Real Beauty

When I first moved to Vallarta, everything felt so different. The way we do something here is always just a little different than the way we do something there.

Things still get done, we just go about them differently.
Even, and maybe especially, at the beauty salon.

Soon after moving I needed to get my lashes done, so I asked for a recommendation and was directed to Fabi’s establishment. (Come to think of it I’m not totally sure how I made my first appointment. My friend must have made it for me, because Fabi did not speak even one word of English while I spoke exactly two words of Spanish and those words were “cerveza” and “baño”. We could not have done it ourselves.)

I showed up at the appointed time after a long and circuitous walk through what I now know is the wrong part of town. Anyhoo.

Fabi runs her business out of the garage space in her tall and skinny home, which is what a lot of people do. It’s gleaming white inside and has a too-big TV installed precariously above the garage door. Opposite the TV is a very tacky red velvet couch which I know they stole from the set of the Munsters. There is always a boy sitting on that couch looking bored out of his mind and gazing listlessly at a telenovela blaring at him from across the room.

This is what exactly 93% of beauty salons in Vallarta look like. Including the child.

Fabi invited me to sit down in a rolling office chair, and about 30 seconds later she grabbed that chair from behind, drawing me toward her while pulling my head back, bringing it to rest sweetly in the center of her (very comfy and ample) bosom. I gazed up into her eyes, and she gazed lovingly down into mine for just a moment before telling me to stop talking and hold still.

About 5 minutes later, my lashes were done, and I thought “hmmmm I guess this is me now” as I looked into the mirror and an overdone quinciñera refugee stared back.

But I was already falling in love with the beauty salons here.
They can be so chaotic.
There is no rhyme or reason to the energy or arrangement of many of these places, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that real art is made here and these people know their craft.

Over the next few visits we got our communication down, trading telephone numbers so I would have a chance to Google translate my messages. I fell even harder for these ladies and their funny friendships, impressively impractical nails, ridiculous telenovelas and free range children.

My lashes got a little more normal (but they were always huge when she did them) and every visit felt exactly like hanging out with a bunch of crazy old friends who were kind enough to let me into their huddle periodically.

The salon I go to now would be considered quite high end, but that doesn’t stop them from getting loud and silly from time to time. It seems to be the salon culture here. Every salon I’ve gone to here is the same way to some degree.

Sometimes during my visit I feel struck by how lucky I am to be a part of their laughter and chaos.

Where I come from, a visit to the salon is an escape from life. But here, it IS life, and they invite you into it, and I think that’s pretty fun and cool.

*****

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