By: Suzanne Reisler Litwin
Hairdressing is in my blood. My maternal great-grandmother was a hair dresser/stylist. My 3 great-aunts were also hair dressers. They lived together in a three story home. The hair salon was on the main floor and the bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen were on the 2nd and 3rd floors. They lived hairdressing.
I love to cut hair. I blow dry and style my own hair. Although, I don’t do such a good job, I do try hard. My daughter is super excellent with her hair. I think it’s also in her blood.
When I was a child, I would cut my dolls’ hair. I tried to style it also, but the synthetic hair didn’t move well. It was during that time my Mother would take me to visit my great-grandmother and great-aunts at their hair salon where women sat with rollers in their hair under giant size dryers. Other women sat with what I called “the goop” on their heads. I suppose the goop of those days was hair dye or permanent solution.
Some women sat with goop and rollers in their hair, plastic sheets over their clothing, and glasses on the tips of their noses. Those women made me laugh. As a child they looked so silly to me. By the time they left the “Beauty Parlor”, they were great beauties!
The Beauty Parlor or Hair Salon was a very noisy, busy place. Much “yenting” (gossip) went on there. I suppose the only way to find out gossip was in a place like this or on the telephone which wasn’t used unless it was needed. My great-grandmother would often use the statements, “You don’t say?” or “Really! I don’t believe it”, when talking to her clients. I remember her clients coming into the hair salon looking messy, getting the goop on their heads, sitting with rollers and leaving so happy. They would say, “See you next week, Love!” The hair salon was a happy, noisy, busy place full of love and friendships.
My great-aunts were hair dressers well into their late 70s. They loved what they did.
When I was younger I wanted to be a hair dresser. I needed many Barbie dolls because I was always cutting their hair. I practiced cutting and attempted styling. I just loved to cut. As I got older, I studied Education and became a teacher. Perhaps I could have been an excellent hairdresser for children?
Flash forward 45 years and now I am sitting in a hair salon. I was concentrating on writing an article when I looked up into the mirror. I saw the reflection of an old woman sitting under a giant hair dryer with goop on her head, a plastic sheet over her clothing and glasses on the tip of her nose. I couldn’t believe this sight. It was me! I was the old woman with goop on her head. How did I become the silly looking woman I used to laugh about as a child? Where did the time pass?
After the goop was removed I blew dried my hair. The hair salon owner told me that I did a great job styling my hair. She offered me a job to be a hair drying stylist. I told her I would love that job as it’s in my blood! I suppose I could be a hair dresser if I learn and train within the profession.
My desire to cut hair is probably parallel to my love of gardening. I’m constantly trimming and cutting the bushes and shrubs in my garden. After I cut and shape a bush, I usually stand back and see the shape I created. It’s like an artist stepping back and analyzing a progressive piece of art. I would hardly say my shrub cutting is equal to an artist’s drawing, but it might feel the same.
The reflection of myself with the goop on my head was a “rude awakening”. Firstly, when did I get so old and is it time to be true to myself, to my DNA, to my heritage? Are we born to be who we are and what we do or is the path altered along the way? I wonder?
Free hair cut anyone? Joking!!!
Lastly, here’s a fun fact. My great-grandmother’s home/hair salon on Fairmount Street is now a Greek restaurant in Montreal. I eat there on occasion and think about what the place used to be like. Good memories.
Suzanne Reisler Litwin is an author/writer/columnist/educator. She contributes every Monday morning to the West Island Blog’s Keeping it Real Column.
She is an instructor at Concordia University in The Centre for Continuing Education. Suzanne is a freelance contributor to The Suburban newspaper. She is the author of the children’s book, The Black Velvet Jacket. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her 3 children, Allyn, Taylor, and Duke and her husband Laurie. Suzanne contributes regularly to West Island Blog under her column Keeping it Real. Please visit her website www.suzannereislerlitwin.com to read more of her published articles, books, and poetry.