Like all of you, I have been getting my hair done all my life. I used to dread getting my hair done, it was too much work! Making the appointment, to wash or not wash my hair before I went, what color, how much taken off, rearranging the furniture, and making sure mom had time. You are probably thinking, rearranging the furniture, what is that got to do with getting your haircut? For me, it is part of the process. Doesn't everyone have to rearrange the salon to get their hair washed, cut, and styled? HMMM.
Transferred, manhandled, transferred, rearrange furniture
I love getting my hair done now. It used to be a chore. I would make the appointment with my stylist, decide on the color, cut, and style, then rearrange the furniture to make it all happen. The salon was very accessible until I had to get my hair washed and cut. I would have to be transferred from my chair to the low sink chair and then manhandled until my head properly laid where it needed to go and my back was up against the backrest. Then wash my hair and transferred from the low almost on-the-ground wash chair to my wheelchair. No easy feat. Invariably I ended up with a soaking wet shirt because I couldn’t get close enough to the sink. Because I have no ability to hold myself up in a regular chair I have to get my hair cut in my wheelchair otherwise I might come out looking like my father cut my hair.
The salon has to be rearranged to accommodate my wheelchair. In order to get my hair cut I have to dismantle the headrest. For those of you who have seen my chair, you know I have a lot, and that is putting it mildly of things attached to the back of my chair. I know Aunt Candi, I'm the bag lady. Mom has always said better to have something you might need and not use it than to not have it at all. Finally, I am able to get my hair done. Once it is complete I put all the stuff back on my chair and away I go. It was always a chore and I never really understood the meaning of the beauty of getting your hair. For me or rather my mom it was a lot of work. Thankfully that has all changed!
Thanks for finishing Beauty School
It wasn’t until my friend Julie went to Capri Beauty school In Nanuet that I discovered that salons can have chairs that move away from the sink. It was not a connected, one-unit inflexible piece. Julie needed clients when she was toward the end of her schooling. I was ready to support her. I really struggled with going because I knew what was involved and the salon that I had been going to I was finally feeling as though I was not making a spectacle of myself just getting my hair washed. Everyone knew me and my needs, but this was a new place and I was nervous. I wasn’t nervous that Julie didn’t know how to cut hair I was nervous everyone would look at me and I would struggle to get my hair washed.
Gotta rearrange the furniture first!
Getting your hair done is supposed to be relaxing. For me it was stressful. I couldn’t believe it when for the first time in my life I was able to stay in my chair get my hair washed and get a scalp massage. OMG! Those are the best thing going. No one had ever done one of those for me. Julie and her classmates made me forget that I was in a wheelchair. There was no shuffling of chairs or transferring. I could get my hair done without my mom. I felt so independent. Then the dreaded day came when Julie graduated from Beauty school. I was going to miss that feeling of independence, of belonging. Mom not only have to go with me she was going to have to lift me in and out of my chair just to get my hair done.
The full treatment
But guess what? The salon that Julie took a job with was just as accessible and welcoming. Shear Magique in Pomona not only had the removable chairs by the sink, the entire staff, including the owners saw me as a client not a client with a disability. Now you may think that it is because of Julie that this salon is so welcoming. Nope. I have a friend who told me about two separate occasions when she went to the salon. On one occasion she witnessed the kindness and inclusivity of the salon.
Respect, inclusion and acceptance
An elderly woman and her disabled granddaughter came into the salon. The granddaughter went around to each and every stylist and chatted up a storm. No one was bothered by her, no eyes rolled, no ignoring her words. They all had conversations with her and included her in what they were doing. This is the way it should be, but I can tell you it is not always. I have been to places where once the disabled person leaves everyone talks about how annoying they were. Not this place. On another occasion, a blind man came in to get his hair cut. When he was finished the salon called him a cab. He went outside to wait for the cab. The owner noticed after several minutes that his cab had not come. He went outside and told him to come back in, that he would watch for his cab so that he didn’t miss it. That is the kind of compassion and empathy that has been lost in the hustle and bustle of our lives.
When I get my hair done at the salon I go to now, it is very accessible and very inclusive. The best part about it is to get my hair washed. I don’t even have to have my mom transfer me into one of the sink chairs. I can stay right in my wheelchair cause the chairs move out of the way making room for my chair. Now I don’t have to worry about having a soaking wet back or slipping forward away from the sink because my chair holds me in. I am no longer concerned about falling out of the chair or worse hurting my mom's back by having to transfer me.
A little Glitter for the holidays
For me, the beauty of getting my hair done is now how everyone else experiences it. I can go with my assistant, Lisa instead of mom. I can get my hair done as often as I want. I can change the style, color, or texture without needing to be transferred from my chair. Yes, I still have to take the headrest off but that is because it makes it easier to get an even cut. It’s just one more thing I don’t have to rely on my mom for.
When you are in a wheelchair you rely on your caregivers for almost everything so I’m constantly looking for ways that I can remain as independent as possible. Now I need to switch my focus to no talking. It's hard cause after all doesn't everyone gossip to their hairdresser? When I talk, I am very animated, my entire body moves. I risk life and limb trying to avoid having the wrong thing cut by those scissors. The chatterbox that I am making holding still a challenge. For me, the beauty of getting my haircut is not the cut itself it is the independence that I have getting my hair done just like everyone else.
Thank you for reading until the end!
This is the view from my wheelchair, where miracles can make a difference. Always Strive for the Impossible. Come back next week to see how I light up Christmas and hear more about my experiences and The View From My Wheelchair.