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Beauty Parlor Etiquette

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Anyone who knows me can see that I haven't spent very much time in beauty parlors. When my hair gets long people start asking me if I feel OK. When I get it cut I must begin to look healthier because I stop getting those questions. However these visits to a salon aren't frequent enough for me to really know the do's and don't of beauty shop protocol.

For example, if I am in the chair getting my hair cut when another customer enters the shop, is it considered impolite to listen to the conversations between that customer and the lady who is working on my tresses? I can't help but hear what is being said, but is it OK to let it be known that I am hearing it? Should I smile, laugh, or look disturbed in response to the overheard conversation? Can I ask who they are talking about, or should I wait until the new customer gets under the dryer and can't hear conversation to ask my operator who they were talking about?

And speaking of the dryer, is it permissible to lift the dryer up a bit from my head so that I can hear what the other customers are saying? I have enough trouble hearing when things are quiet, so when the dryer is blowing in my ears all I can hear is that buzz. But I can see that the others are talking together and it looks like they are enjoying the conversation. It's tempting to get at least a glimmer of what they are saying, so should I lift the dryer just a smidgen?

If another customer is having a wax job on her face, what is the polite thing to do? Should I pretend I don't notice what is going on, even if they are right in front of me, or should I smile sympathetically at the patient -- I mean the customer?

It is so common now for women to dye their hair that there doesn't seem to be any reluctance in sharing that knowledge with the other customers. But how should I respond when I am asked if I want to cover up the little gray in my hair? I don't want to say that I trust Mother Nature more than my choices for fear of offending the other lady who is becoming a redhead.

The beauty shops in malls or discount stores are so public that I would feel very exposed to sit there with my head looking like a pineapple while people walk by. I prefer the small shops with clever names where I am limited to only a few onlookers. But the intimate atmosphere does bring forth the questions I have asked about proper manners.

I guess I inherited some of my shyness about such places. My mother wore her hair in two braids around her head for most of my life. I do remember when she had a knot at the nape of her head, but she changed that to the braids before I was very old. Only in her last few years when it was hard for her to shampoo her long hair, did she go to a beauty shop. So, as a child I never sat in a shop watching my mother get prettied up. But now I am grown up and haven't had the experiences some of my peers had when they were younger.

My final question however, is how much of what I have overheard or been told is it proper for me to relate to other people? Is there a client-customer code that makes it unethical to leave a beauty shop armed with items of interest? Or is that frowned upon as spreading gossip?

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus