Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Yesterday I took a short break while my client's perm was neutralizing. The ladies in the break room were discussing tips, and how cheap some people are. For example, there's this mother-daughter team that comes in for full highlights/lowlights, spends $175 and then tips the girls doing their hair $3 each. (Not unlike those ad clients who insist on the least expensive commercial shoot possible, but mandate that it happen in LA -- with no craft service and a cheap hotel for the agency. You have to explain that a shoot in LA is UNION and that craft service is required by law. Jeesh. Anyway, back to the tips...) I shared the story of the lady who laid out her dollar's worth of change in a row on my station, and how I surreptitiously took a picture of her doing it. (see my post from July 7th, "Tips Again.")

A new girl, whom I had yet to meet, said "Oh, you're the Blogger!"

I would have thought I'd freak out that someone at school knew about this blog. But really I was pretty flattered. Especially when she said she really likes it and thinks it's funny.
Still, I was pretty surprised that someone just "found" it. So I asked -- How did you find it?"
"I do a lot of research. I found it when I was looking at this school."

Two or three people around us asked "what blog, what?" I just answered "I haven't posted in a really, really long time." Since everyone at school talks over each other and has the attention span of a flea, they were all on to the next thing before my secret was out. That's a lot like advertising too. Maybe it has to do with being creative. A lot of creative people together -- they're loud, talk over each other and jump from thing to thing. I always thought that that conversational style was a New York thing. Now I think it has to do with being creative. But I digress once again.

So I told the new girl "Don't tell anyone. I really don't want anyone at school to know about it. I joke around that I'm writing a book that'll be made into a screen play and Tyler Perry will play Rhonda; but everyone thinks its a joke. It sort of is, it's sort of not."

How Starbucks Saved My Life, the book that inspired this crazy journey of mine, is being made into a movie starring Tom Hanks. So you never know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Yesterday I had a client with really thick, luxurious beautiful hair that hung just below her shoulders. Her hair was definitely her best feature. She came in saying she wanted "a wedge, but didn't want to loose a lot of the length." Now a "wedge," is the Dorothy Hamill cut from the '70's. (The client is 61 years old.) So the consultation took some time during which I began to understand the look she was going for and suggested a long layered cut. But she insisted that she wanted the back graduated, so we finally agreed to a long (just above shoulder length) inverted bob. I parted her off and started cutting the back. She said "You're not cutting off ten inches back there are you?" I showed her how much 3 inches is on the comb (there are numbered notches); then held the hair up in the mirror to show her where I was cutting. She said "Oh good, cause I don't want too much off." Her very dense hair took about twenty five minutes to cut, during which time she kept grabbing combs off my station and parting off and combing her hair. I had to keep telling her that I knew how to part hair and that if she wanted the cut to come out right she had to stop playing with her hair while I was working. I then gave her a fabulous (if I do say so myself) blow-out. Other students, and two instructors, commented on how great it looked. When I was done she said "Oh this is much too long. The kids will say it's not different at all." Since we had had only FOUR clients the entire day and I was extremely bored, I agreed to cut it again. So I took off another two and a half inches. Then she wanted the it set on hot rollers. So we did that too. Even though she didn't pay for it. When we finally finished she said she loved the cut but would come back in two weeks cause she wanted to do something so the curl would hold. I told her that they way to get that would be with a long layered cut! Then we had a 15 minute discussion/consultation about her color.

So many things in this experience were just like advertising clients. Getting crap for free, trying to do it them selves, dictating a process that can never result in the product they want. Jeshshshsh.

When I worked on Borden. We did a year's worth of research to develop a new ad platform for Sweetened Condensed Milk. In almost every focus group we'd have some woman weeping as she remembered her grandmother's pie or uncle's home-made strawberry ice cream. Simply seeing the package could make their eyes start to fill up. And not just one or two times. This happened in almost every group. Advertising gold! Now all we had to do was take all that emotional intensity and package it in a :30 spot. The Creative Team did a masterful job. The storyboards tested well and we where sure people would be making twice the amount of fudge and double the pies they had made in pervious holiday seasons. But WAIT! Right before
production was to begin the Client mandated that we revise the spots to :15's. We spent weeks trying to create :15's with the emotional impact of the :30's. It just wasn't going to happen. We explained the nature of theatre -- and how to have intense emotion you need tension. And tension has to build, and that takes TIME. Client still wanted to "make it like the Hallmark spots." They couldn't believe that what Hallmark does in a :60 or :90 can't be done in :15. Of course we ended up with :15 vignettes that did little more than list the product attributes among a somewhat warm family feeling. No tears among our viewers. And no big bump in business.

You just can't win. If you can, let me know how.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Resume Gold?

I read a little article on Talent Zoo about age-proofing your resume. Apparently this is important for 20-somethings and people over 45. The author suggested leaving off the dates. Does this really work? If I got a resume without dates on it I'd be suspicious right away. "What's this guy hiding? Prison?" I think it's pretty easy to tell from a resume if someone is young and inexperienced. And when hiring for a junior position one doesn't expect a lot of experience. According to the article, the ideal amount of experience is 12 years. Anything older than 15, as well as graduation dates, should be eliminated. My first thought is that for me this would be kind of tragic since the first 12 years of my career were spent on Cheesebrough-Pond's and Procter & Gamble. Resume gold. But I do realize that the gold has now turned to lead and should probably be jettisoned. On the plus side, I do look a hell of a lot younger than I am. People are always shocked at my age. Usually the cashier's at Aldi and the girls at school. "Why Miss Cynthia, you older than my mother. I never would have thought that. For real?"

