Beauty, business

FIGHTING FOR BEAUTY

Hair salons are not spas. Neither are nail salons. Nail salons are not hair salons either. The beauty business is usually in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to most conversation. That is until someone needs their hair colored or their eyebrows waxed. But now- during Covid- the beauty business and all of its economics- gets lumped into one big pile.

Comparatively speaking, hair salons are much easier to get up and running than a nail salon or a skin salon or spa. Taking the obvious impossibility of social distancing out of the equation, at least in a hair salon the hair stylists are standing up above the client, they can wear a mask or a shield, and so can the client. They can sort of wear gloves, maybe a little more difficult cutting hair than applying color, but compared to a spa, a much more adaptable predicament.

Nail salons are right in someone’s face, again though easier to wear a mask since there is no direct connection with the face. But here it is a little trickier since skin is flying, cuticles, nail dust and potential of blood is more likely. Same with pedicures, and the common denominator with hands and feet is that they are known for their harboring of germs. Sanitation isn’t often what the multitude of nail salons are known for and there is little policing of it before Covid. I shudder to think of how this will be policed during.

Then there are the spas. The skin studios. The businesses of skin beauty that are not medical. Medical falls into a different set of rules and regulations for monitoring best practices. Spas fall under beauty and, again, the regulations, though they try to be clear, most sanitation happens because of the good consciousness of the owners and the systems in place for running a strong operation.

There is also the obvious to me, but clearly not so obvious to the people deciding who will open when, and that is the physical aspect of getting a service, completely different from a haircut. Logistically it is easier to separate, often the services are in separated rooms, closed off from each other so this is a plus. But these rooms are often less than 8×10 and have more of a deliberate cocoon feeling on purpose for the intimacy these services provide. These services offer respite and care.

They offer intuitive touch, closeness and deep breathing. They are about great skin so this means, lots of massage and mask applications, hand to face connection that has now turned into hand to face combat like a war instead of the love they were set out to give.

They are about pore cleaning, yes with gloves, but blood is sometimes a possibility, they are about intimate bikini waxing, closer than this writing needs to write, but I am guessing you get the point. Again gloves are used, but then there is the disposing of all of this.

I think there are three E’S to consider.

Engagement. Environment. Economics.

The latter two are pretty obvious, but the rules of engagement make it impossible to perform the services that the spa business commands. The business we are known for. Touch. Intuition. Hugging. Hand shaking. Getting under blankets, changing into gowns, more sheets and towels than I care to think about, (well… how about $1500 a month for the sanitized linen service in case anyone was wondering).

At my business, and many other spa business owners this unfortunate pandemic has introduced me to, we have always done it the right way. Despite the fact that we are mostly under regulated, often barely mentioned in this world of Covid, but employ hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women.

Women who will find it difficult to return to work for all three of the E’s. Their kids are no longer in school and they are home, home schooling, they are rethinking their entire career choices wondering if they will ever get back to the business of beauty and touch they have loved for their careered lives.

And not so much when and how, but if they even want to. And yes. These are careers for these people, not a hobbies or silly playing store kinds of jobs.

The beauty business is a multi billion dollar business employing millions of people across the world. There are the makeup counters, the retail, the gyms and yoga studios that have saunas and steam rooms and whirlpool baths. There are the hotel spas, the small one room and the large twenty room spas. There are the franchises.

Are we doomed? No. But for the next two years as we slug our way out this mess, we have some serious grown up business decisions to make. Last night, I listened to Tiffani Faison, a multi location Boston restaurant owner and James Beard nominee. She was being interviewed by Jim Braude from Greater Boston and she was saying the exact same thing I have been saying.

If we are expected to operate at less than a certain level of productivity, we operate at a loss. Our business models rely on a certain amount of traffic. We, in the beauty business whether we like to admit it or not, sell time. The more time we sell, the better our businesses operate.

Selling a certain amount of time is what sustains our companies. Without this formula, it is impossible to work unless landlords want to drastically cut our rents in our high rent districts that afford us the opportunities to have the businesses we have. And they have to make a living too, they have their set of parameters that make their businesses of landlording run efficiently.

This is a conundrum. Reinvention is a possibility, but how? My landlord said to me recently, Alayne, you’re a fighter. He doesn’t have to tell me something I know deeply about myself.

But the unique question is not whether I am a fighter, but rather, do I want to fight?

I love my business, I enjoy my team immensely. Many business owners can’t say this, but I can. Sure, I realize that they are employees and I am the employer, but my team is my heart. I go to bed, just like I heard Tiffani say last night, thinking about what I am going to do, how am I going to operate and sustain their livelihood. And mine. Because without my livelihood, there is no livelihood.

I fight for my company, but I also fight for safety. We can’t possibly open under these conditions in the way that my business model and every spa owner I know operates in. I am not willing to take on boatloads of debt for a business that may or may not be a sustainable operation in the next two years just to reopen half ass.

Clients are all letting me know they can’t wait to come back, but what does that even mean? Will they? I don’t even know if my team will be able to come back, and it is not because of their stimulus checks. I am tired of hearing that this is the main problem with people not returning to work. My team has no childcare, they have to worry about their safety in a business of intimacy like no other.

I always said that the business of beauty was one of the mighty ones.

