Beautiful thoughts

a bay of new blooms
Almost literally.

I went to get my hair cut. While my color was setting I looked at some magazines. I read about People’s Most Beautiful and looked at pictures of Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo in Vogue or maybe it was Vanity Fair. And I thought about Sherry, the second wife in a play I’m working on, and wondered if she hates her husband’s first son because he reminds her how beautiful the first wife was.

How hard it must be to feel ugly in a world where beauty is pictured all around you. I think this Sherry character feels ugly. I see her surrounded by nail salons, tanning salons, walk-in spas, women’s magazines, hundreds of headlines about best-ever sex and perfect skin now and fashion must-haves for the coming season. How do you combat that?

While my stylist was chopping off all the hair I’d been carefully growing out for months, another stylist put down a magazine and said, “I cannot believe Kim Kardashian is having another baby shower. Didn’t she already have one?”

“I am very careful not to know anything about Kim Kardashian,” replied my stylist.

“I know, but isn’t the custom like, you have one and that’s it? Having another one is so tacky.”

“I don’t know anything about her,” said my stylist in her calm, steady voice.

“Me neither, but they are everywhere. I hate the Kardashians.”

“I ignore them completely,” said my stylist.

“Me too.”

I considered asking, “How can you simultaneously ignore them and know when one of them is having a baby shower?” But that’s the thing about salons. The magazines are everywhere. There’s no getting away from gorgeous women. If they weren’t stacked on every side table, convenient to every fingertip, displaying the latest in hair and makeup and health and celebrities and relationships and fashion, I’d feel shortchanged. I choose the first magazine carefully, page through it rapidly, and then choose the next not quite as carefully. They begin to run together, but I need to get through as many as possible.

It reminds me of being at Urhausen the other day with Syd. It was the largest single greenhouse I’ve ever been in, rows and rows of flowers, literally—well not literally, even David Sedaris isn’t safe these daysalmost literally, as far as the eye could see. I had to walk it twice before I could even begin to think about what I wanted to buy. Okay, not exactly twice. I walked it once and then started again, and then got a cart and started again. Does that count as twice?

The abundance of flowers was mesmerizing. Row upon row of zinnias and begonias and petunias and snapdragons and vinca and phlox and delphinium. I saw a man in the distance, watering things. On my second pass through I came across him and a younger man, setting up hoses at one of the million (I exaggerate) rows of flowers, each in its own long bay, with just enough room for a person and a cart in between. Many in the further bays, like the ones pictured, weren’t for sale yet. I guess they were still growing, or still in reserve. It was sobering, to see how systematically these huge flats of blooms are started and tended. I tried to meet the eye of the older man, first to smile sycophantically and tell him how beautiful everything was, and then to get to my point, finding out whether they carry lilac bushes, but he didn’t meet my eye. He was all business, and his business apparently was to tend the fledgling flowers. Like so many beautiful perfect women in magazines, the flowers were unique and fresh and yet strangely uniform.

It turned out to be a good thing I didn’t find a lilac bush at Urhausen, because my stylist recommended that I don’t buy just any lilac bush. She recommended a Miss Kim.  “They don’t get leggy like a lot of lilacs, and the blooms are very dense,” she said as she snipped away.

“I love the name,” I said. “Miss Kim.”

“Me too,” she said. “Like an Asian Southern belle.” Not too leggy, deliriously scented, mint julip with a lychee twist. Top that, Kim Kardashian.

Hair guilt


dog on rug
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

I went back to my old hair stylist after about a year. It was only awkward if I decided it was. I told myself that when I sat down. My goal was to not say “See you next time” when I left.

My stylist had to stop working for a while due to an injury, and her shop is a drive, one of those drives that’s a lot worse in summer and yes I could take pub trans but it’s not convenient, okay? Hair is a chancy business. While she was recovering, I’d found a much closer shop, one I could walk to. Although I was starting to feel a little hemmed in by that shop too–the friendly “See you next time” that made me feel obligated, the conversations I didn’t always feel like having, the guilty feeling when I wasn’t really crazy about my cut. Hence my return to this interminable drive down Damen.

I’d considered going to a new salon; in fact, going to a new place every time, so I’d never feel like I was cheating. But that’s silly. I can go wherever I want, and not make a big drama out of a simple business transaction. I told myself that as long as I didn’t say “See you next time” I wouldn’t be misrepresenting myself. I could walk out of my old salon totally free. Let summer come, let the bikers take over Damen Avenue. Let the busses belch diesel. Let the SUV in front of me stop for no reason, then go a couple of feet, then pause, then go a little farther, then signal to turn, then not turn, then turn the other way without signaling, just in time for the bus to get in front of me again. I don’t need to do this drive ever again. No one’s expecting me.

And yet, as she finished up, and I loved my hair, and we were all caught up on our lives and it was so nice to be back, I almost said it. I wanted so badly to say it. I couldn’t help it. She was on to greet her next client and probably didn’t see me put my hand over my mouth. She’s a business woman. I’m a business woman. I know how it all works. But it’s intimate, this beauty business. Here was the woman who recused me from a winter mullet. She knew my secret insecurities about bullet head hair and also bird hair, and also gray hair, and she made the monsters go away. How could I not reinforce our bond?

Coincidentally, Django’s regular stylist also suffered an injury and hasn’t been working. So lately we go to a nice little place in the neighborhood that we can walk to. Django’s experience at both salons is as follows: When we arrive, she attempts to walk casually past the entrance. I pull her back and we enter. She shivers pathetically until the groomer gets her into the tub. When I pick her up, the shivers are gone and the groomer tells me she was a very good girl. We leave, and she rolls in something disgusting the first chance she gets. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.