TV is free

It's true. TV does come through the air, and it's free! Isn't that so much more twenty-first century than having it come through cable and costing $100+/month? With the exceptions of Dexter, Man Men and Being Human it's all as it was prior to the disconnection. Thanks to the gifts of three converter boxes, our old TiVo and Comedy Central on line. We should have done this years ago.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Upside Down

We learned last week that we're now upside down in our mortgage. Reason being that TWO years ago, Hamilton County readjusted our property taxes based on the purchase price of the house in 2006 -- AND THEY NEVER TOLD US. For the past TWO years, Chase (the holder of our mortgage) was taking the extra funds needed to meet the new tax base out of our escrow account. Neither Hamilton County nor Chase ever notified us. Seems to me like this kind of thing should be illegal. Now that the escrow account has been COMPLETELY depleted, our monthly mortage payment has risen $302. We can appeal this assessment; but only between January 1 and March 31st. Long story short, we're screwed. $302 may not sound like a lot when you're making big advertising money, but it's a tremendous amount when you've been unemployed for a year and a half -- and are looking at making very little money for quite a long time to come.

So we're getting rid of cable TV, the land-line, the newspapers, all subscriptions, the Y membership. All along I've been thinking it's some kind of miracle we've done as well as we have since I lost my job. Just by giving up vacations, restaurants, entertaining, retirement contributions, and college fund contributions we were able to get along pretty much as before. And really I've hardly "felt" it -- what with being at school 40 - 50 hours a week, JJ's new school/football, volunteering and church stuff, my life is fuller than it's ever been. But the pinch has come.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Soul Food

As you know, I'm learning about a lot more than just hair, skin and nails at the Western Hills School of Beauty and Hair Design. One of the other things I've been learning is how to cook soul food. I've adopted Ms. Kathy's Corn Pudding recipe and have made it for many a BBQ this Summer. Everyone LOVES it and it is super easy:

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix together:
1 can corn
1 can creamed corn
1 stick of butter melted
1/2 to 1 cup of sour cream
1 package Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

Pour into a medium size casserole dish and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. It's slappin'!

Also try Ms. Margaret's Greens. This recipe takes a very long time, as the greens need to simmer for at least four hours. But if you're a white girl like me, who always loved greens but had no idea
how to make them, this recipe is also very easy.

Use a big, high-quality stew pot.
Cover two smoked turkey wings with water, bring to boil and then simmer until the meat falls off the bones. About two hours. Strain out bones return liquid and meat to pot.

Rinse four to six bunches of collard greens. (I bought too much
thinking it would shrink down like spinach. It shrinks, but a lot less then spinach would.)
Chop the greens by slicing every 1/2" or so. Discard the very bottoms and very tops of the bunches.
Put the greens in the pot with the smoked turkey and simmer for four hours.
Add salt and pepper to taste -- and hot sauce/hot pepper if you like it. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Three weeks before Christmas in 1992 my boss came into my office and asked "Do you have a valid passport? They want you to go to Mexico City to lead the Hasbro pitch." Well of course I had the passport, but my retention of high school Spanish amounted to "Mas cerveza por favor." An intensive Berlitz program for relocating executives and eleven months of working in a bi-lingual office fixed that. Buy the time I returned to New York the following October, my Spanish language skills resembled those of a precocious Mexican three- year-old. I had begun to stop translating in my head. I just sort of felt the words wash over me. I'd understand the jist of what was being said and would respond without knowing exactly what I was saying either. But it worked.

I've been in beauty school now for eleven months. About the same amount of time that I had been living in Mexico when I stopped translating in my head. I can now end a sentence in a preposition, truncate my sentences, and use ghetto slang with aplomb. I still struggle with the double negative. No sure I'll ever be able to adopt that one. Whenever I use these new language skills I'm surprised when no one calls me out on it. Some times I find myself actually thinking in this new (to me) colloquial grammar. Kind of like when I was immersed in the Spanish language.

I have an octogenarian client who use to be a Dean at UC. I gave her Newsweek to read under the dryer and told her I thought she'd enjoy the article on Mark Twain, "the release of his memoir, 100 years after his death was the impetus for the article." I thought to myself "I just said 'impetus!' then I looked around to see if anyone heard me.

I need to spend some more time with my own demographic.

Tips again

I just have to share this picture -- of a little old lady who lined up the change, that was my tip, on my station. Really? Really!

Kind of reminds me of the (first) year we got crappy bonuses at Grey. Of course in advertising the bonuses where never more than a few thousand dollars; nothing like banking or law. But back in the day it had been enough to cover the Christmas bills and pay for Summer camp. Then came the year when that afternoon as I was leaving the building I passed my copywriter who said "did you get your bonus?" I said "yes, I'm going right now to spend the whole thing on a pair of leather gloves at Saks." She replied "I just spent my on a haircut."

I shopped at Saks. We got our haircut at Bumble + Bumble. I honestly don't miss it at all. But $1.50 laid out out in change on my station. Are you kidding me Lady?! Next time I'm gonna jack her hair up good.

Time Sheets Again

It's time-sheet time again. All one has to do is add up the numbers straight across and down the columns, then record hours by "management," "course," "clinic," and "non-clinic" for this and the previous month. There are only a handful of students that can do this. The last day of the month, and the first couple of days of the new month are chaotic and stressful as everyone tries to get their time-sheet filled out properly. The few students who are "good at time-sheets" help those that are not. Of course I belong to the former category. But I have lost the patience to help anyone other than my clique from "up the hill." Sara and Jules, however, are running a little time-sheet business. Not sure how much they get paid per time-sheet. The price use to be lunch, but I think it's gone up to something like $10 cash.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Today I spent THREE HOURS correcting the botched bleach job a fifteen-year-old girl did on herself last night. My niece had a similar situation last summer and it cost her $165 at Dillards to get it fixed. This chick paid $51 and left NO TIP. I am very saldy about it. Prior to the corrective color from hell, I did two color retouches, a cut and a shampoo and blow-out. And I only made $5 in tips all day. Seriously. That sad part is that every single client left looking great and very happy. But no tips.

I think there are a lot of people, especially new clients who don't know that can recieve tips. At the Aveda school they are not allowed to. We are.

