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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

At The Hairdresser

Spring has sprung and I need a new ‘do. Not that there’s anything wrong with my old hairdo, there’s just a lot of hair to handle.

One would imagine I would be the type to head to a salon where cappuccino and a manicure come with every cut. Or a body wrap and highlighted hair, accompanied by classical music and operators with exotic names. No. Instead, I make my way to the suburbs, where the names are just as foreign, the prices are pretty good, and the gab is great.

You see, I go to eavesdrop. It’s my once a quarter glimpse into the world-at-large. This is not my demographic. My people are in glass, high-rise office buildings, only to emerge once the sun sets. I take my leave of power suits and posh settings. For me, it’s a fun escape to see how the other half lives.

The first thing that I notice is that there are a lot of kids. This is my glorified get-away? Peace and quiet it’s not, but that’s okay. Turns out that the local children in this area are on spring break. Although Passover and Easter almost converge this year, that would be too easy on educators to give everyone the same vacation time. So all are getting their pre-holiday haircuts and I am thankful that I am an early riser in this first-come, first-served theater of hair design.

I hope to emerge with a style somewhere between a comedy and a tragedy, not too wild, not too mild, aiming for long layers all over, and that half of the volume would be halved again. Imagine an annual shearing of the sheep.

I am whisked into the operator’s chair for a consult with someone who does not speak any of the half-dozen or so languages that I speak, then off to the shampoo station where they try to sell me their inflated-price products, oohing and aahing over how damaged my mane must be.

“I’m good for now, thanks,” I dismiss the helpful Hannahs, as though I am sitting through a time-share condo presentation trying to mar my otherwise-affordable vacation.

Towel on head, water dripping around my ears, I spot my first oddity of the day. A young woman is having her hair colored nearby, the creamy goo spread throughout the locks twisted on top of her head. A pink baby carriage is next to her, all quiet, except for the lady chatting on her cell phone. A male customer passes by, chuckles at the baby, and then makes kissing noises.


I look again and can faintly see a tiny dog inside the stroller, a Pekingnese with the ubiquitous straight-up ponytail with pink bow. She must have seen the hairdresser first. I never knew that Misha and Grisha could accompany me….

My mind is focused on the large chunks of hair flying off my head, blond bunches scattered on the black cape. Yet, my reverie is interrupted by two elderly ladies who spy each other, long-lost friends who pause for an air-kiss and to reminisce together.

“Isn’t this weather something?” says one to the other. “Right when we imagine spring to be here, this cold and windy spell!”

“I know, I know,” her friend replies. “I go to my grandson’s lacrosse games in long underwear and still have to wrap up in a blanket to stay warm.”

“That’s how I go to bed each night.”  The two women laugh. Their love of life is infectious, along with their genuine smiles. How could I go to a “normal” urban salon that would cater only to 20 to 40 year olds, or at least those who appeared to be in that age range through artificial surgical interventions, and miss out on all of these gems?

A different lady takes the elderly one’s place as she exits. My hair requires the same amount of time as two or three regular customers. I glean from this one that “Alison” is getting married.

“Alison?” says the hairdresser. “The pretty, young girl?”

“Yes, yes, she used to come here, but now she’s very busy.”

“How old is she now? She looks so young!”

“Twenty-six just like my daughter.”

“But she looks much younger, like twenty-two, twenty-three.”

“Tell me about it–it’s called no stress!”

I peer between the hair flipped over my face. She has a twenty-six-year-old daughter. I could have one that old, having been married when I was ten, or was it nine? I examine her face, lined and weary, having seen better days. By comparison, I am a baby. Benedetto had better realize what a good thing he has going.

More kids come in. One preschool boy plays a kazoo. So here we have, not dinner and a show, but a cut and cabaret. He toots for all he’s worth. Another mom enters with a boy and girl. The girl looks to be about nine. I try to compare her to my soon-arriving girls. Her hair is long and slightly wavy, almost to the middle of the back. Why wouldn’t the mother trim it at home, how hard could it be to cut straight across? These are the mysteries to which I have not yet been initiated.

I wonder what’s in my future as my oldest daughter-to-be cut her hair short and actually colored it. Not that it looks bad, it’s just behavior that strikes me as more of a college dorm room dare than that of an indigent preteen orphan in custody. Happily, body piercings and tatoos have not yet made it to this remote Russian hamlet.

To my right, an older man talks about taking out his 85-year-old father to eat.

“It’s not easy to find a restaurant with food bland enough that he can eat,” he tells the whole story.

I ignore the story and focus on he and his father. My own father is in his early 80s, and this “son” looks ancient to me. I do my calculations. How could a paunchy, balding, baggy-eyed man with tufts of white hair, someone who lets himself down into the operator’s chair with a big sigh and the comment of “Older and grayer…”, how could this possibly be my “contemporary” with a father around my father’s age-?!

He couldn’t. His father had him when he was 20 years old, I conclude, as the harmonica toots in the distance.

Younger men confide that they dropped their children at a local theater. Grandmothers talk of distant grandbabies that they try to visit once every eight weeks. Housewives wonder what to serve fifteen guests for Passover dinner. Little ones are happy flipping through tattered magazines, while hairdressers try to get the customers in and out, without rushing anyone, aiming for financial goals written on a whiteboard tucked away by the cash register. There is a hum and buzz and rhythm of life, a healthy give and take that is often absent in the urban salons. Customers enjoy a pleasant experience, much like stopping at the local coffee klatsch for a chat with friends.

Each of these characters emerge from the hair shop, a new person. They have gotten issues off their chest while being worked on. Therapy and a trim. Their hair is nice, neat, shaped, and shiny. The old seem younger, the young appear older. My own ‘do is downright glamorous. Who cares if they charge me extra for long hair, or to blowdry it straight?

Effect achieved. I walk with the cool spring wind in my hair and the future stretching out before me.


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