Liquor and Lipstick, the two businesses that historically thrive during a recession. My business has never steered me wrong, but this time, I am really not sure what type of business I am fighting for.

I myself have been getting pedicures, waxing, haircuts and facials since I was sixteen years old. That is forty years of beauty. My mother got me started with beauty early and I knew that this was my calling early on. For the past nine weeks I have missed at least eight beauty appointments that I would have had if not for Covid.

Oddly, I have managed. I am still alive. My toenails don’t look as bad as I thought they would, my long hair easily mends with a pony tail elastic. I miss my facials, but there is enough of my product to virtually learn an at home facial, not nearly the same, but it is good enough for now. Waxing is really the only thing I really need, but thankfully it is not short season so I have lived without this service too. (And for the amount of calories I have consumed on a daily basis, shorts will likely stay right where they are for quite some time anyway).

What I have found amazing is how much I have lived without. I have saved enormous amounts of money from not spending it on my beauty routine. And I was pretty simple before. So this leads me to think that as much as clients will want to return, will they return at the rate they did before?

The greatest thing about aging is that the fight is not based on ego anymore. Sometimes choosing to not fight is the person who wins.

We shall see.

Beauty, business, grief

LET’S FACE IT

Churning. This describes my brain. My stomach. My heart. I try to meditate. I meditate. I walk outside almost daily for fresh air and to keep my heart energized and calmed, a contradiction out of the gate. I attempt to workout with my variety of accoutrements, a Pelaton, a Nordic Track, weights, virtual workouts from my gym. 

I say (every night before I go to bed), tomorrow is Day 1. 

Day 1— again. 

It is so easy to plan for Day 1 the night before with a belly full of sugar and wine. 

But this is my pattern, when the times are the most stressful, the most chaotic, I decide to do some twenty eight day fitness challenge. 

I’m in a master mamma group with two powerhouse female business owners. One  said, with a frankness I have come to appreciate, “Alayne, why would you quit drinking in the midst of this disaster?” 

“This is just what I do.” I replied, so matter of factly, it almost sounded normal. When the times are at their most dismal, these are the times I decide to take on a brand new health challenge. 

I laugh aloud. If I didn’t, I would be sobbing aloud. 

Let’s face it. The beauty business, the business I have raised myself in, raised over fifty women in for the past thirty years will never be the same, or at least will not be the same for at least the next two years. 

And it is the next two years that are what concern me. I know that if I look at the after, everything will be back to a new normal, social distancing will likely be a thing of then, but it is the next two years that frighten me. 

My Providence landlord, who has unintentionally mentored me for the past eleven years, has given me at least three unsolicited pep talks. “Alayne, you are a fighter.” He says this with so much confidence that I have to remind myself, Yes. I am a fighter. Just being a small business owner equals auto fighter status. 

Every single day, we small business owners have to think in a way that employees don’t. We are mostly a group of control freaks that don’t know what to do when we are out of control. This is the work we do as leaders as we transition through the growth from playing store to grown up bad ass leaders.

And I wouldn’t change this for the world. I love being an entrepreneur. There are facets to this title that define my brain. Creative power, charitability, kindness, strength, linear thinking, leadership, direction, grooming, beauty, humanity, lifting, figuring shit out. Empathy. Seldom do we let our employees see our vulnerable sides. As entrepreneurs, it is our duty to keep our chins held high and to lead our troops, no matter how much of a sinking heart we may have.

This time, though- this time, we are amidst a global crisis. Together, with no clear direction. The how. The when. None of it is really obvious. And I, in turn, am part of the crisis rather than the head of the pack. Someone said to me yesterday that I am a leader in the industry. It is true that I have a big voice in my community and in my industry. 

But I am tired. 

Maybe if this was happening when I was thirty, I’d feel more of a passion to fight the battle and come out badder ass than ever, but I am fifty-five fucking years old. I have had enough battles already and I can’t see how this is going to be repairable in the short future. 

As I write that, I feel like I am letting my industry voice down, my team, my clients, but how much life coming at us can one business owner take? I wish I did, but I don’t. And this in itself is a revelation for me. It actually feels liberating and powerful to say aloud, I don’t fucking feel like figuring it out. 

Let’s face it, my beloved beauty business, the business of touch, the business we already have one of the best sanitation procedures in, will not be able to perform the way it did. My employees and I will be expected to reinvent our entire business model with no clear direction that when we do, it will even work. This is a traumatic event, and we haven’t even started to repair from, let alone grieve its loss. 

So I write. I write my heart out, my guts out. I share my thinking so that it leaves my body instead of taking up permanent residence and I feel better saying it aloud. 

Writing is therapy. Letting my brain relieve itself of its busy and constant yapping calms me immediately.  I feel better just admitting what I know many like- minded entrepreneurs are thinking. Recognizing that there is an elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged is my superpower. Saying what people are fearing out loud is the quality I enjoy about myself when I get right down to what I really would miss if I was no longer. 

This is the crux of the problem I now recognize through this piece today. I don’t have a fear of not having my business, I have a fear of not getting to be the leader I have loved being. 

