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Rich: Be careful where your beauty shop talk leads

POSTED: December 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

It all started at the beauty shop. Most of women's troubles that don't begin with men begin at the beauty shop. But then, you knew that.

If it's not a bad perm, color that goes haywire or too much hair laying on the floor after "just a little trim," then it's something you learn either in the form of gossip or helpful advice.

Women at the beauty shop generally mean well. After all, it's a sisterhood and we see it as one sister helping enough.

That, though, is how I ended up sending my mama for a spin in her grave.

Sandy, chatty and sweet as always, plopped down in the chair next to me. We've known each other for many years and, like women who like each other do, we began a conversation about not much of nothing that led to a lot of something.

"Those are pretty jeans you have on," I commented. Decent Southern women always seek to compliment each other.

She threw a finger in my direction and exclaimed, "Let me tell you about these jeans."

Animated as she always is, she elaborately crafted a story of how she never spends much on jeans but because she's long-legged and can never find ones that are long enough, someone suggested that she visit a boutique where extremely expensive jeans are sold.

"First ones I tried on fit perfectly." She smiled with satisfaction at that. "In fact, just a teeny bit long." The price, though, was a shock. "But I have a little money that I tuck away, so I bought them."

Another helpful soul at the beauty shop suggested that she take them to a certain place for alterations and have the "blue jean hem put back in." This, you should know, is the new cool thing: cut the jeans off then sew the original hem back on to the altered length.

"Well," Sandy continued, shifting in her chair. "They were just a tiny bit big in the waist so I had the lady take them up." She leaned forward. "When I went to pick the jeans up, the alterations bill was $43!" She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"Now, needless to say, I'll be wearing these jeans till I die with all this money I have in them." She smiled. "But they're real cute and fit great." She shrugged. "So, they're worth it."

That's where the trouble began.

Based on Sandy's counsel, I left the beauty shop and went straight to the boutique, bought a pair of high-priced but great fitting jeans. After taking them home for a wash and dry and pinning them up with a pair of high heels, I headed down to the alteration shop and requested, "Please put the blue jeans hem back in." She was obviously impressed by how cool I am since I know the latest style.

Mama was always big on sewing and saving money. Growing up, I wore homemade clothes but I developed an appreciation for the art of sewing.

I'm quite a seamstress and, in fact, was a 4-H sewing champion. I used to regularly sew Vogue patterns, the Mount Everest of difficulty in sewing circles. Mama was always so proud of my skill and ability. She gloated over the fact that I could sew things, both difficult and simple. Like hemming jeans.

"It's ridiculous how much it costs to have alterations done," she'd say from time to time. "But you don't have to worry about that. You can do anything that needs to be done. You won't ever have to pay for alterations because you're a smart girl." She smiled proudly. "You got that from me."

But putting the original jeans hem back in is new to me. So I paid $21 to have it done.

Mama is spinning in her grave.

Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)." Sign up for her newsletter.



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