Last Saturday I started saving all of mine in an envelope in my locker. When I get to $300 I'm going to buy myself a nice Coach bag.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Just another day at the WHSB

It was a typical week...
On Tuesday, I decided to take my fifteen minute break outside. There's a small covered deck area in front of the school with a bench all around. I went to sit out there and check my email. There were four other students doing the same. As soon as I got seated, Rhonda approaches me with much glee, and told me I should watch a video she had on the phone she was holding in her hand. I asked "Is it a porno?" (I figured it was 'cause, well, Rhonda is kind of like that.) "Only a little" she said.
I think they like to see if they can freak me out. So far they haven't.
So Rhonda handed me the phone. And sure enough it was a home-made porno by Brian. Brian is an extremely handsome, young, gay, black man. He wants to move to LA and be a celebrity stylist. He definitely has the talent, the drive and the personality. So anyway, I'm watching this video and as with most of the crazy out-of-the-box crap, I watched for a few minutes with what I hoped looked like a detached academic intensity. I smiled, handed the phone back to Rhonda and said "impressive." They all went weak (see "Word of the Day" in the side-bar at right). Once inside the girls couldn't wait to tell Brian that I had seen the video.
NO! OMG..." said Brain. Then blushing he turned to look at me from three stations away. "Don't worry about it," I said -- "but I must tell you, that was very impressive and I'm sure you could teach these girls a few things." Brian smiled and said "I know that's right."
Prior to this little event, Brian wouldn't give me the time of day, now he smiles, says "Hello," and is friendly as could be.

On Wednesday I was rolling up a perm on a mannequin head for the 110th time, when Dina looked at me to get my attention from across her station and asked "Mz Cynthia, are mermaids real?" I looked over at her and Dominique (with whom she had obviously been discussing this) and said, "What?"
"Are mermaids real?"
"Are you kidding me? You want to know if there are actually mermaids? Like women on the top, fish on the bottom? Like in The Little Mermaid?"
"Yeah, do you know if they real?"
"Yes, I do know, and No they are not real. It's just a myth."
"You sure?"
"Yes, I am sure." By this time I am giggling quite a bit. Dina and Dominique are too, but I can tell they really are serious. Then I tell them "There is a sea animal called a manatee that a long, long time ago sailors would see off in the distance; and because they have breasts they thought they were women. At least women on the top, fish on the bottom. That's how the myth got started. They have manatees at the zoo. You can go see them."
"Well thank you for that Mz Cynthia."

On Thursday I posted 903 hours. Half way, plus three. I took the 900 hour written exam and got a 98. I got a 98, and not 100, because I didn't know the difference between collagen and elastin. But I do know that Mermaids aren't real.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My secret life

I agreed to work the reception desk this morning from 9 to 12. About 11:00 we got a call from someone looking for Susan Schell. She was in Ms. Lisa's class with me and she's still "up the hill." The school policy when a student gets a call is to take message. We are not to give out any information as to wether or not the student is actually there. I told the caller "I can give her a message and have her call you right back."

"This is Sister Gerta from Our Lady of Lourdes, her daughter's school." Now I know Sister Gerta pretty well. She runs the school office and is secretary to the Principal. I know her from when JJ was applying there and because I'm so active in the religious ed program. Of course she doesn't recognize my voice, even though I answered the phone "Western Hill School of Beauty, this is Cynthia, can I help you?" It's just WAY TOO out of context. I quickly dismiss revealing myself and just have her leave a message. I called "up the hill" to give Susan the message -- but found out she wasn't in school today. Normally we're not to call back with this information. With so may gypsies, tramps and thieves it's best if the school doesn't get involved with a student's whereabouts. But it's Sister Gerta, and I know her, and I know Susan and it's HER KIDS' SCHOOL! So I call Sister Gerta back to tell her that Susan isn't in school today. And ask if she has a home or celll number. She doesn't and she asks me for the cell number. Of course I can't give it to her. (I would have had I had it, but I knew the office wouldn't give it to me no matter what). So we're having this whole conversation and she still doesn't recognize me. And I still don't reveal myself.

I wonder if she thought "... that girl at the school switchboard sure sounds familiar." I'll let Susan tell her.

Queen City

Mr. James started two weeks ago. He works Monday and Wednesday days, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

I usually stay late on Tuesdays and Thursdays to get a full ten hours booked. But last Thursday I left at 5:00 to attend an event at St. X (being a St. X Mom could be a whole other blog....) And am I sorry I didn't get to stay. Last Thursday night Mr. James got dressed at school for his late-night job as the hostess at a drag queen club downtown! Not only did I miss it, I didn't even hear about it until yesterday. He got the girls to help him with his make-up and wig and was in full drag regalia by the time he left.

Ms. Cathy, who does not work nights, heard about it all from Ms. Mindy. I have never seen her so upset. She asked me "what would your husband say if he heard about this?" "What would your parents say?" she asked another girl. Ms. Cathy is a bit of a homophobe. A fact which makes no sense at all to me given that two of her four husbands were gay and she's a hairdresser. But she's been teaching at the school for thirty years and deeply morns the days when the school had a stellar reputation in the community. And having a drag queen teacher just doesn't fit in with her idea of what the school should be. But of course all I'm thinking is that "this is going to make for some great blog posts. I can't wait!"

On Monday Mr. James told Rhonda and I all about his other job and even invited us down to the club. But I had no idea that he was getting dressed at school. I'm hoping Ms. Cathy doesn't put an end to it.

Class of 2010

With rolling admissions, the Western Hills School of Beauty also has rolling graduation. The rather pathetic thing is that there are between five and twelve students who begin every month and only one or two who graduate. Since I've been "down the hill/on the floor," every graduating student has been a night student. The night students are very different from the day students. They have full time jobs. Some have college degrees. They are older and MUCH MORE professional. The part-time course takes three years to complete. Some students take as long as five.

