.

I fidgeted. If I had known, I would have opted for the mani. Nobody's going to see my damn feet this weekend.

So here I am, with a lovely blowout and a beautiful pedicure, with ratty fingers and a feeling of emptiness inside.

The truth is, a girl doesn't go always go for beauty treatments because she wants to look prettier. A girl goes to a salon for the conversation. For the gossip, to help her forget her own worries for awhile. For the cameraderie. For something that feels like friendship. For something to take the place of friendship, when your friends aren't around.

While my toes were drying, I called my Mom. We talked about the second mortgage on their house, and some other awful money issues that I am powerless to affect. We talked about how Daddy is silent and uncommunicative when it comes to talking about finances. We talked about how awful it's going to be for me when they die and how it will kill me if I have to sell the house I grew up in. We talked about how that house was my safety net, if I should lose everything, and how it's pretty much gone now.

"Try not to worry about us. Have a good birthday," she said.

I left the salon, walked down Main street, and turned onto the street where I live. Several large machines and a collection of larger men were re-paving the road in front of our apartment building. I started jumping up and down, cheering. "IT'S ABOUT TIME!" I screamed, pumping my arms like a cheerleader. "WHOOOO, YEAH!" I clapped and bounced down the sidewalk.

The men all started clapping and cheering as well. It was like a Yankee home run, right there on the street. "THANK YOU!" I shouted, "THANK YOU!"

I guess I made their day. It's not those guys' fault that our road has been shit for two years. It's not their fault that, about two months ago, after they jackhammered the road surface off, leaving the two-inch-deep recessed, rumbly sub-surface exposed, that the order wasn't given to finish the job. They're just driving the machines and laying down the asphalt. Rolling it smooth. Warning me not to step in it while it's hot. They're finally getting done what some city bureaucrat didn't care enough about to push through until now. Yeah, I was glad to see them. I channelled my frustration into exuberance. I funnelled my lonliness and need for companionship into a genuine delight at seeing these hard working men doing something that benefits me directly. And they appreciated it.

They say that when you are feeling needy, you should give to someone. Maybe that's what I was doing. I don't know when I learned this trick. I also don't know exactly when I started to resent it.

My piano friend that I used to date said something to me once about how it's not ok that my needs are so seldom met. I shot back that I don't need much. He said that may be true when it comes to things - a new outfit, an invitation to a high-profile party, a prom date - but that when it comes to personal connections, I was kidding myself. It took me two years to figure out what he meant.

The need today was not for a hairstyle - it was for someone to talk to. On Valentine's Day, I don't need a fancy expensive dinner and wild sex - I need a heartfelt, simple affirmation that the love in my life is real, and will last. And tomorrow, for my birthday, I don't need to be made a fuss over. All I really want is to be surrounded by friends, in a good mood, enjoying ourselves and each other, and to be reminded that it's good to be alive, that it was good to be born.

Well, a little fuss is nice.

No, seriously: isn't this really what life is really all about? I mean, why are we glad we were born? We joke about it all the time: that silk dress makes you glad you were born, that sweet chocolate dessert makes you glad you were born. Yes, these things are sensual delights. But at the end of the day, what do we value most? Friends. Family. People. Knowing we are cared about. Knowing we are loved.

Tuna mentions in her post about love that we choose our family, and we bond ourselves to them. I guess for me, being born into a family of around 400 people, spending holidays with gatherings of 20 or 30 cousins, I never really got that concept until this year, when I am grown, and my Grandmothers have passed, and I find myself dreading family gatherings even while I'm picking out a new dress. I didn't choose my cousins, and if I could choose them, only a very few would remain. And those few... most of them have not chosen me.

I myself have changed so drastically over the years that my oldest friendships are now being tested, re-evaluated. I realize that I must choose my friends again... or choose to let them go. Two of my older friends are very much on probation right now, which sounds judgemental, but really it's very sad.

Today I set out into my little town looking for conversation, some laughs... maybe, a new friend. I was disappointed. But, I'll keep trying. A few years ago a day like today would have left me crying on the couch, headed for the bar later on in way too much makeup, drowning my bitterness in people who don't give a damn about me and screaming my frustrations into a microphone while the guy on guitar wonders exactly how much I stuffed in the tip jar. But not today.

Today, instead, I'm going to make salad dressing, watch some Star Trek reruns, and give myself a manicure. Then I'll have a spinach salad with G, watch some TV, enjoy the company of a man who has chosen me, and fall asleep in his arms, feeling lucky, liking my hair, and knowing that tomorrow, I'll go to work at a job I love, and meet some friends that I chose, who also chose me, to celebrate being alive.

And some damn good mojitos and fried plantains will surely enhance the mood.

After that, I'm going to keep partying. If anyone wants to come bar-hopping after dinner, come to Azucar at about 9:30. It's gonna be a night to make you glad you were born.


Wayne said...


I so need to get a hair cut... but they're so expensive...

There's this salon here in Jersey City... that's like... $22 for men ($35 for women) and doesn't even include Shampooing..and Styling!

My gosh. I guess I'm so used to the Chinatown/Flushing Salons.. where for $18 you get Shampoo-ing, Hair Cut, Blow Dry, Styling and even a back rub!!!

Jennirhiow said...

no matter what, birthday people still like to be wished.


Wilde said...

Well, you turned a frustrating day into a positive one. Cool. But God, I LOVE it when my hair stylist shuts UP and just lets me sit there without making chitchat. To each his own~! But you win the glass-half-full transformation of the week!

PatCH said...

What a lovely, lovely post. Happy birthday, Ouise!

*hugs and smooches*

nicole said...

regarding your salon experience: YUCK! i work part time in an aveda salon and i guess i thought that all of them were as cool as the one i spend time in. so sorry to hear i am wrong! you're right- we go for these treatments to be included, nurtured, LOVED even. the fact that we might come out pretty is sort of a secondary bonus, i think. bummer that these salon people just didnt get it.

if you're ever in CT i will direct you to a good one!

(by the way this is nicole from indigosoulflow)

Tuna Girl said...

I can't believe I missed your birthday.

I hope you had a wonderful day!

Sometimes I wish I could teleport. Actually, I wish that all the time. Because I would have loved to get mani-pedis and chat and drink and have fun with you for your birthday.

This was a beautiful post. And not just because you linked to me. ;-)