Every Thursday when I was a kid, my sister and I were hauled along with our mother to the beauty parlor. She had a ‘standing.’
That’s what regular, weekly appointments were called in the 1960’s. A standing.
Inside Ralph Delmonico’s buzzy shop, tucked into a tacky strip mall, there existed a visceral excitement — a vibe I felt even as a little girl.
Women tap-tapped their Viceroys into tiny metal ashtrays built into the arms of massive hair driers with clear plastic globe hoods. I’d sit watching as the women smoked and gossiped, bangs taped firmly onto foreheads as their voices and the smoke mingled in the den of the hidden haven.
It was all so grown up. So special. Like a secret society I would one day belong to.
No one called it ‘self-care’ back then. The standing appointments were a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that once a week, you went to a salon and for two blissful hours, had all the attention placed upon you.
Eventually, Ralph’s assistant would beckon my mother and seated her upon the throne of his chair. In my mind, Ralph Delmonico looked something like a Midwestern Dean Martin. My mom got teased and sprayed with Aquanet,™ and left the salon with a fresh, classic beehive.
During the pandemic, one thing I heard often from women was how much they missed hair and nail salons. How these businesses should be considered essential.
Some even snuck to their stylists or nail salons to be serviced behind darkened or shaded windows and then wore hats outside to conceal freshly colored roots. The lengths we’ll go to!
Women naturally gravitate towards community. Towards beauty.
It simply can’t be withheld for long. Beauty and community always find a way.
Occasionally, my mom would siphon from the grocery money to fund her appointment. Every night, she’d carefully swaddle her beehive with gauzy fabric to protect it as she slept.
In the morning, she’d unwrap and tease it again, puffing up the places that had flattened against the pillow. At the pool in the summer, she and her girlfriends compared the height of their bouffants as they lounged, watching us kids swim.
These rituals are important. Sacred even. Salons really are essential businesses. Important practices for women. I literally always feel human again when I leave the salon.
We need these rituals to stay connected with ourselves. To keep us humane in a world that encourages us to do more and more.
Women need to sparkle, to shine. To commune with other women as a buffer amidst the masculine world we inhabit.
Once, in California, I was heading into a salon in Laguna Beach with my business coach so I could get prepped and polished for a photo shoot.
As we passed, two Mexican workers stood aside, hushed, respectful, practically genuflecting at the secret, sacred ritual they could only guess about —their silence a witness to the solemnity of the salon!
Women must retain our magic, our mystery, to feel special. The world depends upon it, now more than ever. It’s essential business. Lady Business!