I have worn and grown into my leadership cape with every trial and tribulation that has come into my life and fought it with a fierceness to be reckoned with. I know now that what is surprising me the most is my lack of interest in the fight this time around. I am releasing the need to fight and instead just lying back waiting for the course correction I know is there, but I don’t want to be the one to have to make the decision. This has never been who I am, lying back in the wait and see. I am an action figure. Running to the trunk to get the cape before I even know that there is a fire to be put out. 

What I realize about the cape and all of its superpowers is sometimes not putting it on is a strength, just allowing it to stay in the closet or the padlocked trunk and not trying to figure out how to solve or fix a problem is the lesson. 

I don’t feel like redoing every single protocol, figuring out how to communicate this to every client so that they feel less afraid to walk into my business that is already clean and sanitized and safe. The cape is put away and after all of this sugar and wine partying, I am not even sure it would fit around my expanded girth. 

It has been seven weeks today that I closed my beloved company and I haven’t even grieved that loss yet. Though the money is what makes it function, it is about the integrity of everything I have worked for. It is about feeling a deep sense of responsibility to my team in thinking about how the hell am I going to afford to bring them back when we can’t operate the way we used to. It is about the loyalty I have to our clients who trust that we will figure out how to reopen and the pressure to do it “better than ever.” 

But then, like the magic that comes with the rewards of reinvention, I was invited to be a guest on some national calls to speak on this unintended reinvention. The beauty company, Gloskinbeauty I do business with, asked me to speak about my virtual beauty ideas and curbside product delivery. In the midst of the chaos, little golden nuggets come at me reminding me that what I am doing does make a difference.

Yesterday, after finally taking my head out of the sand and facing the inevitable budget I had been avoiding like the plague, (if only this was a pun), I came home to a hand delivered bag on my front porch. My account representative, from GloSkinBeauty, had driven from her home in Boston and delivered a fully stocked bag of homemade Italian goodies. 

Apparently, she hadn’t received the memo that yesterday was Day 1 and along with the homemade delights were two bottles of my favorite wine and a card that said, “You’re kindness made a difference.”

My kindness? Hardly. This changed my night. Made my heart sing and yes of course, Day One got bumped to Monday where all Day Ones happily reside.

As this essay works itself through me today, I feel better already and more hopeful.  I stopped writing for a brief moment to film my fox family that has taken residence in my backyard for the past seven weeks. I took a detour to my email and Facebook where I found lovely comments on a video I had posted from my team that made me remember that I have one, the strongest and most caring group of women who work for me and alongside of me for twenty years. 

As I checked my email, I came across a note from a client we have been taking care for our entire twenty years in business. Its simplicity and timing brought me back to my reality and out of the nightmare that closing my business has been. Sure, the product order itself is lovely, as I have said, we need money to make this business clock tick. But more important is the word TRUST and EFFORTS. 

Alayne,

How are you? I miss seeing you, and of course my other fav goddess, Jenna! Thank you for your continued efforts in promoting self-care during this time. I always trust your beauty feedback! I would love to place an order (your video was awesome). Could I purchase the Glo hydrating gel cleanser, Pro5, Super Serum, and toner (whichever you recommend for my 46 yr-old-skin)? And I would love to take a drive to Bristol whenever it’s ready 🌞. Talk to you soon 😘

With gratitude,

Catherin

There has never been a shortage of effort from me, and trust is how I have built my business, one client at a time. I realize now that the cape I own is not something that needs to be worn for people to have to visually see my strengths and goodness. After all this time in business, this is just something that my clients and my team know about me. This is what makes me get out of bed to face another day, cape or not. 

With gratitude, Catherine, indeed. 

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IT’S NOT ME

IT’S NOT ME

I love dresses. But dresses in the New England winter are not as convenient as they are in the warmer spring and summer days fast approaching. I have found myself in a bit of a fashion conundrum- totally hip and happy in the non winter months and, eeehhh gads, yoga pants and turtle necks in the blustery cold. I make no excuses. I like comfort and once I crossed the fifty mark and oh yeah, those pesky cancer diagnosis, comfort always prevails. I like comfort and ease, but I also like to look nice and let’s face it, yoga pants are not a fashion icon.

The month of May brought me to the five month mark of no shopping and I am pretty proud of my accomplishment, but as I looked around at my closet, I realized that with all of my cleaning out, what was left behind was a dismal collection of darkness. The lovely summer go to dresses of my past glorious travels to Spain and Israel were starting to have some wear and tear. With my son still having two more years in college to pay for, another trip other than a visit to Florida to see my grandfather is not part of the plan. Besides, I know how pretentious it sounds that I can only buy replacement dresses when I travel to Europe and Israel, but goodness their dresses are the best. So with no prospects that lay ahead, there just had to be a dress shop I can make my own.

Oh wait, but I am not shopping. A predicament. So I dropped the idea and blasted off to the new butcher shop that took the place of Persimmon Provisions in Barrington, RI. Barrington Butcher Shop. As it turns out, the proximity of the dress shop I have aimed to go into for a few years, happened to be right next door. So in my dingy yoga pants and Life is Good tshirt that I had been wearing for my gardening clothes all day, I walked in bright eyed and bushy tailed forgetting that I likely looked like a homeless person or one of those salty old money women from Bellevue Ave in Newport who used to come in to Cherry and Webb’s makeup counter for free samples. I worked behind the Estee Lauder counter in the early eighties fresh out of esthetic school and it was a trip down old Newport lane that I didn’t realize as a twenty two year old.

The woman at the dress shop behind the counter was clearly unimpressed with my potential as a shopper but I prevailed. “I always wanted to come in here, but never have!” I exclaimed happily to her giving her some bait so she could sell me some of her wears. No bite. She hesitated sizing me up as probably “not a chance.” I kept at it though because there have been so many milestones since last year. The breast cancer, the adjustment to the new boobs, the permanence of realizing that I am past the point of easily dropping even five pounds now that I have gone through menopause. All of the emotional and physical ins and outs that have been part of my last three years plus just a different person when I look at my reflection in the mirror. All of it was carried in with me when I walked into Zuzu’s all unbeknownst to the innocent salesgirl who had no idea who she was about to engage with. This is what I love about sales, you never know the stories of the people who walk in and it becomes your job to figure it all out without a preconceived notion that can make or break the whole experience. I decided not to go rogue in my usual fashion trying to teach her a sales lesson and just kept at it. When she finally came out from the counter realizing that I could actually be serious, she started to tell me a little about the mass of highly patterned dresses surrounding us. Judy something or other, and a variety of women’s names who apparently make the dresses that meant nothing to me frankly. I am standing there in hiking shoes and yoga pants- highly unlikely I was going to be the type of shopper who shops based on name recognition unless I am standing in the middle of a Lululemon store. I went along with her though because she looked so excited to let me know her knowledge of the clothes and the designers who made them. I kept thinking, Could I really wear these dresses? They are not me.

I love boutique shopping because it is so easy when you have a salesperson who understands client care. It took the saleswoman a few moments to warm up, but once she realized that I was truly interested in trying on clothes, she began the ascent into the glory land of my personal stylist. I tore off my clothes and began trying on dress after dress. I have a weird rule in the dressing room ( I am pretty sure those of you who know me are not surprised), that if the first item I try on looks great, it is going to be a successful shopping experience. First dress? Check! It looked stunning if I do say so myself. I felt amazing as I traipsed out of the dressing room into the bright light of the store and gazed at my reflection staring back in the big mirror. Then ‘the voice’ kicked in. It’s not me, it said. This dress is not me.

But I looked, and more importantly felt, so beautiful in almost every one of them. I had a sudden conflict that needed immediate correction. It’s not me. Why not? Where was this voice even coming from? The no shopping rule went out the door. And so did the commentary running like a wild animal in my brain. All of a sudden, a magic shift came to me like a bright light turned on in a pitch black room.

BUT IT CAN BE!

But It Can Be darted in as a replacement part for my brain. As I tried on the endless dresses and falling in love with each and every one of them, Leah, my new best friend saleswoman showed me a pair of the craziest wild patterned pants. They’re not me, I immediately thought. “BUT THEY CAN BE!” My new improved mind opened up like a peony in the morning. Before I knew it, I was buying three dresses, two pairs of the wildest pants and three tops to the tune of a trip to Europe. So much for not shopping, but this new mind shift was worth every penny. I work my ass off and I have worked my ass off even more these past three years. I have a brand new body, but even better a brand new way of thinking. This in itself was worth all of the tea in China as I can hear my grandmother’s voice saying if she were still alive.

As it turns out today in my inbox from one of my favorite alanon chicks was this daily and perfect quote.

“If you never change your mind, why have one?”

Yep. Now on to the shoe store because we all know that with new dresses one must need new shoes too…. I’m on a roll, might as well go till end of May, I can start my no shopping again June 1, I’m having way too much fun right now creating a new me. Because It Can Be.

Photo does not do this dress justice.
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A FASHION SHOW

A FASHION SHOW

“You are really inspiring, Alayne.” Or something to that effect, my friend Maria said as she coupled the kindness with the request to be part of the Gloria Gemma Fashion Show, named Our Heroes Fashion Show, this upcoming Saturday evening. She has been one of the many lovely women who has read my writings and usually gives an enthusiastic thumbs up when something strikes her.

I write so much and many people read what I write especially around the time of before and after breast cancer. I am one of the lucky ones because there is the after breast cancer I get to write about. What I learned from the cliché gifts many people mentioned when they first learned of my diagnosis is the permission slip to say no to many invites that came my way. In this particular instant, I would have never even considered a no. First off, I met Maria at a RI Hospital breakfast I was fortunate enough to be invited to by my lovely bad ass Dr. W. Maria and I formed one of those instant chick connections, not the kind where we are hanging out and drinking Proseco together every summer eve, though I would love that, as a matter of fact, we haven’t seen each other since. Actually we haven’t even spoken since that lovely breakfast with the brilliant female doctors who RI Hospital is lucky to have so when I got the ask to be part of this fashion show, how could I say anything but a big happy yes. That was like five months ago and here I am, my fashion show debut at the RHODES ON THE PAWTUXET. The west bay version of the Venus De Milo, the mecca event space where weddings, proms, charitable events take place and I am going to be very small part of a really big and impressive effort from all of the people who support the work of the Gloria Gemma Foundation.