The graduations are always really moving. The graduate invites family and friends who gather with students and teachers in the break room. There's food and cake (provided by the family). Each teacher give a little speech about the graduate. The speeches are very personal and quite moving. I always tear up. I imagine my graduation. But somehow I just can't picture my family and friends in the extremely ghetto break room. But when I do there's always a big Bonbonerie cosmetology themed cake.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Everyone at the Western Hills School of Beauty and Hair Design takes the "managers course." The managing cosmetology course includes an additional 300 hours of study beyond the 1500 necessary for an Ohio state cosmetology license. Those three hundred hours are spent in the study of how to plan and run a small business including the regulatory laws and codes for a salon. The core assignment is to write a business plan. The plan must include a mission statement, a company overview, a list of products and services, an advertising and marketing plan, financials for product sales, a personnel plan, a financial plan, a floor plan (designed to code), a location map and resumes for the owner and staff. The instruction for this project is very thin (at best) and the resulting plans are essentially useless. But my business plan is not useless. My business plan is BEAST! I got the assignment back in January, did some research and then spent about twenty hours knocking it out. I was back in my comfort zone and it felt really good. Really fun. Really energizing. When the plan was done, I printed it out on nice paper and had it bound at Staples. It looks awesome and is awesome.

Now everyone wants me to help them with their business plan. At first I thought they wanted my help to actually develop and write their business plans -- to help come up with differentiating mission statements and then building all the rest around that. But no; what they really want is someone to type up their crazy-ass plan, make a logo, print it out on nice paper and get it bound.

Isis had to do a salon business plan when she was "locked up." She takes it very seriously because she already has a significant clientele (from doing "kitchen hair") and very much wants to have her own salon. Having run a successful small business in the past (albeit an illegal one) she's one of the few students who has the right skill set to be successful. Because of this I was pretty psyched to help her.

She gave me her hand written plan to review. My thought was that we'd work together to flesh it out. At first glance it looked pretty good. All the headings are there, the writing is way better than I thought it would be, and there are several pages of financial charts. But where I thought we'd work on it, she thought I would just type it up, add a logo, make it look good and get it bound. We're still struggling with this.

She keeps asking me "Do you still have my plan and when you gonna get to that OG?"

We've had several discussions with me saying things like "I thought the whole point was so this could be really good. So you'd be able to take it to a bank and get a loan. Or a grant! You could totally get a grant for this. You're the perfect profile. I found this organization...."

"Yeah, OG, exactly. You just gotta do it."

Well OG can't "just do it" because after a few introductory sentences almost every section ends with "more content to come later." But really, the biggest obsticle is that her mission statement is COMPLETELY UNSUSTAINABLE. But I can't make her see that.

Me: "Do you really think '...providing affordable make-overs' is a good idea? How are you going to make money doing that? Affordable isn't going to make you any money. And a 'make-over' is a once-every-several-years kind of thing. What you need to get the same person coming back every week, and paying big bucks for something only you can give her."

Then she argues with me that she wants to do "affordable make-overs." And asks me when I'm going to have her plan typed up.

I've been hitting my head against the wall on this for weeks. Months really. So now I'm thinking "Oh to hell with it." I'm just going to type the thing as is, make her a logo, get the thing bound and let Ms. Ebony tell her it'll never fly (no matter what kind of paper it's printed on or how sweet the logo is).

Besides, Ms. Ebony totally gets it and wants me to help her with her business plan. She asked me "how much?" "$2,200" I told her. "I will totally pay you that, if that's what it takes." Her plan will be as BEAST as mine. Actually it probably will be mine. I have no intention of having my own business. I want to work at a big corporate salon that charges $135 for a single process color and makes the client blow-dry their own hair. Something like Bumble + Bumble; where I use to get my hair done back in the day when I was writing real business plans.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fight, fight, fight

Janet came to school looking for a fight. First thing in the morning, she was sitting at the sation next to the one where I was setting up. As I bent over to get the flat-iron out of my kit, I hear (in a VERY nasty tone) "Miss Cynthia, that is right in my face!" This was said with so much disgust and contempt that my first thought was that somehow Janet had gotten hairspray sprayed in her face. I turned around really having no idea what she was talking about, and asked: "What? What's in your face?"

"Your ass!" she replied with distain.

Attempting to deflect this with humor I replied: "Oh Miss Janet I am SO sorry. My ass is just SO BIG it gets in the way. It's so big I can't keep track of it. Like when you're eight months pregnant and you don't know how big your belly is and you keep bumping into things. That's my ass." I then put all my stuff back in my bag and moved to another station far away from crazy Janet. (The students within earshot of all this thought I was hilarious, especially since initially there was so much tension.)

After lunch, suddenly a fight broke out. Janet and Simiko. It was sudden, vicious and loud. Scary. Janet was screaming and going at Simiko (who was also screaming). Darina who was standing about two feet in front of me, went towards Janet to put a hand on her arm and calm her down. But she'd been doing a cut and had her comb and shears in her hand. Super Scary. As this was happening some students were moving in closer, teachers were running in. I'm wondering "is any one calling the cops?" (and since we had about seven clients at the time "we are NEVER going to get any more clients.") But as soon as I saw those shears I ducked down the hallway and around the corner to the Spa Room. So I missed most of it. Both Simko and Janet got expelled. I had just completed Simko's resume with her that morning. She only had about 200 hours more to go; was going to graduate at the end of June. Everyone is saying it was Simiko's fault. I'm not so sure.

Only once have I ever heard of a violent fight in advertising. A rumor of two secretaries in the traffic department at Y&R. The key is when you see a weapon, get the hell out of there. One evening I was coming down the escalators in the Met Life building into Grand Central and saw a man running at full speed across the concourse. Behind him were three cops with GUNS DRAWN. Behind them was a crowd running to see the action. When I got to the bottom of the escalator, I turned around, went back up and returned to my office for an hour or so.

Yesterday one of the girls told me that "there's a fight every Friday. That's why I don't come on Fridays." She may be right. The Friday before all this happened there was another bad fight up the hill resulting in the Police being called and an expulsion.

Stay tuned and find out what will happen tomorrow. It could be me and that new teacher, Mr. James....

