Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New digs

Gah! Nearly a month since I have posted. Self-flagellation goes here. I've been busy, and I have been trying to let go of "should." As a new self-discovery book told me, "should" implies that I have done something wrong. Instead I am encouraged to think of "could." So, instead of "I should be blogging," it becomes, "I could be blogging." There's a sense of possibility that opens about that. I could smoke a bowl or take a nap, both of which are appealing, or watch a movie, or practice yoga, or blog. Suddenly I feel a great sense of freedom instead of the hanging-over-my-headness that "should be" gives me. I can do whatever I want, and just enjoy the moment without feeling like there is anything more pressing I need to be doing. Considering that I work almost all the time in one capacity or another, there's no risk that I will really be wasting time. And I'm starting to understand the need I have for relaxation, downtime, that I usually dismiss as "should be" devoted to other activities. But that downtime, the mental off switch, keeps me from going crazy.

Haven't had much relaxation lately though...because I have found a new salon! Although I'm driving myself nuts running between two places, I can tell I'm going to be really happy at my new home. Today I have planned to work in the adorable cafe down the street, then practice yoga, then go to work at 2:30. Sounds pretty perfect.

I am all fired up about actually having the power to do things the way I think they should be done. To have someone listen to my suggestions and incorporate them into the way we do business? Heaven. I can't wait for the plum-colored accent wall and the paintings and a chandelier. Plus I get to swap waxings with my coworkers and have a receptionist screen out the crazies. It will be awesome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

the razor's edge

Hacked it all off this weekend. I had to. I could put it in a ponytail. By cutting my hair super short, it forces me to actually DO something with it. When it's long, I can just rat up the top, flatiron my bangs and shove everything else behind my ears. Weak style, that.

So I randomly walked into a salon this weekend that A-Squared and I stumbled upon in Santa Monica. And I said basically do whatever you want. And here's what I got: 

Cute, right? Now that it's pixie short, I can swoop my bangs down or push them up into a fauxhawk, put in a sparkly bobby pin when I need to be fancy, rat the top and wear a headband, or just put a crapload of wax in it and make like Edward the vampire. It's cool.

So let's talk about the miracle instrument that created it: the razor. How I love thee. Known for cutting the hair at a steep angle on the end rather than blunt across it like a scissors, the razor can be used with a guard that draws the hair into points across the blade, or more dangerously to the fingers, without. This bare-razor technique is not for the faint of heart, or the unsteady of hands. Although I never learned how to do a shave like that (that's barbering school, not cosmetology), I still love the feel of a fresh blade in the hair.

Tonight at work I used a razor on my last client's fine silky strands, and over the weekend on my sister's thick red wavy shrubbery. Amazing how one tool can flatter both. The reason the razor is so interesting is that while scissor cutting depends on the section width and steadiness of the shears, razor cutting depends on the angle of the blade and pressure applied. The hair is sliced one strand at a time, in a sharp point, releasing all lengths of hair in individual strokes. It's beautiful and styles like a dream, and there's absolutely nothing else like it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"You know, as a group hairstylists have the highest incidence of Alzheimer's," my sales rep says to me in his radio-quality voice. Deep and smooth like wood or whiskey. "It's all the exposure to chemicals," he continues.

My hand pauses, lavender bleach spilling over the edge of the scoop into my tint bowl. A tiny "poof" of powder rises upwards and wafts towards my sinuses, and thus my brain, to kill my brain cells one at a time. As if I haven't slaughtered enough already cuddled up next to my bong. "Thanks dude," I answer, leaning away from the bowl and dumping the rest of the bleach into it, squirting developer on top. "That really just made my day."

Minutes later the bleach is creamy and fluffy, looking like a particularly poisonous serving of blueberry pudding in my bowl. Each time my highlight brush leaves some behind on my finger, I swallow and carefully wipe it off, knowing that this touch is nothing compared to the faceful of fumes I get when I open foils that have been under the dryer. And let's not forget the time I nearly lost my eye drilling an acrylic nail in school, or that hair splinter in my heel that throbs when I walk.