I love powerhouse women. I love knowing them, being in their company, engaging with their energy fields and watching their tireless work ethic that their deep passion fuels. I could probably name fifty women in RI alone without so much as a blink of an eye. They are not in it for the accolades; the accolades are the result of their efforts. The efforts come from a deep special space only accessed by passion. I know that feeling and when I am around it, it is magnetic. This is why I said an uninterrupted yes when Maria asked me. This is why I traipsed to David’s Bridal in North Attleboro, Mass on our first 85 degree gorgeous could have been at the beach but wasn’t going to happen day to try on the selection of dresses that awaited. I hadn’t realized until I got there all of the intense efforts by Mandy Zito who was there waiting with a big confident assuring smile to try on the last seven choices left from the other twenty two models who had made their way there prior. The pickings were slim, but as I started to head into that judgmental place so easy to head to I was quickly brought back to the point of this whole event. We are raising money for a powerful and focused grassroots RI organization that does only amazing things for breast cancer and survivorship. Wearing a dress that wasn’t perfect or to my likings was the whole point of this entire breast cancer experience anyway. Releasing control. Allowing the natural unfolding of things to take place for a higher purpose and good. The peaks and valleys along the way are the point.

From the day late call I made to plead for two tickets for my only two chick friends who were available to come cheer me on in my coral taffeta as me and my fabulous breasts would be sporting down the runway and Jane not sighing and only smiling to try to help me get the tickets I had procrastinated in ordering. Then there was lovely Mandy at David’s Bridal saying with a perfectly straight face, “You will need to be at Rhodes at 2:45 to have your hair and makeup done.” The event isn’t until six pm, I immediately thought, I have gardening and barn cleaning and a workout to get to on Saturday. There I went, that self-serving mind chatter forgetting albeit briefly that this day was not about me. I was here to serve, not be served. I was here to be humbled and appreciative of all of the care and love that has been graciously offered for the past three years. And to support the thousands of other women who had the diagnosis and needed help and support from their friends, their families, their doctors and Gloria Gemma.

“Yes, of course I will be there.”

“Did you want to do your own makeup and hair?” She asked knowing my business of beauty.

“No of course not,” I said, hopefully without hesitation. I want to be part of the whole event, not just a snippet. When was the last time I got to sit and have someone do my hair in some fun wacky fashion show way, or some crazy runway too much makeup application. Breast cancer from the get go has been an out of the box experience. I joke that it is the gift that keeps on giving. From these events, from the relationships I have formed and the ones that have left me, from the appreciation of the medical professionals we have right here in our own state who have brought me to my knees (and not the way I prefer, haha). I have a softness in my heart that I am not sure I had before and a humility that is now a permanent fixture in most of my decision making. There is a sense of urgency to get shit done, to make life happen and to also try not to over commit to the undeserving time sucking that no longer serves my soul.

I bow humbly to the women I know and I don’t know yet who cheer me on and support everything that Gloria Gemma stands for. And I can’t wait for my recap of what I know is going to be a super fun experience completely out of my comfort zone as I lean in to all of the nuggets that have tumbled towards me since this whole shebang began right after my fiftieth birthday three short years ago.

#Luckyindeed #lovelybadass

the other rockstars in the party.
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THE BEAUTY PARLOR

THE BEAUTY PARLOR

This is what my mother always called the place that we would go to get our hair cut. The connection I feel when I grace the entrance of a hair salon still excites and surprises me. I have been exposed to the world of beauty salons since I was five years old getting my hair cut on Newbury St. in Boston, Mass where my mother used to take me for hip pixie cuts in 1970. 1970 was when the movement of the shampoo blow dry invention took root (pun intended) in mainstream America and women’s relationships to their hair and hairdresser changed forever.

Vidal Sassoon changed hair with the creation of the shampoo blowdry; before this it was the weekly shampoo sets or wigs. Women got their hair ‘coiffed’ and it was expected to last for a week until their next appointment, usually on a Friday after the weekly household chores were complete and they could finally take a rest. All of this was unbeknownst to a little girl of five who grew up thinking that everyone drove an hour to Boston to get their hair cut and then go to dinner at Duberrys where she would sneak and eat the pats of butter put out on the otherwise elegant table. This was all going on as the Vietnam war was still in full swing and the irony of this two worlds apart does not now go unnoticed.

Fast forward to 1976 and local towns were at last catching up to the trend. Pockets of hair salons started to sprout in the neighborhoods making it easier to get a good haircut without the drive to Boston. My mother continued the tradition of taking me to the best places for haircuts and also adding manicures and facials to my list of mandated beauty services. I can say many things about our relationship, but I can never say I wasn’t provided for materially. She exposed me to great restaurants, great food, love of kitchen toys, clothing shopping and hair salons and for this I am grateful. We may not share a close relationship, but we do share these feminine connectors and when I walk into a hair salon like I did this past week, I immediately feel happy. It is no accident that this would end up being my own business in retrospect and I love every single element of the beauty business I am sure because of this young exposure.