Happy Clients

Marianne was so excited yesterday after she passed her drivers test, that she came in to get her hair done. She had been really, really worried that she wouldn't pass. As the test date approached she had put off paying her gym and pool membership 'cause she wasn't sure she'd be able to get there this summer if she had to depend on someone else for a ride. Weeks ago she went to the eye doctor, who ordered new lenses for her glasses. She picked them up yesterday and went right to the BMV. After she passed, she drove right to the club to pay her dues, then wrote a check for her car insurance, made plans to go out that evening, then came to get her hair done. She was SO excited and happy it was infectious. We got to talking.... she told me about her college graduation three years ago. She majored in theology. I said "I majored in theology!" We had a lot in common.

As she was leaving she told me that she'd be back a week from Thursday because her birthday is on Saturday and she wants her hair done for the party. She told me "I'm going to be 80. Just hearing myself say that seems so weird. I can't believe it." "Oh-my-God" I replied "I feel the exact same way about being 50."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tea Party

I almost got into a beauty school fight myself yesterday. Sara has the most right-wing, tea-partyish political views of anyone I've ever seen or heard. She's probably crazy and I have now vowed to just ignore her, and leave the room or move my station. Yesterday, in the break room she was going off on how "Obama isn't really an American because he wasn't born in this country, he refuses to produce his birth certificate, born in the middle of an island, or Africa..." on and on with a good amount of anger and passion. Also thrown in there was how he's going to take everyone's money away, put you in jail if you don't have health insurance and make you go into the military to pay off your student loan. So I asked "where do you get this information, FOX News?" So she goes off telling me that she reads everything and watches all the channels and comes to her own conclusions. I then insisted that the president is an American and always has been. She went nuts.

Later, one of the teachers asked my "what the hell was going on back there with you and Sara?" We agreed that she's nuts and marveled at how a young, black woman can have such a twisted view of the political and economic landscape. A part of me wants to engage with her to find out what it is exactly that she thinks about this stuff and why. But I realize I'm better off just keeping my distance.

The Tea-Partiers sure would love to get a hold of Sara. She could be the next "Joe the plumber."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hair Scare Part 3

When Last we left my f'd up beauty-school hair, I had a blueish streak that I color-corrected back to brown. All was well (except that a hunk of my hair had been fried off). But when I needed a "tint retouch,"(known in layman's terms as "getting my roots done") the color was left on too long (at the teacher's insistence) and my hair was black. (That would be a number "2" on the color scale of 1 to 12, "1" being blue-black and "12" being platinum blond.) So we stripped out all the black and for twenty minutes my hair looked like the picture at the right. Carrot top!

Yesterday was also the closing prayer service for Religious Ed. Teaching that class was such a challenge, but I am so glad I did. It was such a gift to have the time, and to be asked to
do so. The parents, and even the kids, were so appreciative.

It was so crazy to one minute be in beauty school, putting up pin curls on a mannequin head, listening to the girl next to me tell a story of giving her boyfriend head in the bathroom of a UDF (United Dairy Farmers -- a 7-11 like store for all you non-Cincinnatians); and then literally TEN MINUTES LATER be sitting in a meeting with a bunch of women wearing sweat-shirts with teddy bear appliqu├ęs talking about what music we need for the prayer service. Totally surreal; but at the same time, so real it's gritty.

The other thing that happened yesterday -- Mars (remember Lamar, from "up the hill?") got expelled. Something about a big fight, girls ripping the weave right off each other's head, cops called and on top of all that it seems he frequently cusses out the Faculty and Administration.

And, did you know, they make Jordon's with high heels?!


Towards the end of the fall I got bogged down in the culture of blogging; and pretty much stopped writing. I spent time figuring out Google analytics and then checking it all the time. I spent time reading the blogs of "successful" bloggers looking for clues as to what made them popular. I spent time reading books and articles about how to blog and how to monetize.

What I didn't do was write.

Part of not writing is the pressure "to blog." And that pressure, combined with the overwhelming nature of this journey that I am on, had me thinking about what I would write, but not writing. This journey is often funny, some times dark, some times uplifting, frequently spiritual and once-in-a-while deeply disturbing.

Today I am committing to writing. Actually, I am committing to Journaling. Just jotting down what happens every day. If I can tie it all up in a nice package every day that would be nice; but if not, at least I'll have a record of all the joy, intrigue, inspiration, sadness, nostalgia, creativity, learning, disgust, wonder, craziness and FUN.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"What you do for the least of my brothers, you do for Me"

Last Friday I volunteered to cut hair at Haircuts from the Heart at the Franciscan Center in Over the Rhine. ("OTR" has been dubbed "the most dangerous neighborhood in the country." small salon provides haircuts to the very poor and homeless. The day we went, there was a special event honoring veterans. Clients didn't have to be a veteran to get a haircut, they just had to walk in (and register at the desk.) Normally the cost of a hair cut is $2 or a bag of crushed aluminum cans; but last Friday, all haircuts were free. (There was also free lunch provided by Lee's Chicken.) At the same event last year, Haircuts from the Heart gave close to one hundred haircuts in five hours.

I'm not sure how many cuts I did. Eight? Nine? I know that the four of us students did a total of fifty cuts between 9:30 and 2:00. And I did more shampoo's than cuts.This mission is run by one Sister Bonnie -- a tough cookie who is genuinely full of grace. Her mantra is speed, speed, speed. She wants 'em in and out. Quite different from school where it's all about client service, consultation, creativity and precision. Sister Bonnie wants it done right, and done FAST.

It was a transforming experience for everyone involved. Both practically and spiritually. The salon is small, with only two chairs, but we pulled in a couple more for the event. It was crowded, but so happy. These guys were so happy and pumped to get their hair cut and washed, to have us talking to them like salon clients. And, like anyone getting a much needed hair cut, they left feeling great.

In a down moment, I asked Sister Bonnie if she was a cosmetologist or a nun first. She told me that she had been a nurse (and a nun) for years and years before she heard the reading from the Bible "before you pray, wash your face and comb your hair;" which was the inspiration for her mission. As we're talking, she pulls her iPhone out of her pocket and starts checking her email. I said "Wow, you're a cosmetologist nun with an iPhone! That is awesome." She is, truly awesome.

