Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beauty Shop

Mission Beauty Shop

Today I was thinking about all the times I would accompany my mother to her Saturday morning hairdo appointments. This was of course when I was a young boy, maybe around 9 or 10. I consider these years my formative years. They definitely contributed to my well appreciated 'queer eye' for things, but more importantly, they were the beginning of my appreciation for how women turn to each other for support.

The first thing I noticed about the beauty shop was that nothing was sacred. You could talk about anyone, and anything, and I believed that for the most part, it stayed there. You could talk about your lovely husband, and how he surprised you with a special gift or dinner, or you could talk about what a piece of shit he was for not taking out the trash. You could talk about your son's standing on his sports team, and you could talk about your daughter's new boyfriend.

Sometimes the discussions were light, and there was lots of laughter, and sometimes more serious, and you might get a hug, and some supportive advice.

Mesh rollers under the dryer

I loved walking into the shop and listening to the many women. I think there was something magical happening. They were there to have their hair done. They were wanting to walk out changed. There was a process going on in which the aesthetics of being themselves was being transformed, if only for that week. It gave them the sense of rediscovering their beauty. It provided them with strength, and given the amount of hairspray used in those days, it gave them their armor as well.

Today I had my day at the shop. I went in also wanting some kind of aesthetically pleasing change. I wanted to walk out wearing something beautiful. I also sought this change as a way of giving me inner strength to return to my world, and I wanted to wear this change as my armor.

Getting Ink

I'm sure all of you know where I was today. No, not the beauty shop, but yes, the tattoo shop. I couldn't drag either of my boys with me, which is surprising, as you would think they would jump at the chance to watch their dad get tortured for hours. But my experience at the shop was really no different than my mother's some 40 years ago. My mother always had her usual 'girl' who did her hair. I had my usual 'girl' in San Francisco, and now have my usual 'guy' here in San Diego. Granted my appointments cost a hell of a lot more money than my mother's did back in the 60's, but I imagine with inflation, her hair appointments would likely cost close to what I pay for my ink work.

Beard Tattoo - 4th Sep 10 No3

My appointment was not just a time to get more ink done, but it was another opportunity to spend the afternoon talking with my 'guy' Keith. We talked about general things, like the weather, what was in the news, and our addiction to Starbucks. We then quickly moved to more important subjects, such as our kids and families. During my visit I received a text from my brother in law. It was one of those chain texts where you need to forward them to 10 people in order to receive some type of benefit. Today's text was about "I Love You Day." When I got the text I laughed, which quickly got Keith wondering what it said. I shared with him how far Michael's brother had come with sharing his feelings, and especially accepting, and celebrating his brother's gay marriage. I shared about how much my brother in law values the relationship I had with Michael, and how much love I shared with the whole family.

This naturally led to a deeper conversation about death. Keith carefully chose his words, and let me know that he did not know what it must be like to go through what I am going through. He talked about how different it must be to lose your spouse, as oppose to another type of loss. He often wondered how he would survive without his wife should he lose her. It was once again, one of those rare opportunities for me to talk about my experience, and to have a very active and interested listener. I have now spent close to 10 hours spread over three appointments, talking to Keith, and allowing him to understand the connection I seek between my tattoos and my loss of Michael. This is similar to the experience I had with my 'girl' Kelly back in San Francisco.

It makes me appreciate the type of person who chooses to enter the field of aesthetics. They offer us the chance to sit, and to enjoy each other's company. They also provide us with the aesthetic beauty we seek in going to their shop.

We walk out with strength and confidence. We walk out with our armor reinforced.

On a funny note, we also walk out, or end the day, with a household product covering our renewed beauty. Once my mother returned home, she seemed to immediately wrap her new 'do' with toilet paper and a bobby pin. This was supposed to preserve her 'do' for as long as possible. I left the tattoo shop with my arm wrapped in saran wrap. We spend all that time and money creating beauty, only to cover ourselves with a cheap household item found on isle 3 of our local grocery store.


  1. I love love love that photo of you ... it shows your character and your heart.

    It's great that you get to talk with the ink dude. Even better that he has empathy and knows how to talk with you.

    Can't wait to see the ink work.

    I love you Dan xx

  2. Well, glad you didn't get a hairdo. Yours looks fine. Ha.

    I've entertained the thought of a tattoo, but it's so permanent & I have no idea what I really want, so I've set it aside...

    It's nice that you feel a connection to the artists who are inking you...