salon

My Kitchen Salon

We often make bread in the bread machine. And mix milk and whipping cream together to make our own half-and-half. And we try, we really try, to never eat out but by never I mean at least once a week at around 6pm we look at each other, exhausted, and we look at the kids, screaming, and we go out.

We have our indulgences. We’ve given things up. And while I don’t think I could ever give up my haircuts with Nicholena at Mitchell’s Salon & Day Spa (see her at the Northgate location, especially if you have curly hair—she’s amazing), I did agree to give up professionally dyed hair purely for budgetary reasons.

Only recently has my mom encountered a few gray hairs on her head. My head, though, has hundreds of them. I’d like to blame my children but she had three children, too, and taught a classroom full of kindergartners for 30 years so I don’t know why she’s just now going gray and I’m long past the plucking stage.

I can’t dye my own hair. I’ve never tried, but I know it would be disastrous. I’m not good with hair. It took me a long time to discover product for my own hair (and my hair needs product). My friend Greg once asked me to cut his hair with seemingly fail-proof clippers in college. He ended up with a bald spot on the back of his head. My sister asked me to dye her hair in high school. I still feel bad about the red streaks that resulted.

So Andy and I made an agreement: I would stop having my hair professionally dyed and he would dye it for me.

And that’s what we do.

I like to pretend I hate it. My kitchen is not a fancy salon. In fact, it’s not even a fancy kitchen, what with its laminate, muddy brown floor and 1980s cabinetry and chipped laminate countertop. Every few months I pull one of the cheap Ikea chairs the kids use at our dining room table and scoot it next to the dishwasher. I grab an old towel—the same towel we use for Tucker’s muddy paws, sick kids and large spills—and, after taking off my shirt, I wrap it around myself securing it with a wooden clothespin. I pour a glass of wine and while the dishwasher cleans the night’s dinner plates next to me, I debate: Garnier Nutrisse Dark Brown or Feria Deeply Brown.

Andy weighs in, takes a picture of the top of my head with his cell phone so I can see the difference between the previous color and my roots. We decide. He opens the box and fights with the plastic gloves designed for women. I note the brown bananas on the plate on the counter and consider making banana bread. He pierces the “colorant” tube and squeezes its contents into the “developer” bottle. I look at the paper-plate ghost Sophie made in preschool, hanging on the refrigerator. It’s December, I think. I should switch that ghost out for the Christmas crafts she’s bringing home. He opens the “fruit oil concentrate” and adds it to the mix. I try to guess what the crumb is underneath my bare foot.

Then, Andy attacks. He goes about his job with great intensity in part, because of love (I like to think) and in part, because he knows if the outcome is not good I will insist on having it professionally color corrected, which I’ve informed him is more expensive than just an all-over color. He apologizes for constantly poking me in the head with the bottle. He lifts up large handfuls of hair and applies, applies, applies, swishing hair this way and that, up and over, back and forth (I have a lot of hair), muttering to himself. He runs out. Determines he needs another box to adequately cover. He remixes. He applies some more.

Throughout the process he breaks to wet a paper towel and dabs my face—a lot of my face, I always think—to rid my ears, forehead, cheeks, sometimes nose (?) of dye gone astray.

Always, when finished, he swoops up my heavy, wet hair (he uses two bottles, after all) into a pile on top of my head. He peels the gloves off his hands and sets the microwave timer for 25 minutes. He brings me my laptop. And I sit. And I wait.

There’s not a Vogue in sight. There’s no softly playing music. My towel is often itchy. I grow impatient.

The timer rings. I go up to the bathroom, checking on the boys who we just moved to twin beds. I turn on the fan, start the shower and rinse and rinse and rinse, until my fingers wrinkle and the water runs clear—and cold. I exit, put on on my flannel pajamas and sit next to Andy on the couch. He critiques his work. He points out the few grays he missed, the nonuniform color. I realize the hair blow dryer is tucked away in Sophie’s bedroom from her night’s bath and I debate risking waking her up to get it or going to sleep with a head full of wet hair.

My kitchen salon is not glamorous. And I would be lying if I said I never wished for a salon-color experience. But there’s beauty—different than salon beauty—in my kitchen, too.

And for that, I am grateful.

“By common consent gray hairs are a crown of glory; the only object of respect that can never excite envy.” —George Bancroft