Friday, April 30, 2010


At some point, a few months ago, Isis started calling me "OG." I can't remember why.

Urban Dictionary defines "OG" as: An OG is normally a member of a gang Who has been around for some time and has put in a large amount of work e.g. Killing enemy gang members. Therefore he is considered a more respected/ higher class member in the gang.

Isis came down the hill last week, and the "OG" nickname is catching on. Pretty much everyone thinks it's hilarious; but it is also lending me quite a bit of cred.

Yesterday morning I was feelin' very saldy 'cause I couldn't find my grade sheet. The grade sheet is critical 'cause it's turned in at the end of the month and entered into the computer, sent to the State Board and loans, financial aid, graduation and licensing exam date hang on it. I couldn't find mine in the file with the other day students, or the night students' file. That combined with recently having "lost" a mannique head, a blow dryer, and two foiling combs was making me pretty pissed.

Isis came in about 11:00 -- "How you doin' OG?"
"I'm having a bad day and feeling saldy 'cause my grade sheet has disapperd. So now in addition to my mannique head, foiling combs and blow dryer I have no grade sheet."
"You think someone took it?"
"I don't know, maybe, but it's pissing me off."

"Well that's the problem with being an OG; people gonna steel your shit to prove something. You gonna have to kill someone. You know; to make an example."

"With my luck it'll be someone I like and I won't be able to do it."

"Yeah, that happens."

Five minutes later my grade sheet was found in the other night student pile. So luckily I don't have to kill someone.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beauty School Hair Part 2

I wanted my gray streak to make me cool and edgy. Like Stacey London, Sharon Stone, Emmylou Harris, Jamie Lee Curtis or Meryl Streep. What I got was a swatch of light yellow, very damaged hair. At least what was left of my hair was very damaged. I decide to "fix it" myself with Pravana Color Silk. They make an intense silver and I thought that would do the trick. The instructions said to leave it on for 20 to 40 minutes. I left it on for forty. Because the hair was so damaged, it sucked up the tint, and the color of the product, leaving my streak with a blueish gray hue. Several people at school told me I should just go back to the original brown. I ignored it until Diva said "Miss Cynthia, that just ain't you. How can you have hair like that? I mean how are you going to go to the supermarket like that?"
"Supermarket! How can I go to church like this?! Diva you are totally right." I said. Sadly, I'm just too old and too upscale for crazy beauty school hair. So now I'm back to my original color. (Sigh)

My marketing head needs to tell you that Pravana Color Silk is an excellent product for intense color -- I've use it often and if you've got the youth to carry it off, it's fabulous.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Beauty School Hair

I held out for six months, but yesterday I finally got jacked up beauty school hair.

It actually started about three months ago when I decided I needed something a bit more hip and thought a single silver/gray streak would be just the thing. One of the contestants on the reality show Shear Genius had all-over silver/gray hair with a black streak; I thought it looked cool and that I'd just reverse it. ( Since I'm 90% gray letting a streak go natural wouldn't be difficult. So for many weeks I've been growing out a little piece of gray. I'd be hesitant to get the existing color in my "streak" stripped out because I was afraid it wouldn't work, would ruin my hair, or would just be weird. Then last week there was an article in the New York Times: "Young Trendsetters Streak Their Hair With Gray," -- now that my choice was validated by the august NY Times. ( How could I go wrong?

I went wrong because I allowed myself to be the model for yesterday's color class. There was a lot of experimenting and little client consultation -- not how we would treat an actual client. See that bowl of hair over there in the picture? That's my BLOND hair that disintegrated after being bleached out for an HOUR. The idea was to strip it out, then put silver in. The silver didn't take.

I guess that's what I get for attempting to be a "trendy hipster."

Saturday, April 3, 2010

New Target

The last time I had any contact with elderly people was over twenty years ago when my parents were still alive. Now in the school salon, I'm getting to know about this new "target." I'm as fascinated by these women as I am by my much younger fellow students. Since we charge $7.50 for a wash and roller set we get a lot of seniors. I watch them and think "how old are they?" I really had no idea. But I know they're really, really old. Now I know that some of our regulars are well into their 90's.

A client I had last week came in again yesterday. She was having her hair done by another student and I went over to say "hello" when I finished my client's do. She told me that her children are trying to fix her up with a 89 year old man:

"Which is fine 'cause I'm 89 too. The told me that he was a WWII pilot and a professor at Miami University, and that 'he's so nice you'll really like him.' So I figure I'll go to lunch. I like going out to lunch and maybe I will like him. But he better not try to get into my pants, 'cause all he'd find in there is a big old maxi pad!"

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Good Morning, how can I help you?"

487 Hours, checked out on all practicals, with a GPA of 98.7 today is my last day as a "junior." On Saturday I moved into Phase II of my 1800 hour program -- advanced color and cutting classes, and the salon. The salon with real clients. On Saturday I worked the desk.

The last time I worked at a reception desk it was the Summer of 1981. The agency was Waring & LaRosa (no longer in existence of course). When I think back to it, it must have been a sizable agency. There were "real" (i.e. national) accounts -- Ragu', Perrier, Aziza, Fischer-Price. I was a general assistant doing everything-- bookkeeping, competitive spending reports, assistant producer stuff, typing, and print traffic. I once ran the wrong Cutty Sark ad in the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue. The ads were seasonal and instead of the ad with the couple in the pool, by mistake I ran the one with the guy watching football with his dog. I didn't even get the slightest wrist slap (so now that I think about it, maybe is wasn't my fault after all. I do seem to remember learning about "make goods"). In any event, I felt just terrible. I can't imagine that an equivalent mistake could be made in the salon. Well, actually it could, but it won't be me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brits are just cooler and more fashionable

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon watching an instructional DVD on Wella's new professional color line. Wella is owned by P&G, and it was pretty obvious (to me) that the film was produced in Cincinnati, but the voice-over was British (and the models were stunning). It was such a purposeful choice of VO that I felt manipulated; but at the same time I was mentally applauding the use of the British-accent device.

