Dippity-Do and the Sacred Rituals of Beauty


I’ve spent an entire, glorious week just goofing off. I’ve written scads of good and not-so-good pieces, travelled to a typewriter shop in North Little Rock, sang “You Are My Sunshine” endlessly to The Perfect Grandson, and read whatever the hell I felt like reading. I watched old movies – Gaslight, Toys in the Attic, Adam’s Rib, and anything I could find to stay away from CNN’s election coverage. If we’ve entered into a new war, please don’t tell me until Monday morning. I’ve still got two more days of this mindless bliss.

It’s only fitting that I rounded out the spring break week by making a leisurely trip to the salon. Now, I go to the salon for hair and nails regularly, but those trips are squeezed between very busy hours of very busy days during godawful busy weeks. It’s a delicacy to stroll into a salon, grab a cup of coffee, and just hang out until I’m transformed. That’s what I did today. No clock-watching. No knee-bouncing hurry. And I just basked in the glow of not needing to be anywhere else but Athena’s Salon.

When I was a little girl, women performed the beauty parlor ritual at least once a week. My mother did. Every Wednesday she had a standing appointment at the Jo-La-Ru Beauty Parlor, a sacred place where women shouted gossip from under noisy hood dryers. The objective, as I remember it, was to come in looking fairly haggard and leave with a beehive so manicured, so voluminous, that it was difficult to sit upright in the Plymouth without harming the teased masterpiece.

It took a long time to achieve such hair, especially before blow dryers and hot rollers. And there were hair products then that I never see now like Dippity-Do and that pink tape for bangs. It was all brush rollers and Aquanet at Jo-La-Ru on Wednesdays.

And the talk! Well, I honestly never heard much of it, no matter how loudly Mom’s womenfriends shouted from under those hair dryers. Mom was an expert at distraction and always managed to Find Something For Me To Do. I was only in it for the sweaty-cold Coca-Colas in squatty bottles from the ten-cent machine. But over my head I could hear the hoarse whispers of ruined lives and substandard medical care. I wish I could remember the particulars, but I was too busy coloring and drinking Cokes.

What I did learn was invaluable. I discovered beauty and exactly what it took for a woman to chase it down and own it. I earned my diploma in proper lipstick application and using a teasing comb. More importantly, I learned that these women – when away from their menfolk and gathered together with heads full of brush rollers – these women became themselves. It was like someone told them all to collectively exhale and they did it. They smoked Bel-Airs and sat with their ankles apart and laughed out loud. They tore casserole recipes out of magazines and told stories I wasn’t supposed to hear. They went without girdles. All afternoon.

These country club women let loose on Wednesdays at the Jo-La-Ru Beauty Salon, and it was a sight to behold.

What I did today at Athena’s Salon wasn’t quite that shocking. We live in different times and there’s a woman running for President, for God’s sake. I sat there getting my nails done anyway, continuing at least some part of the beauty ritual my mama taught me. Tina (Athena) and I laughed and gossiped a bit and I left manicured, rejuvenated.

Just so you know, there was a good five or six inches of clearance between my hair and the moon roof of the Avalon when I left.

7 thoughts on “Dippity-Do and the Sacred Rituals of Beauty

  1. That is the perfect end to what sounds like a perfect spring break!! I used to get the best gossip about everyone in town when my mom would take me with her to get her hair frosted. It was greatness.

  2. And that was “frosted” – not highlighted, not foiled. Our mama’s had their hair pulled through caps with crochet hooks. That’s the sign of a real woman.

  3. My mom in that little cap getting her hair pulled through the tiny holes with a crochet hook will forever stick with me. I knew you’d know exactly what I was talking about!!

  4. Thanks for the memory prompt! I would go to the beauty salon with my mother in the 50’s. I loved reading the scandalous “True Confessions” type magazines that they had there. At least they were scandalous for a 10-year-old!

  5. I never got past the covers of those magazines before my mama quickly replaced it with a coloring book. But the covers were sometimes enough. I’m glad you had a little memory-moment. Close you eyes and you can still smell the perm chemicals.

  6. one summer when i was in college, i worked for state beauty supply delivering shampoo, permanent waves, brushes, shears, wax and everything else you can think of to hair dressers at salons all over north mississippi. it was the BEST job i ever had, because i got to see what goes on behind the scenes in “beverly’s hair affair,” “the clip joint,” “safari,” and “hair designs” (just to name a few): lots of dope smoking in the break room at some of them, lots of really good sex talk at the others. i loved how the hair dressers and their clients never missed a beat when i came in with their supplies, never changed the direction of their conversation for my benefit. i have lots of great hair shoppe stories because of it.

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