My coworker's contact dermatitis is another thing. Forced to relinquish all her makeup and face lotions, to use special shampoo on clients, to wear gloves at all times during any chemical service, and to put up with the itchy cracked skin on her fingers, she suffers both an indignity and a hit to her wallet: she can hardly do color anymore.

I don't want that to happen to me.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Monday, December 28, 2009

t minus two days to tattoo!

I'm so excited. I'm getting tattooed on Wednesday. This will be my fifth tattoo technically, seventh if you count my cover-ups, and somewhere in the early 20s of hours I have spent under the needle. Oh yeah!!!! It's an interesting experience and one that I have found, for me, links my body and my spirit.

It's the first time I have really put that concept into words. But in recent months as I have struggled to own my spirit, my soul, and validate my feelings, my craziness, my compulsions and my boundaries, it has become more important that I lay a physical marker for that struggle. Keys give us access to secret rooms, they unlock and give new understanding, they open doors which have been closed to us. They allow for light to be let in, for secrets to be allowed and explored. Mine is about plumbing the depths of my soul.

The ribs is one of the most painful areas to get tattooed, they say. I have one on my foot already, which hurt almost unbelievably. It can't be worse than that. The line down towards my little sausages of toes is not quite steady because I was shaking and pressing them into the table, breathing hard to stay still. And not successful, either. So it will be a challenge to sit still on Wednesday and feel that needle bouncing off my bones and digging into flesh. And yet I am grinning with anticipation as I write this. Ha! I'm twisted.

Tattooing is an ancient practice, the term even coming from the sounds made as a sharpened stick coated with ink is pounded into the flesh. All kinds of mummified bodies have been found with tattooed marks upon them, from the Iceman (fourth or fifth millenium BC, damn that's old) to ancient Egyptians. I could even argue that it's in my genes to want to get tattooed, as Celtic and Pictish people marked themselves with blue woad for battle and religious ceremonies. My addiction to Wikipedia has enlightened me that tattoos settle deep enough in the skin to resist burns and drowning, which is why so many sailors tattooed themselves. Instant identification.

I think that's one of the concepts that appeals to me so much about my own tattoos. This is ME, the me that's on the inside coming out in beautiful, intricate designs. Of course imprinting the soul on the skin is a painful process: that's life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Perms and Cons

Blog #3

“Grandma combed her hair!” Patty says with disgust. And I wince too, at her description of the sausage-curled bangs and puffy back and sides of the old lady-fro that I had given her on my last visit. Since Grandpa had taken her to some Asian salon and had her cruelly scalped, I had to do her justice by trimming her back into shape and perming the shit out of the rest.

It doesn’t look good for old ladies to have flat gray hair against their skulls; they look generally much happier with nice soft curly hair. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to Grandma’s house every week, so we were forced to make do with a permed poodle do and an occasional shampoo. I had had to make use of the tiny blue perm rods, which make a near pipe-cleaner curl, and dear old Dottie’s hair stuck out from her head in a wispy cloud.

The size of the instrument determines the size of the curl, as perm solution basically disintegrates the hair shaft and re-casts it in the shape of the perm rod. Ammonium thioglycolate. A lovely blend of acid and ammonia, perm solution swells the hair, breaking the disulfide bonds which give the hair shaft its structure. Neutralizing solution oxidizes those bonds back into place just as rubber is vulcanized, given a new firm shape. The hair is permanently waved until it’s cut off.

Grandma’s perm is particularly demanding of me, not because she has so much hair or any technical issue, but because of the logistics. I work at her house and we have to make do with her kitchen chairs and the shower. This particularly is a pain in the ass, with much shuffling of shower chair and garbage bag capes and shower hoses and elderly women. I’m always glad things went according to plan by the time I leave and Grandma’s head is transformed into a pleasant marshmallow of a hairdo.

