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Mpls, MN, United States

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Incidents & Accidents

Friday, December 28, 2007

Salons and churches

Last night I went to a salon I've been to twice and blogged about once. When I came to the desert last Christmas I hadn't found Jim, so I'd had Nick cut it for me again, and when I got here this year, I found that Hi-Lites had sent me a "We Miss You!" coupon for a free wash, cut, and style. Although I wasn't really due for a cut yet, it having been just five weeks since I was fairly thoroughly shorn, I decided to take advantage of the coupon before it expired on the 31st and made an appointment for yesterday afternoon.

I couldn't have Nick again, since my coupon was for Stylist or Master Stylist and he'd been promoted to Designer since my last appointment with him, but a quiet girl named Nivianna gave me my cut and the best shampoo I think I've ever had, complete with aromatherapy massage. The cut and shampoo were fine; sitting in the chair under unforgiving florescent lights, surrounded by a gaggle of the highest-maintenance women I could remember seeing in one location, was rather disturbing. They were tanned, had colorful accessories and/or tatoos, and all bore chunky blonde highlights in their shiny hair; I was pale, sweatered, be-frizzed in the midst of my cut, and not at all improved by the overhead lights. I was definitely out of my element, and felt like a bit of a clod--a sensation all too familiar from my teens, but one I thought I'd mostly grown out of.

As I was revisiting the event as I shampooed myself this morning, I realized that my experience in the salon mirrored a lot of the problems people have with church. I had lucked into finding The Chair and Jim, through a friend's recommendation, and found it cozy and welcoming (with flattering lighting). Jim didn't chide or mock me for styling with "cheap mousse," not having had a professional haircut for nearly a year, or taking matters into my own scissors, as other stylists have done. Yet Nivianna questioned the evidence she found of his use of a razor on my hair, as well as my own decision to have my hair cut instead of letting it grow ("Yep, it grows in pretty spirals, like a princess! I'm over it," I've taken to responding).

Hi-Lites isn't unfriendly; a girl welcomed me from the reception desk, and after I'd been waiting for about 10 minutes past my appointment time, the make up artist who earlier had been chatting with another employee came over, sat on the bench next to me, and spoke with me while I waited for another 10 before Nivianna came out to shake my hand and take me back to a chair.

Most churches have managed to figure out the "friendly greeting" thing, and a few have even worked their way up to the point where regular members will actually engage visitors in conversation. Often, it does seem to be the obligatory, slightly awkward conversation of the type I had with the make up artist, but it's better than nothing--even if the one with her did make me feel a bit self-conscious about my own maquillage.

A more pressing concern, however, and one far more difficult to solve, is that very sense of self-consciousness. Just as I couldn't help but compare myself to the women around me in the salon, visitors to a church feel the same pressure. The regulars in both cases know the rules, the look, and seem to have it all together; the visitors feel like clods--especially if they're not frequent visitors to that type of establishment.

So, a great shampoo feels good and a decent cut is nice, but it doesn't outweigh feeling clod-like and out of place. If churches could solve that mystery, they'd probably retain more clients.