So here we go, ALL the way back to the beginning, and my first taste of Beauty U rules. Barb had to leave Beauty U for personal reasons a few months after I started, which was too bad because I really liked her.
PS. Little did I know, I’d end up wearing leggings (or yoga pants) almost every day for ten months.
Barb is the admissions director at Beauty U. She’s a whole different ball game from Sal over at Beauty College, and I’ll admit, a major reason that I chose to enroll in Beauty U’s Esthetics Program over BC’s Cosmetology Course was that when Barb called me “sweetie,” it didn’t sound gross.
Last week I received a letter reminding me to be on time to orientation and to “bring a pen to write with.” Tonight I arrive five minutes early to find the room already jam-packed, and everyone has a pen placed squarely on the desk in front of them. Everyone sits in anxious silence until the girl next to me whispers, “This is so awkward.” Her name is Tiffany and she’s taking the cosmetology course, while her mom is considering esthetics. Tiffany is 18, along with about three-quarters of the women in the room, but there are a good handful of us who are older. I spot one gray head. When Barb asks who signed up for evening classes, it’s our hands that go up, reminding me of today’s New York Times piece about community colleges being so swamped thanks to the recession that they’re offering midnight classes.
Barb is also not kidding around about the need for punctuality. “My thing is, don’t be late,” she says right off the bat. (Barb has a lot of her things.) We start promptly at 5 PM and are told that the doors will be closed at 5:15. When a terrified latecomer arrives at 5:18, everyone holds their breath, but Barb grants her entrance with a heavy sigh.
Barb leads us through our orientation packets — the dress code (all black), rules (no gum chewing, no cell phones, no eating in the salon), and fire evacuation procedure. She interrupts herself frequently to expound upon what she’s written: “My thing is, no dresses, because when we let you girls wear dresses, people showed up like they were going to a club.” “My thing is, don’t wear open-toed shoes because we work with chemicals here and you don’t want to spill chemicals on your pretty toes.”
The rule we spend the most time on is “Client Awareness.” That means you’re not allowed to refuse a customer at any time. “I don’t care if they have bad skin or open wounds,” says Barb. “You can tell your instructor, but you can’t no.” If you refuse to serve a customer to their face, you’ll be sent home — and every hour you miss is an hour you’ll have to make up later.
Barb stops for questions a lot, but hardly anyone asks one. This concerns Barb, mostly because she doesn’t want to hear it later if we don’t understand something that she’s telling us now. The classroom has mirrors on every wall, so I can see that we seem to be following along just fine. Tiffany asks if we can wear leggings. Kosher, as long as you have a long sweater on top. “Good, because I wear leggings a lot,” she says, with relief.
When we finish, everyone lines up at the salon cash register. I write a check for my $1500 down payment, while the platinum blonde behind me confides that she’s already nervous about our weekly tests. “I have three learning disorders, so I’m not so good at test taking,” she explains. “But I do my mom’s hair and I just seem to have a natural gift for it.”
I tell her that I think she’ll be just fine.
[Photo Credit: “Reception in the Office of the C. J. Walker Company” by James VanDerZee, 1929, from here.*]
*Do click through, because it’s got a great story — Madame C. J. Walker, founder of the beauty school pictured, was reputed to be the first self-made woman millionaire in the USA.