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Preening for the Prom: A Trip to Suzi D's

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

This is prom season, a chance for girls and their mothers to indulge in a little extra fashion and glamour.

North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann sent us this postcard from Suzi D's Salon in Saranak Lake, New York.

BRIAN MANN: Six hours before the dance stylist Suzie Dwyer is sizing up her second client of the day.

SUZIE DWYER: Okay, Maria, what do you, what did you come up with for your hair for tonight?

MARIA TRUMBALL: I kind of want it, like, half up and half down, but then I really like -

DWYER: Really large?

MANN: Maria Trumball plays varsity soccer, but today she's a debutante. Her blond hair is raw material for Suzi Dwyer's art.

DWYER: Well Maria, you have so much hair. I'm going to be working my fingers to the bone here for the next hour.

MANN: Maria sits in the chair bolt upright, rigid and formal as a geisha. Soon her head is heavy with giant curlers.

DWYER: Tell me if this roller burns your ear. Is that okay there?

TRUMBALL: Yeah, it's fine.

DWYER: We're going to be here a while, we have to do super tiny sections with hot rollers all over.

MANN: Maria's mom, Cindy Moody, follows every move, offering bits of advice. This extravagance is very different from her own childhood.

CINDY MOODY: It's not like I remember going to Ames and buying a polyester dress back in the day and they really do it up, it's pretty nice.

MANN: Maria's hair takes shape, looking soft and sumptuous.

DWYER: We're just going to pull it back more like a little bit above the occipital bone and kind of criss-cross it with bobby pins and make it real natural looking.

MANN: It's an illusion really. To the touch, Maria's hair is stiff and fragile as a bird's nest.

DWYER: We're gonna hide that rubber band, flip them on a bobby pin.

MANN: Suzi works in fake pearls to camouflage tiny flaws. Maria's hair sweeps up and back, falling in perfect waves. She's delighted. She says to her mom, this is how I'm supposed to look.

TRUMBALL: I wish you gave me this kind of curly hair. The way she gets it, I wish you gave it to me.

MOODY: Sorry, my sweet.

TRUMBALL: Yeah, you should be and why didn't you give me blue eyes, huh?

MOODY: Oh, man.

DWYER: You'd look silly with blue eyes.

TRUMBALL: Nah, I'd look like Shirley Temple.

DWYER: Don't swing your head around, you got to, you're getting a little swingy.

MANN: When the hairdo finally sets, Cindy takes Maria home. Suzi tells her to keep as still as she can until her date arrives. Suzi also sits, but just long enough to drink a quick cup of coffee. She has two more prom girls this afternoon.

DWYER: A lot of girls show up with a picture. Those are the hardest people because now you're trying to match this picture of this person and you can come close, but let's be real, they're not going to leave here looking like Angelina Jolie. Bummer, but you know.

MANN: For NPR News, I'm Brian Mann in Saranak Lake, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.