As I got older, I still went to Newbury St. because this is where ‘real’ hair salons still were- the best and most current unless you wanted to drive to New York. Great hair dressers morphed into great hair stylists as they started to be called who knew the latest trends and had the best salons around. Hair salons have a pulse. As more women began getting their hair cut, their visits changed from weekly to monthly and additional services began being added like manicures, facials and waxing services. This helped get these women back in the salon more frequently or gave opportunities for them to get additional services while they were getting their hair colored or permed. I don’t think we realize how significant the history of beauty salons are in women’s lives. Hair dressing and beauty have been fast tracks for any woman to become entrepreneurs and many great careers and empires were started by women who saw opportunity. Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Bobbi Brown all started with their two hands and an idea. Let’s face it, most every woman has an interest in some element in beauty.

I was watching an interview this past week with Dr. Laurie Glimcher, who is the CEO of the Dana Farber Institute. As I listened to her brilliance, I also noticed her lovely hair color and style, her makeup and how everyone across all levels is part of the tribe of women who get hair services, buy makeup and skin care. The industry is massive and not a day goes by when I am not grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. We are a feel good industry and these types of businesses become more iconic as less and less people are physically connecting.

When my cousin decided to move on to do her own thing, I realized that for the first time in sixteen years, I would have to figure out an alternate plan for my regular pedicures. I knew that it would be difficult to get an appointment with her as it surely was when she worked for me so I had to find back up. I found that right around the corner at a colleague’s salon and sold my pedicure beds to her, pronto. This is where I have been landing for my pedicures and it has been fun being a client for a change for a beauty service. I have had the luxury of getting beauty services whenever I want because of my business, but now I could be a client. So when I went in to get my monthly pedicure, I asked if there was time for a manicure, too. Check. Yes. So I sat myself down at the manicure station old school across from the manicurist and as she filed and buffed and polished, I was twelve again sitting at Rams Head Salon in Brick Market in Newport, RI. I forgot how much I love being in a hair salon. While I waited for my nails to dry, I thought, what else could I get done? “How about a blowout?” Nicole asked. “YES!” I exclaimed with a jubilance that even surprised me. I felt old fashioned. I felt like I was in the 1939 movie THE WOMEN with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. I made the trek back upstairs to wait for my nails to dry because as I said to Nicole, “it is too quiet in the nail area, I want to watch the hair salon action.” From my female perspective, the buzz of a hair salon is like nothing else and it has been a part of me for almost fifty years.

I have worked in beauty since my first foray at a beauty supply store in Framingham, Mass then as the only white employee as a receptionist at a primarily black hair salon in the same town when I was 21. Working in beauty seemed like my destiny after all of my exposure as a young client and it is no wonder I ended up going to esthetics school. I have worked at Cherry and Webb at the Estee Lauder counter when I was twenty three after school, apprenticed a very hip woman in Newport for about six months out of school where I really learned about the skin business. I worked at the very hair salon I started at, Rams Head as my first skin care job and then went on to Judy’s where I landed for almost eight years and learned the business of skin and hair from a woman who built one from the ground up. I worked for Aveda Corporation learning from a man who built a business and learned more about running a company as I found my way in my twenties and early thirties being exposed to an element of business I could have never learned at business school.

Owning a beauty business and being a client at one is a dive into female psyche. It is a place of comfort and camaraderie. It is a place to take a deep female breath. When I worked for Judy, Fridays were my favorite. Fridays were the day of standing appointments for women who back then were likely in their late sixties and seventies who hadn’t given up their weekly shampoo set for the easier shampoo blowdry. I often thought it was because they enjoyed the connection they had with the other women who they had built unlikely relationships with on those Friday jaunts in rain, sleet or snowstorms as they shared their lives over a cup of coffee waiting for their appointments. Nowadays as these generations of women lessen, our connectors as the younger generation have become yoga and exercise classes. We always find ways to connect and if my business gives that excuse for real human interaction I am in the right business. From the time I got my first pixie cut in 1970 to what I have built with my own two hands. From my first facial in a tiny treatment room in a tiny salon in 1987 to a full blown company employing twenty women; there is nothing like a beauty parlor.






some pixie cuts from yesteryear along with some great pictures of my mother from 1970 and finally a hilarious picture from the eighties of me.
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EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

EIGHTEEN LIPSTICKS AND BACKUP

There is that moment in time when you slip on a pair of pants or jeans or in my case the perfect Lululemon yoga pants and they slide on like Cinderella’s glass slipper. Comfort, fit, smoothness and you say to yourself, damn, if I had known these would be my go to comfort pants, I would have bought at least three more pairs. This is equally true with shoes, underwear, bras, a great summer dress and so many other items in our lives, my life. The countless conversations I have had with the family of women I get the privilege of calling clients for the past twenty years in business have proven the notion to me that we women when we find something that fits perfectly, we are willing to invest in more because we love things that feel great. This does not just apply to clothing items. The perfect pen or pencil, the on point size journal for writing, a great size coffee mug, the list goes on. My grandmother, Isabelle was the backup queen. Soup especially, toothpaste, weird food items maybe from her Depression era days, who knows, but my mother was like this too and Isabelle was not her mother, but her mother in-law so I can’t necessarily blame it on genes. Sometimes the list applies to products too. I have used a face oil from a company of products I sell at my business and fell in love with it. Like so many perfect products, the company decided to discontinue it so in good old-fashioned supply and demand consumerism, I bought up all I could for backup. I realize this just postpones the inevitable disappointment I will inevitably have to face, but it is the bridge while I conserve the precious droplets as the bottle lessens daily.

