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The Made-Up Whore

April 4, 2008
Yesterday I was sitting in the chair at the hair salon thinking which place I dislike visiting the most, the dentist office or the hair salon. Honestly if I did not have to maintain a degree of presentability, I would do my own hair. As soon as my hair was getting into my eyes I would take the scissors and hack off big chunks. But I cannot bring myself to do it, not necessarily for what others would think of me but for myself. I have to be able to tolerate my own appearance. A man that lives down the street crossed this line. I talk to him sometimes (well he talks to me, I cannot get a word in) if he is outside with his dogs when I take my little black bastard out. I have no clue what is his name but I know a lot of his business (His elderly mother died right after Thanksgiving, the people he rents to don’t pay their rent on time and the boyfriend smokes weed all day, etc). It was entertainment indeed during Christmas when he ranted about someone vandalising his Christmas decorations. In his stammering screed, the perpetrators went from being Jews to Nazis to inbred rednecks. I could not keep up with the analogy because I was too busy entertaining myself with the notion that he claimed to be an atheist and was fighting Jews or perhaps Nazis over his Christmas decorations. Anyway, this man has completely and totally abandoned all aspects of presentability. One day when he was warning me about poison oak (only a week before I actually did get poison oak) he was in this long white double breasted painter’s cape like shirt, plaid pajama bottoms, flip flops and his wild course grey hair made Einstein’s mane look tame. He is my barometer that helps determine what is too far and too much for a half-ass but determined indolent such as myself.

I most definitely despise the hair salon more than the dentist office. No, they must be equally disagreeable because I know all too well how I feel when I’m sitting with my mouth wide open being prodded and scraped. Why would I debate which is worse when it should be obvious, especially after hearing other women, normal women claim the salon is a treat.

When my oldest daughter was about twenty, she cursed me for not instilling the ritual of taking care of oneself. I thought that I did instill how to take care of herself. She meant the stereotypically type feminine ritual, a ritual that includes without effort or thought to wax, shave, polish, scrub, and pluck and to apply makeup daily (the more expensive the better), and to have a natural curiosity for the latest fashions (the more expensive the better) and the newest makeup and perfumes (the more expensive the better). I did not introduce that ritual to her because I was not familiar with it. I knew/know enough of it to feel inadequate. Not to imply that I have always been as indifferent as I am now but, even at the height of practicing femininity, I was far behind the curve. Of course I maintained proper personal hygiene, brushing my teeth twice or three times a day, washing my hair, shaving below my knees and under my arms (periodically), but the other stuff was/is beyond my reach from the beginning. Femininity costs money. I was very poor. As a teenager when I did have money I bought the basics that my parents did not bother with, like toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, socks, and underwear. There was no money for makeup, not even the cheap kind. I knew plenty of girls who routinely stole makeup, including my older sister. Interestingly, during my last yard sale, Mary Kay samples that I had accumulated sold faster than actual stuff. It was a spur of the moment decision to toss a bag of stuff outside and, with amazement, I watched as one after another woman bought the samples of foundation and eye colour and lipstick. When I became an adult, it did not immediately occurred to me that I should wear makeup, besides, even if I dared to have a curiosity, it was soon stifled at the thought of approaching snobby looking women working cosmetic counters. When I was about twenty-four or so a girlfriend introduced me to mascara and lipstick, both was easy enough to wear and the mascara helped wake up my face a bit.

As I sat in the chair at the hair salon listening to the owner prattle on about Cathy Jean wedges and silk wraps and gemstone bangles while she was getting glitter mixed into her gel nails and watching other women walk in and out of the waxing room and counting how many heads had foil wraps on or extensions or trying out the new Japanese straightening (wtf?), I asked myself what was really irritating me. It was not that salon in particular, it has always been that way for me. Since the first time I got a professional haircut (around 19), I dreaded the salon. The more I looked around at the different women the more irritated I became, I kept asking myself what is wrong here, then it hit me, salons are for whores. Shocked at my thoughts, I reasoned, “None of these women are whores. Why am I jumping from irritation for being here to saying the women here are whores.” I did not really think the women were whores (nor would I ever label a woman that) but because often my mind works like that, going from one thought to jumping to a conclusion without first understanding or processing the blanks in between I examined the connecting dots. I can at first assume something is a conclusion when in fact it is part of the middle or the beginning of a pattern that a part of me is trying to formulate.

