Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confession: I Dye my Hair... at a SALON

Every few months, my inner (and most of the time outer) alternative, go local business, feminist, thrifty self finds my body walking into the last place on earth it would expect: A “beauty” salon. And not a hippie-ish, subcultural, green beauty salon, but a trendy, has a jewelry boutique, caters to upper class women of the San Fernando Valley beauty salon.
The first time I went, I felt very uncomfortable. Not only had I never done anything to my hair (but get it cut at Supercuts) but, as I walked into the door, I automatically felt underdressed and misplaced. I couldn’t afford the products on the wall, most of the stylists had on Gucci and wore knee high leather boots, and even the lighting fixtures looked like they should be a part of a museum. But, I had a gift certificate in my hand – and a large need for change – so, I entered through those strange doors and went with it.
To be fair, my stylist is awesome. Obviously. I have visited her every couple months for the past five years. From my first visit, she has made me feel comfortable – we share book recommendations, she’s heard stories of my various boyfriends and girlfriends, and puts up with me showing her pictures of Droidlet every time I come in. She is very good people and very talented at what she does.
But when I’m there, there are two things that I can’t help but notice:
  1. How much I do not fit into the salon culture and
  2. How flippin’ judgmental I can be of other women.
And it is the number two that bothers me the most. As I sit there, I make “tsks” and sighs in my head at all the women reading trashy celebrity magazines, sipping wine at eleven in the morning, and spending hours there in the promotion of vanity. And I think these things as I’m sitting with foils in my hair, in front of a mirror (not reading a trashy magazine, though; I always bring a book). Going to the salon always highlights the reverse classism I have – I look upon with disdain these other moms and women with money, with Prada dresses and coach purses, who (I briefly assume) are so unhappy in their personal life that they resort to spending time plucking, primping, and prepping their physical attributes.
Yet, I am sitting right there, too. Yes, I try to convince myself that dying my hair is part rebellion (I will not settle for my natural blonde!) and that I am, technically, supporting a local business (my stylist rents her chair space from the salon; she’s not a member of the business but an individual contractor) but the bare bones truth is that I pay (way too much) money for pampering and a new hair color every few months.
And it honestly makes me feel good. I love the consistent change I get from my hair having a different color. I love that I get offered coffee, tea, wine while I am there. I love the two to three hours of uninterrupted reading time under the flattering lights. Granted, there is a part of me that just says “Dye your hair with henna!” or “That money could have bought Droidlet’s next few months of food!” or “Rachael, you are giving in to the stereotype that women have to change their physical attributes to be attractive” or “Why are you focusing so much on your physical appearance, which sooo does not matter?!” yet I always return.
If anything, it reminds me not to be so judgmental of other people. I am constantly preaching tolerance, acceptance, and compassion yet, I turn around and judge others (generally, upper class, white, heterosexual men and women). The fact that I do this bothers me and every day I work on rectifying it. I would never want Droidlet saying he didn’t like someone or want to be friends with someone because that someone had more money than him; I would get angry with Funk if he told me he was bothered by someone just because that someone owned a nicer trumpet; I get angry with myself when I jump to conclusions about the women in the salon.
And sometimes, stereotypes are lived up to. I hear lots of complaining about husbands/babies’ daddies, lots of talk about weight loss, and lots of talk about cosmetic surgery and tanning booths.
And sometimes, stereotypes are broken when I also hear lots of talks about charity events, animal rescues, and world politics.
I need to remember to check my judgment at the door (and out of my life completely) and view my time in the salon as a social experiment – including the (sometimes) hypocritical me.  


  1. That was a good one. Growing up in the SFV (and not the GOOD part) I remember the "stuff" needed in middle and high school to show you were in the cooler i.e richer group. It happens everywhere but somehow your post about those Valley ladies reminded of the same prejudices I have too. Great insight!

  2. And another great post. You sound so similar to me sometimes it's scary. ;) I, too, try to be non-judgmental and am proud of being a unique individual, but then I turn around and judge people exactly as you said, "reverse classism." I catch myself being very judgmental against people who have lived, as I view it, a privileged life when my family had to struggle for everything every step of the way. And I catch myself thinking, "God, if they only had to work hard for things instead of being handed everything..." So I totally know where you're coming from on this.