On old ladies, a perm is the stroke of a genius. On an adolescent girl, it can be a gesture of social suicide. Every girl in my Eighties youth had a perm, especially in fifth or sixth grade, and most of them were horribly misguided. I guess that’s just the learning curve of permanent waves, though, because from the very beginning there have been perm trauma victims. With courtesy to Wikipedia:

An early alternative method for curling hair that was suitable for use on people was invented in 1905 by German hairdresser Charles Nessler (1872–1951). He used a mixture of cow urine and water. The first public demonstration took place on October 8, 1905, but Nessler had been working on the idea since 1896. Previously, wigs had been set with caustic chemicals to form curls, but these recipes were too harsh to use next to human skin. His method, called the spiral heat method, was only useful for long hair. The hair was wrapped in a spiral around rods connected to a machine with an electric heating device. Sodium hydroxide, (caustic soda), was applied and the hair was heated (212°F; 100°C or more) for an extended period of time. The process used about twelve, two-pound brass rollers and took six hours to complete. These hot rollers were kept from touching the scalp by a complex system of countering weights which were suspended from an overhead chandelier and mounted on a stand. His first experiments were conducted on his wife, Katharina Laible. The first two attempts resulted in completely burning her hair off and some scalp burns, but the method was improved and his electric permanent wave machine was used in London in 1909 on the long hair of the time.

Well. See that? Suffering for the sake of beauty is always a noble cause.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pros and cons: glittery tips

Sigh. My fingernails are stubs once again. It's the time in their cycle when they have all just broken and cling to my fingertips in tiny ragged squares. My nails just aren't strong enough to take the kind of abuse I do at work: water, chemicals, repeated hand-washing. They look fantastic when they grow beyond my fingertips and I polish them. For about a week they will stay long enough to give a good scratch and pretty enough to look like real fingernails. And then they break again.

So lately I have been dreaming about fake nails. Acrylics, tips, press-ons, whatever, I'm sure they will look a lot nicer than the sad little hangnailed stubs I have right now. I want nails that will always be long and shiny and have pink glittery tips and maybe even rhinestone accents. There's something delightfully fun and tacky about having glitter embedded in your (false) fingernails. On a date a few weeks ago, my potential boyfriend commented that he was glad I didn't sport press-on nails. Apparently he objected to the aforementioned tackiness. There is, I informed him, a BIG difference between artfully sculpted acrylic nails and $2.99 plastic press-on nails. One should not confuse the two. Had he made this distinction, his previous date may not have taken her fake nails and hit the highway. I would of course get the proper kind, not press-on. I admit that it's my vanity at the center of this issue, but there's also a practical point to this: they help my work. I could turn my shampoos (which already include moan-inducing head massages) into a shivery scratchdown that would curl my clients' toes. And part hair quickly and efficiently by skating my pinky nail along the scalp. Plus my nails wouldn't peel and break from being waterlogged all the time.

However, I have a few reservations. Maintenance. Who wants to add yet another ritual to the beauty process of dyeing, tweezing, cosmeticking and styling? And if I can't be bothered to get a bikini wax on a regular basis, would I really feel like getting a fill every four weeks? Then again nobody is checking me out below the belt right now, and people look at my hands every day. Regardless of maintenance, though, getting artificial nails is quite a process. Priming to rough up the surface of the nail, application of powder and liquid copolymer, curing, filing and polishing. That's a lot of time spent doing jack shit while getting your nails done. Lady of leisure indeed!

Of course investing in false fingernails is a far different process today than it was fifty years ago. In the 1930s when acrylic polymers were just beginning to be used for artificial nails, MMA (methyl methacrylate) could not only cause cancer and lung disease, the substance hardened to such a degree that it was literally unbreakable. If a client caught her fingernail in a compromised position, instead of snapping off at the point of stress, it would likely rip her real nail off as well. Ugh. It's that stomach-twisting image of girls who have broken artificial nails deep into their own nail beds that gives me pause. Or my classmate in beauty school who had a spot of fungus underneath her acrylics that needed to be drilled out. What am I thinking???

Oh right. Pink glitter.