My mother called most girls whores. When my older sister started wearing makeup often after school when we were trapped in the car with my mother waiting for my brothers to get out of school my mother would rant about how my sister looked like a whore. Looking like a whore was a very small step if not the same step as being a whore. When it was my teenage turn to experiment with makeup I felt the line drawn that determined how much makeup to wear and what colours and shades and techniques made me a whore or not, and how I could get my hands on said makeup, was too complex and muddled for me to tackle, so, I passed. Not that I was conscious of all of this, it was simply a self protective reaction.

The thing about my mother calling girls whores was using her own expressed definitions she was a whore herself. Not that I understood this at the time. There was just something not right in her venom when pronouncing whore that was too passionate, too personal, yet too far removed to indicate any signs of self-reflection. I knew she was cruelly wrong but I did not know how she was wrong.

I can remember many of the afternoons before unforgettable events occurred in our family such as my mother leaving us. She left us once every twelve to eighteen months. The unfolding narrative was always similar, my mother and father were invited to a party, a gathering, or she was going out with friends, sometimes with my father, one, or two of his brothers and their friends. We would watch her get ready in awe as she transformed from a miserable and raggedy looking mother to a woman of beauty. One time when I was nine or ten and my mother was getting ready to go out without any thought I asked what would happened if I told her that I ate an entire bottle of aspirin. I don’t know what made me say it. I was just sitting there watching her get ready as I always did and it came out of my mouth. She demanded to know if I had really taken a bottle of aspirin. “Tell me now you stupid girl did you take a bottle of aspirin or not!” I had to admit that I had not. Not that I really wanted to but there was something in the idea that led me to believe it was needed. Now I am inclined to suspect it was my childish way of preventing what we all knew was going to happen by the next day but none of us was actually able to consciously realise it. We were little stupid children for sure. Of course, the possibility of never seeing her again was always a standing threat. I do not recall anyone calling my mother a whore but there was something in my father’s manners that suggested she was at fault. Although some sympathisers would drop in to ask about my mother’s status, we, the children were never given an explanation, it was all hush tones and knowing winks.

Perhaps if there was a sustain level of makeup applied femininity, like an everyday use other than a going out “to get fucked” or “to find someone to run off with,” there would not be such a conditional association of makeup (and by extent perfumes, because perfumes, especially the loud and cheap kind that many teenage girls would dabble with were openly called whore dust or someone would note how the area where said girls just visited smelled like a French whore house) and whoredom. On the other hand, maybe if femininity had not been constructed and continually enforced, I would not have to waste time on this type of deprogramming and could enjoy taking care of myself.

3 Comments
  1. A-mazing Amazon permalink
    April 5, 2008 2:44 am

    I’ve never felt comfortable in salons, either. The atmosphere is so phony. Even when I was more into cosmetics and hair & nails I didn’t like to sit through any amount of time with those other women. I didn’t think much about how I hated them back then, but I do more now. I grew up with a fair share of salon experiences, but I’d prefer going to cost-cutters or some budget type place over going to a salon any day (I actually cut my own hair and have for years). Every time my mom paid for me to sit while some chatty salon woman cut my hair, I loathed the whole experience. Being around those women only has ever made me feel alienated and has always made me feel like I was in a house of dolls. I partly envy those women for being so oblivious, but that feeling soon fades back to hatred. arg. This is definitely an area that I feel like I need to work on inside myself, because my mind instantly goes dark when it comes to salon-type women.

  2. Kitty Glendower permalink
    April 5, 2008 3:44 am

    This is definitely an area that I feel like I need to work on inside myself, because my mind instantly goes dark when it comes to salon-type women.

    Yes there is something there and I am afraid that something has a whiff of internalised misogyny. It is not as if the work needs to be done to become one of these women (I’m referring to me specifically because I refuse to tell someone else what they need to do) but there is a need for me not to Other them in a not very nice kind of way.

    There is an oblivious type of phoniness in many salons, so severe if I went verbally postal, they would think I was crazy for sure, or worse, “Hatin’”.

  3. Unsane permalink
    April 6, 2008 10:51 pm

    I don’t enjoy the hair salons. It’s the sitting still that makes me edgy. I feel that I could spend the time in much more productive ways — hence my cutting of my own hair to save me time.

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