Today Is Beautiful: A Visit to Mae Salon in Avondale

Yesterday, I was eating lunch at Pizitz when a woman stopped me to tell me she liked my hair. This isn’t that unusual — and it has virtually nothing to do with me. I’m not being self-deprecating here; I’m just really lazy about my hair. I owe a lot to genetics, but mainly, my hair looks good (or not) depending on who cuts it.

My hair needs someone who knows what they’re doing — and that’s not me. Unfortunately, though, salons kind of freak me out. At most of them, I feel like a nerdy kid standing by the popular table in the cafeteria — everyone’s talking about things that I’m not good at, and I have a vague feeling that they’re all laughing at me. I know that my hair is difficult (its natural state is “too thick and wavy in weird places”), but I don’t know how to explain what it does or what I want it to do.

I’ve dealt with my fear of salons by avoiding them. My friend Liz is the first stylist who seemed to “get” the deal with me and my hair (the fact that I have bangs is thanks to her), and she cut hair out of her house. When she stopped taking appointments because she had a baby, I found Molly Stilley through Instagram. Molly also understood my hair (she’s called my bangs “iconic”), and she also cut hair out of her house … until she didn’t. When Molly told me she was moving to Mae Avondale, a new salon opening up near Saturn (it’s in the former Nest event space), I was happy for her. Not so much for me.

Luckily, my worries were misguided. Mae was actually a really lovely experience. I doesn’t look or smell like the salons I’ve been in before: It’s very clean and not at all cluttered. The waiting area isn’t sectioned off, and it’s full of comfortable (and pretty) couches and chairs. They brought me coffee (good coffee!) and magazines I’d actually want to flip through. There’s not a fluorescent light in sight, and it smells great — like essential oils, and not like chemicals (apparently, this is because they use Kevin Murphy products, which are known for being all natural and happen to smell great, too). And while I’ll probably always feel out of my depth when it comes to beauty and fashion, this time I felt like the bookworm who’s invited to sit at the popular table by the head cheerleader. (If you’re thinking my worldview seems disproportionately influenced by ‘80s movies and Clueless, you are not wrong.)

In addition to all this, my hair looks good. I’m getting lots of compliments (from strangers at Pizitz, people watching my Instagram stories, and also from people I know). At Mae, I felt like I was taken care of. They listened to me and were kind to me. (The first time I visited was right before I got married, and when I came back the second time, they asked about the wedding.) Small shops are at their best when they’re curated by people who know and love what they do, and Mae is an example of that in every way. I appreciate the attention to detail, the attention to people, the kindness and the creativity. I didn’t choose Mae — Molly did that. But I’m honestly glad that she did.

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. She’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.

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