Charlene flew in from Vancouver for Athena’s wedding on Saturday, so she was at the Round House with us for our weekly Business Meeting. The four of us sat at the end of one of the long tables eating omelets and sipping smoothies when Athena asked if anyone know someone who did Medi Pedi. I sat dumbly staring at the three of them, “I don’t know what that is,” I said. When Mandy explained that it was a manicure and pedicure, I surprised myself by actually knowing that Liz (cousin of the groom and hair dresser to almost everyone in our part of Washington County) did Medi Pedi. When Jon and I were getting married, she offered to give me one as a wedding gift. I declined. The last time I paid that kind of attention to my nails was when I was in Junior High School. Plus, it made me nervous. I had avoided getting my hair professionally cut for most of my adult life. This kind of girly grooming stuff is still pretty unknown to me.
But for some reason, when Athena invited all the girls going to the wedding to stop at Liz’s to get flowers put in their hair the morning of the wedding, I jumped at it. I asked Kim if she wanted to go together. I knew if I didn’t go with someone, I would chicken out. And like I said, a part of me wanted to go. It wasn’t like Liz was making up our faces (I’ve never worn makeup), or painting or nails, she was putting flowers in our hair. Even I had worn flowers in my hair before.
When Kim and I got there, there were at least 15 cars parked in front of Liz’s shop, which is next to her house on a rural country road. I felt the fear rise up in me. I knew if I wasn’t with Kim I would have turned the car around and driven home. But I was with Kim and as we walked up the driveway, she knew several women who were coming and going. Little girls were running around in pretty dresses, their hair in banana curls and flowers.
Athena anointed us with hugs and perfume on the inside of each wrist. Mandy showed up with her teen-aged daughter Delaney and while Liz straightened Delaney’s hair (it seems women with straight hair want curls and women with curls want straight hair) Kim removed the old nail polish from Mandy’s nails. A woman walked by, her stomach wrapped in Saran wrap. Along with doing hair and nails, Liz is now offering the latest way to lose weight, which has to do with a special lotion and saran wrap. I sat sipping a plastic cup of sweet white wine watching it all. These women and girls were good at this, they knew just what to do. Somehow I had never learned this part of being a girl.
And as I watched and eventually sat in the chair while Liz pinned flowers in my hair, I realized what we were doing wasn’t about the flowers or curls or nails or losing weight. It was like some sort of ancient grooming ritual, updated. We were doing the same thing that chimps do when they pick grubs and lice off of each other. The same thing I do when I brush the donkeys in the morning. We were bonding, on a level that didn’t include words and differences and past histories. Whether we knew each other or didn’t this was a way for us to safely be together and a way of acknowledging our sameness. We had all come together for the same reason, we all belonged. And at least of a few hours, we were all a part of the same tribe.