Lately I've begun to notice that a lot of top tier, celebrity stylists have British accents. Back when I was in Ad Land everyone wanted a Brand Planner with a British accent. All the in-demand, "best," brand planners had British accents. My team once spent many months interviewing Planners, we'd get discouraged and would always say, "If only we could find someone with a British accent." If there was a guy with a British accent we'd always put him in the meeting. It's the same for hair. The stylist from the United Kingdom cannot go wrong. So I Googled "British accents make you cool," and this is what I got:

Having a British accent makes a person sound smart, cool and sophisticated. There's something in the way Brits talk that makes you want to believe in everything they say. If you want to sound like you belong to a higher state in society or just to impress your office buddies, here are some reminders and steps you can follow to pick up the tone and adapt to the speech pattern.

Funny, it's the same in Hair World as it is in Ad Land. Perhaps I should incorporate a British accent into my reinvention.

Monday, March 1, 2010

When a black cat crosses your path...

We were talking in class about cleaning hairbrushes and Lamar said that his grandmother always told him that the hair taken from a brush must be burned, and never just thrown away. If you throw the hair away, the birds will get it, use it for a nest and you'll get migrains. Lamar swears this is true, as did another girl in class. Sounds like some old Voodoo thing to me. But here we are in 21st century Cincinnati and a bunch of twenty-somethings are believing it.

So then I tried to think of crazy superstitions in advertising. I've worked with two top tier, A-level Commercial Directors who wore the same shirt every day of the shoot. Not such a bad thing on a two-day shoot. But one was a five day shoot and the shirt was a flow-y baby blue linen affair. It really became quite rank. The guy also shot a lot of car spots; those shoots can take weeks. Guess that's one way to get the client to leave you alone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missing the Benjarmins

It seems like every time I see a movie now it's shot in New York or LA. In places in New York in LA that I know well. It makes me homesick. I've been out of work for ten months, and in school for five. I miss the money. I miss the travel. I miss buying stuff I want. It sounds a bit crass to actually come out an say it, but it's true. I see friends' vacation pictures on Facebook... from Switzerland, Africa and France. I had to turn down the annual President's Day family gathering in Gatlinburg 'cause we couldn't afford it. And damn it, I feel sorry for myself.

I think about looking for a job. And it's not just for the money, there's something else I miss. It's a longing that's almost physical. Until recently I'd thought the longing was for the old life in New York: the big office, the secretary, and the travel. And although intellectually, I know and accept that that life doesn't exist for anyone any longer, it's still difficult emotionally. At least that's what I thought in my personal pitty party. (I read something just last week that Grey has had to hire a team of industrial psychologist to help people adjust to the new, open office. I have very strong views on open office, but will save that for another time....suffice it to say that I believe strongly that it's what put Chiat Day/NY and Wells Rich Green out of business.) Anyway, I haven't quite been able to recognize exactly what this longing is for; really. But after spending some quality time with former colleagues over the past week or so, I've realized the thing I miss even more than the money, is being with smart people and discussing ideas. That is really what I use to do all day. That's the part I loved. That's the thing I miss. It wasn't staying at the Mondrian and hanging out at SkyBar. It was the people I was with at SkyBar and the plans we made and the ideas we had. It wasn't driving up the PCH first thing in the morning, or the West Side Highway at night, or having breakfast at the Waldrof; it wasn't the places and the furnishings. It was the people and the ideas.

Isis and I talk about how we miss those Benjarmins from our old lives. She use to make thousands of dollars a week selling drugs. Now she's workin' fast food for $8/hour. She says what she likes about her life now is that she can sleep and spend time with her kids. "'cause when you is selling drugs, you get calls all day and all night. And you think 'I can make $1,200 just by drivin' twenty minutes' -- so you go, and then you get another call... And you never get any sleep. I was just SO TIRED all the time. I could never turn down that money." I sure as hell know that feeling.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A new experience

Yesterday, in my Jesus-y mode, I agreed to give Asia a ride downtown so she could get her bus card. (She needed a ride because taking two busses AND stopping to get the bus card would make her late for work.) Since we were going downtown anyway I offered Ruby a ride too. The minute we were in the car they told me they wanted to go to the tattoo/piercing place on Glenway to get their tongues pierced. They've been talking about this for weeks and asking me to come along. Ruby said to me "you want new experiences, right? That's what you said. So come on, do it! I need you to hold my hand Miss Cynthia." So I'm thinking "okay, this is something I've never had the opportunity to do before (and hopefully won't again)." And off we went.

I was kind of freaking out the whole four minute drive up the street: "It's dangerous, there'll be blood, you'll ruin your teeth, your tongue will swell up, I'll have to take you to the emergency room, you'll get blood in my car...." Asia told me "God, you're actin' like we're going to rob a bank and you're driving the get-away car. Calm down."

So we get there, and the place is PACKED. At 3:30 on a weekday! Seems all sorts of people want piercings -- a woman with her ID from University Hospital still affixed to her scrubs, a 55 year old hippish women and her 28ish boyfriend hanging all over each other and both wanting their nipples pierced; two 19 year olds getting bars through their ears, a FAMILY (getting God knows what). We had to wait about twenty minutes and during that time more and more and people came in. The waiting room was as crowded as a New York subway -- packed shoulder to shoulder. God only knows what these other people in the waiting room were thinking about my little threesome. Especially since we were asking everyone about the pain involved and after-care of a tongue piercing.

I think my hands were sweating more than Asia's, or Ruby's (she was freaking out a bit and I didn't think she'd go through with it). After all it wasn't bad. Not that I watched. I tried to take a video with my phone. Told Ruby I'm putting it up on YouTube. But I only got about four seconds and not the actual piercing.

If you're under 18 years of age you need parental consent -- and they have this nice Hello Kitty clip board for the form; so kid friendly.

Frankly, the only thing this experience had in common with anything in advertising was that everyone I know in advertising, under the age thirty, has something unusual pierced; or a tattoo. So really, this is another time when it's "an age thing."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hours and Hours before I sleep....