Then there is the never ending discontinue of the perfect color lipstick. Lipstick serves a higher purpose for me, I love a great red or a startling pink on a plain face, but that is for cosmetic. Lipstick for me is about keeping my lips moist and not chapped and finding a lipstick that does this is a priority. I like a little color, but to be able to swath it on at a mirrorless drop of a hat to keep my lips moisturized and also have a slight color is the perfect combination. I love the lipsticks I sell, but I haven’t found one yet that replaces my go to lip product by Mac. Pervette glaze. A frosty whitish pink that really does nothing for me in the winter, but because they discontinued my winter color, High Strung (yes the irony does not go unnoticed here) I have been forced to make my summer color my year round color. I wish the beauty counter would send out a spoiler alert when they are discontinuing a color, but I am guessing there are no lipstick Google algorithms yet. There probably are, but we are talking a fifteen-dollar tube of something. I also realized in my ghost of Christmas past moment that I had turned into the “old” lady I used to wait on when I was nineteen working at Cherry and Webb on Bellevue Ave in Newport at the Estee Lauder makeup counter. The disappointed array of women who were likely looking for their go to color learning from me as my younger verison that the color would be no more played back like an old vcr tape. I remember my lack of empathy for their plight working my early sales skills in trying to get them to step out of their comfort zone and try a new red or a different pink. Seldom would this work because I likely did not understand the importance of consistency when it came to go to colors back then at nineteen. It was unlikely that I understood the need for steady non-change and reliability that is more than just a discontinued lip color.

As I traipsed off to the Mac counter to purchase my allotment of my favorite color, the electrified makeup faced Mac counter artist tried to soothe my noticeable disappointment by showing me another color that was close. I felt like saying, “If it is so close, why didn’t they discontinue this one!?” But I kept my composure and begrudgingly tried on Fabby as it was called, hesitant because in the past when I have broken my rules of staying with the go to color (anticipating that like all good lip colors in the makeup world they go away) my lips have dried out maybe because of a pigment or some horrible chemical I have ingested that caused the BRCA 2 gene to turn on and therefore caused my we caught it early breast cancer. Yes my brain does go in this direction on more than one occasion, but then I relax and take some deep breaths and realize that for the most part, lipstick colors and my breast cancer is likely a stretch. So when the counter lady gave me the bad news I moved to my summer color, Pervette and she tells me that this too has been discontinued. “Would I like some Mac 1–800 number to call that specifically deals with discontinued colors?” “Sure.” I said knowing damn well I was not going to call Mac and likely pay three times more for a color. I would just have to be a grownup and try Fabby and keep my fingers crossed. I made my purchase of three of them (one for my coat pocket, one by my writing area and one by my bed) and trudged on like I had just been told my cancer was back for the third time. (not really, but trying to make my point of disappointment, you get this right?)

After trying Fabby for about a week, yep, you guessed it, chapped lips, just in time for the five below New England wind chill factor. I decided to have an online chat (whoever invented the online chat should get a Nobel Peace prize, one of the greatest inventions of all times!) with some Mac person on their website and they informed me that I had received some incorrect information, Pervette was not discontinued! Be still my beating heart! I immediately ordered as many as Mac would let me (nine in case you are wondering) Mac has this weird rule that you can’t order more than this and actually in the past when I have gone into the actual Mac store counter they have only allowed the purchase of five. Maybe they think I am going to open a Pervette black market lipstick counter. On the website though, I was able to purchase nine so of course I did. After about a week after receiving my glorious happiest day ever (not really, but for the moment when I opened the compact black box with nine freshly packaged lip colors lined up like soldiers it was a moment for sure) I started to panic a bit. What if they really decided to discontinue this? Maybe I should buy another round just to be sure, just be on the safe side, so yes, I did.

When they arrived yesterday, I did feel a little silly about all of these backups, but not enough to reconsider. I like backup, it gives me a sense of order and very false but glorious security that at least my lipsticks and my now highly moisturized lips are predictable. I realize that the whole notion of backup anything is entirely superficial and I am a lucky lady for sure to be able to buy eighteen lipsticks. I probably should be slightly embarrassed to write this aloud, but I also know that I donate happily to pretty much any cause that comes knocking at my door. I also work really hard so spending a week’s worth of groceries on lip color to give me some added joy is a part of who I am. I know I am slightly nutty when it comes to this notion of backup, but at least this is one area in my life I can totally count on for at least the next eighteen lipsticks. This is comfort as I get ready to face 2018 with new 36 D boobs, no more cancer to have to think about for the time being or ever hopefully and glossy zinc pink non chapped lips. The New Year is looking brighter by the minute.

no words necessary.
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JUST WAIT

JUST WAIT

I have been teaching and talking the beauty business since I was in my late twenties. I remember like it was yesterday, women who are my age now, saying, “Just wait.” I looked in the mirror as I do everyday and have done for most of my life and realized, it has happened. The “just wait” has happened. The weird lines forming in places I swear weren’t there yesterday, the hairs sprouting from places other than my head, eyebrows and eyelashes. The white wiry hairs showing up in my eyebrows, my eyelashes and yes my vagina hair, what the fuck.

