I took Mama J. to the beauty shop this morning. She doesn't drive these days, so we take her each Saturday morning. The second coming could be imminent, and she would not cancel her standing appointment at the beauty parlor. However, she would be perfectly coifed for her meeting with St. Peter. You see, she is one of those senior women who relies on what's known as the "wash and set" method of hair maintenance. Once a week, a stylist curls, backcombs, sprays and puffs Mama J.'s hair into roughly the same style she's had since 1972. She hasn't washed her own hair in years. It's not a method that I would choose, but it works for her. She is part of a dying breed of "wash and setters". Most women now opt for something more simple as they grow old, but for Mama J. and a handful of others, the weekly trek to the corner clip and curl is the only way to go.
There are some telltale signs of a member of this clique. First of all, they usually fill the shops on Friday and Saturday mornings. That's so the 'do will be fresh for weekend outings such as bridge, dinners and church. They each have the same time slot each week. Mama J.'s is 9:40am. Hardly anyone in the shop this morning was under 50 years old, and it was the same faces we see week after week. Woe is the stylist who goofs and books a newcomer in someone's standing appointment slot. Improving your time slot is a little like joining the country club. You have to get on a list, and someone practically has to die in order for an opening to become available.
The second sign of membership is the satin pillow. When your hair is combed only once a week, you have to treat it gently in order for it to maintain its style for seven days. Sleeping on a satin pillow, preferably the "neck roll" helps with this. Those satin pillows aren't always easy to find. We once spent an hour searching an outlet center for a particular store that was rumored to sell those things. Once we found it, we bought two pillows so we could have a backup in reserve.
The biggest sign is the rain bonnet. Keeping the hairdo dry is of utmost importance, especially early in the week. Despite mass amounts of AquaNet, the wash and set can be reduced to a sticky mess by the lightest of rain showers. Water must be avoided at all times. Experienced "wash and setters" never go anywhere without a plastic rain bonnet. We were once riding on a log flume ride at an amusement park when the elderly lady in front of us whipped out a rain bonnet right before the first big splash. No Boy Scout was ever prepared more. While it is rare for Mama J. to leave the house without her rain bonnet, she did get caught without one during a sudden downpour a few years ago. In fact, so did Aunt K. who was with us. When it was obvious that the rain wasn't going to let up, they both resorted to putting Walmart bags on their head in order to dash from the car to the restaurant. And they thought it would be more embarrassing to have messed up hair? Hmmm.
The wash and set method just won't work for me when I get old. I won't be able to stand the itching and the hair spray. I will probably be the old woman with a long gray braid because I won't know what else to do with it. Oh, excuse me...the long blond braid. I may be brunette now, but in the south, we'll go blonde before we'll go gray. So let's see, I'm going to need an appointment every six weeks for that, won't I?
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