Beautiful Girls

In the 1960’s crooner Johnny Mathis sang lyrics that came back to me today, “beautiful girl walk a little slower when you walk by me.” The song, “This Is All I Ask,” is from his album LOVE IS EVERYTHING.

I’m sitting in the waiting area of a moderately-priced beauty salon. All the women having their hair done today look to be in their 80s.

On my left two “blue hairs,” as they are affectionately known, because of the bluing rinse used to spike their white strands into brilliance, are having their hair done.

One customer is asleep in the chair. Hair in curlers, she’s waiting for her perm to set.

Another, also seems to be asleep, while her stylist Laura arranges her locks into a soft flip – somewhat like Marlo Thomas’ “That Girl” coif. The woman is beautiful. Her thin, but cascading hair, softens the planes and wrinkles on her face. Under the artificial light she’s surrounded by an angelic glow of hairspray as her stylist smooths the final locks into place.

Johnny Mathis’ voice fills my head again . . . “learning to enjoy at my leisure, all the simple pleasures.”

I wonder about her weekend plans. Is she going to dinner with family and friends, enjoying a game of Friday night bingo with a group of senior buddies or maybe rendezvousing with a new flame.

My stylist collects me. She guides me to her chair just as the tiny angel saunters past. Brisk and focused, she’s headed out of the salon alone. No wheelchair. No walker. I marvel at her agility.

I ask her stylist Laura, “How old is your client?”

“Ninety-one.”

“What? She’s so agile and independent.”

“Yes, she’s been with me for about 10 years. Only missed one appointment in all those years.”

“Is anyone with her? How’s she getting home?”

“Funny you should ask,” Laura continues. “My lady just lost her driver’s license. About 3 months ago. Eye sight. Couldn’t pass the eye exam. She was upset at first but, she’s such a nice lady, many friends have stepped in to take her around. She’s never at a loss for a ride. In fact, her friend is meeting her downstairs.”

Such independence. What a tribute to her spirit.

The salon walls are awash with mirrors. Now I can see all the salon occupants. Is the salon running a special? No, they’re mostly regulars who come every week or two. A couple of women have wheelchairs sitting next to them, one woman is attached by tubes to an oxygen tank.

Closely akin to seeing a woman without makeup, fewer acts are more intimate than seeing a woman having her hair done. I feel a bit voyeuristic but these women fascinate me. One day I’ll be them.

In one mirror a darling senior is having her hair teased, then gently smoothed into an updo. Pins and hairspray everywhere.

Another is silently sipping her tea while her verbose, animated daughter consults with the stylist. Mama’s head droops. Her face clearly displays annoyance. This should be a time of relaxation, the luxury of being pampered by her attendant. Instead daughter boldly usurps mom’s moment. What a shame.

Across the room the woman attached to the oxygen tank giggles with her stylist. They’re holding a gossip magazine, pouring over pictures, while chomping on a cluster of grapes. So sweet.

Stylist Terry wheels a chair over to the dryers to retrieve her client.  In the stylist chair Terry forms the hair into a modified beehive. Like dipping her fingers into cotton candy, she lifts then forms the locks into curls, teases, then reinforces the do with a massive coat of BigSexyHair spray.

Again, I wonder: what are these lovely ladies plans for the weekend, where are these sprites going . . .

In my head Johnny Mathis answers my silent quiry, “let the music play as long as there’s a song to sing, then I will stay younger than spring.”

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