I just saw a story on the news about last year's commuter airplane crash in Buffalo. The pilots are underpaid, undertrained and over tired. But here's the shocking thing -- they need only 250 Hours of training to get a job as a pilot! Compare that to my 1800 hours to be a "managing cosmetologist!" Seriously, has the world gone mad? And when you think of all the bad haircuts, bad perms and bad color you may have gotten from someone with AT LEAST 1500 hours of training ..... just think about how dangerous it is to get on that little plane to get from, let's say Cincinnati to Pittsburgh!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I want this....

A client comes into the salon with a picture of Rihanna and wants you to make her look like "that." The client is older and heavier than Rihanna and has a round face. She also has very curly hair. But "I really want this cut, I think it'll look good on me."

A client comes into the final creative presentation for the new campaign. He says he loves the spots, his boss loves he spots, he loves the directors treatment and reel, it's a "go." But he only has $180K, the production budget has been slashed to a third of what it was yesterday. "Can we use stock footage for the canyon shot? stock music? shoot locally? make the spots all :15's? Use an 'up and coming director?'" "We have to have this spot that everyone (back at marketer X) loves, but we have to "squeeze out" $300K.

Friday, January 29, 2010

...the milk for free.

At Beauty School there are a few themes the faculty try to drum into our heads. Principles of cosmetology that are so important to our future careers that if one doesn't practice them religiously they will fail. Things like sanitation, through client consultation, and most important off all DO NOT WORK FOR FREE. An exception can be made for immediate family as long as you live in the same house. Or for a close friend and/or family member who does things for you that would otherwise cost money (like making your kid elaborate Halloween costumes or watching your dog) Again and again we are told of the dangers of doing hair for free. "If you do it for free, they'll expect it forever, there is no going back. When you get a job they will not come to you as a client....If you compromise on money, you compromise yourself. You'll die in poverty." We're told that the friends and acquaintances who let us "practice" on them now should at least cover the cost of product. And even then, we really should charge them AT LEAST SOMETHING beyond our cost of materials.

Why don't advertising agencies do this? If this message had been drilled into us advertising professionals throughout our careers (and from the very beginning), how different the business would be today. If getting paid a fair wage for our work was the widely accepted way of doing business, marketers might be embarrassed to ask for reduced fees, or no fees. There'd be no "tuck ins" We wouldn't even think to offer reduced commission rates; it would humiliate us in front of our peers. It would peg us as an inferior shop. Unfortunately, like I'm being told a couple of times a week THERE IS NO GOING BACK.

What's in a Name?

My husband and son (brother and best-friend's husband) are named "John." It's a pretty common name. If we're out in public, in Target for instance, and John's on one end of the aisle and I'm on the other and I shout "John," it is likely that at least one other guy will turn towards me thinking I'm looking for him. If I call for my husband in a very crowded venue -- say the St. X game at Nippert Stadium -- at least four other guys will turn around thinking I'm calling to them. Because my name is somewhat unusual, I've never had the experience of someone calling for me and finding it's not me they want but the other "Cynthia." Until now.

There's "Cynthia" in one of the other classes, so when all three classes are together on Saturdays we're in the same class. This other Cynthia is about 21 years old, small and thin, missing a couple of her front teeth and has hair of many colors often including at least one fantasy color. She has a strong Appalachian accent and it's difficult for me to understand her speech.

Last Saturday Cynthia and I were working in the same class room. Because Cynthia is at the end of Phase I and knows a lot of stuff, students from her regular class kept calling out to her from across the room to come help them with the assignment (which was foils). Every time I'd hear her name, I would turn around. After about three times I was getting really irrattated but would then think "so this is why it drives John so crazy." It kept happening all day, and every single time I'd respond by turning my body toward the call and having that quizzical look on my face that says "Yes? Can I help you?"

Yesterday the classes were together again for a special lecture. Seeing the other Cynthia reminded Ruby and Tomeesha of the hilarious joke they were playing on me last Saturday. Once they noticed that I turned around every time my name was called, they started doing it on purpose. You really have to hear them tell the story to fully appreciate it, but I'll try: "Miss Cynthia, it was so funny. You turnin' around every time we call yo name and looking all like 'what?' Then we'd be actin all like we don't know who's calling you. And you getting all aggravated. Then we'd wait a minute and do it again. We was weak. It was so funny."

I remember when I first enrolled, but hadn't started school yet, a friend of mine told me "you're going to need a beautician name." Kind of like a stripper name. And it's weird but most of the ladies' names do end in a vowel or a "y." Along with the - ishas and - tricas, the Brittneys and Ashleys, "Cynthia" really kind of fits right in after all.

In advertising and marketing I noticed that there were a lot of men with very powerful jobs named "Lou" or "Ed." At one point I was working for a CMO named "Ed," (Lands' End) a CEO named "Eddie" (Kmart) and my actual boss-boss Ed Meyer (the former grand poo-ba of Grey Global Group). I'd call them "Ed, Ed & Eddie" -- you know, that Nickelodeon

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bringing Sexy Back

A bunch of people needed to do "check outs" (practical tests) so I volunteered to be the "client." I got a manicure, make-up, and my hair styled. Ruby had me in the chair while she flat-ironed my hair and it went like this:

Ruby: Miss Cynthia we gonna make you sexxxxxyyyyyy... your husband gonna be all "'baby, baby, whoa baby'.. when you get home"

Asia: You should go to the club with us Miss Cynthia, you be all sexy and everything. You got yourself some heels?

Me: The only heels I have are business-lady pumps (which isn't really true because back when I worked in advertising my friend Cheryl inspired me to get some really nice shoes -- but they really hurt my feet)

Ruby: (in a sing-song voice I can't even begin to figure out how to describe here) sexy, sexy, sexy.... Miss Cynthia is so sexy.....

Me: Ruby I am too fat to be sexy

Asia: What you talkin' 'bout?? (said with indignation and incredulousness), fat girls is IN right now!

Who knew?