I somewhat defiantly decided to stop coloring my hair over ten years ago and it is whiter than ever, quite the beauty trend these days, who knew? At least this is one part of my hair growth I can say I love. People regularly tell me how much they love my hair. I often reply that there has to be some benefit to the quantity of hair growth because along with this thick attractive mane I am blessed with, comes regular appointments in the magnifying mirror with the tweezers. I keep the local electrologist in business and thank goodness I own a beauty business because waxing is like a full time job. Have I mentioned that when I decide to tweeze one of those wiry white eye brow hairs, my eyebrows lose their shape pronto.

With all of this obsession of hair removal which by the way will never be finished, comes that pesky problem of a weaker eye sight. Perhaps part of the divine order of things is that the weakening eyesight means I can see less so therefore can stop obsessing about the perpetual removal of the never ending hair supply. Could this be an unintended blessing? Doubtful, since now nighttime driving is becoming more and more challenging. So much for divine intervention.

The other life changes that fall into the ‘Just Wait’ category are the belly bloating that happens after one glass of wine and seems to now last well over a few wine free days. Then there is that weird creppy dry skin no oils or creams seems to remedy and believe me when I tell you I have access to the best. Though in all truth here, the rose and jojoba oil I sell is hands down the best I have found. The weird skin texture change, thought is in the infancy stages and I am guessing my years of continued sun exposure have something to do with its residence and there is simply no stopping it.

Add to the abundant supply of visual body changes all of those sun spots showing up on my face, my hands and my chest. I can just hear my grandmother Isabelle’s unsolicited stay out of the burning sun advice I will likely pass on to my granddaughter if I ever have the good fortune to have one in my life.

Of course no matter how much I work out, eat better, my body shape is forever different. One because of my age and my life experience, but also because of four surgeries in two years. Scars, indentations, lumpiness all contribute to this new body shape I have come to really admire and embrace like a warrior wound. At least my breasts are upright and super rocking. Not too many of my fifty something girl friends can say this. (On this note, thank goodness.)

The deep inherited lines that seem like a genetic rite of passage and not necessarily in a good way, have also been a new observation. There is this grown up woman in the reflection staring back almost daring me to question their placement.

“Stop frowning,” I can hear my mother saying when I was a child (back when Ann was speaking to me), “We’ll never find you a rich Jewish husband if you have frown lines. It makes you look old.” The fact was I wasn’t frowning, I was squinting because my eyesight since I was in second grade was always weak and I just squinted to see better. Oh yeah, and then there was the actual commentary that likely requires its own separate writing at a later time. How about instead of looking for a man to supplement me, giving me a message of my own ability to take care of my own lovely bad ass self? I am guessing that this would have required my mother to feel this way about herself and this was likely not the case in her twenties, married with a six year old and a newborn. There was always an underlying half joking/ half seriousness to the one liners like this. They undoubtedly found their way into my belief systems forming opinions of myself as I foraged my own self worth and my ability to provide for myself. Instead I got married way too early and no, he wasn’t Jewish or a doctor, but his kind heart was spectacular, certainly a most important criteria for a partner at 24.

In my cleaning of the closets and of the stuff, I came across a book that my mother had given me when I first opened my business and it seemed as our relationship was in the ebb and flow of better for a moment. The book was, The Easy to Read, “The Little Engine That Could,” by Walter Piper. I opened it knowing there would be an inscription. Her familiar writing stared back with its kind encouraging words, “Dearest Alayne, Whenever you doubt your decision, just read this book. I love you, Mom.” Even though it was a children’s book, there is definitely a memory of this book in my early childhood. I often wondered if my mother gave me this book because it triggered a memory of a happier time in her life where she remembered the love she had for me then, before it got all wonky and foggy from years of alcohol abuse. There were times in the ebb and flow my mother probably tried just like there were probably times I tried too, it’s just that at the times each of us made the attempt, it was in gestures, but never a healthy discussion to repair the wounds. Gestures are like bandaids, at some point you have to take them off and let the air in and we never did that.

My hair and skin texture have changed, but so has my personal texture. These physical changes that have become a regular occurrence in my exterior are ironically creating a deeper meaning on my insides. I amaze myself at how much I have come to really enjoy the changes. This has surprised me the most.

Maybe this is the point of aging and releasing the peripheral image of our youth we have equated with beauty, the work of letting go of what we thought of was beauty at one point in our lives in fact goes within simply because there is no alternative. My hair is not going to get darker, my stomach is not going to be a six pack, my eye sight will not improve and the spots on my face from too much sun worshipping that I still continue to indulge in will surely not lessen. The only thing I can do is to work on my insides with patience, love and admiration. The calmness and joy I feel just by looking up and looking out these days is both refreshing and liberating. I recently hired three new employees who are in their early twenties. As I speak with them often and listen to their language about life, I realize our huge age gap. Not just in numbers, but in outlook and thought patterns. I can say with absolute truth that I would never want to go back to that time in my life. This is a wonderful aspect of aging, knowing that you couldn’t pay me to go back to that age, no matter, no matter how smooth my skin was and how tight my ass was. I way prefer my aging and peaceful head any day.

Though I haven’t said it aloud, I have found myself thinking, Just Wait.



The book from Ann and my bad ass lovely 52 year old self. Just Wait.