'Bad Day At The Beauty Salon' by Maggie Estep

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I was a 20 year old unemployed receptionist with
dyed orange dreadlocks sprouting out of my skull. I needed a job, but first,
I needed a haircut.

So I head for this beauty salon on Avenue B.

I'm gonna get a hairdo.

I'm gonna look just like those hot Spanish haircut models, become brown
and bodacious, grow some 7 inch fingernails painted bitch red and rake
them down the chalkboard of the job market's soul.

So I go in the beauty salon.

This beautiful Puerto Rican girl in tight white spandex and a push-up bra
sits me down and starts chopping my hair:

"Girlfriend," she says, "what the hell you got growing outta
your head there, what is that, hair implants? Yuck, you want me to touch
that shit, whadya got in there, sandwiches?"

I just go: "I'm sorry."

She starts snipping my carefully cultivated Johnny Lydon post-Pistols hairdo.
My foul little dreadlocks are flying around all over the place but I'm
not looking in the mirror cause I just don't want to know.

"So what's your name anyway?" My stylist demands then.

"Uh, Maggie."

"Maggie? Well, that's an okay name, but my name is Suzy."

"Yeah, so?"

"Yeah so it ain't just Suzy S.U.Z.Y, I spell it S.U.Z.E.E, the extra
"e" is for extra Suzee."

I nod emphatically.

Suzee tells me when she's not busy chopping hair, she works as an exotic
dancer at night to support her boyfriend named Rocco. Suzee loves Rocco,
she loves him so much she's got her eyes closed as she describes him:

"6 foot 2, 193 pounds and, girlfriend, his arms so big and long they
wrap around me twice like I'm a little Suzee sandwich."

Little Suzee Sandwich is rapt, she blindly snips and clips at my poor punk
head. She snips and clips and snips and clips, she pauses, I look in the
mirror: "Holy shit, I'm bald."

"Holy shit, baby, you're bald." Suzee says, finally opening her
eyes and then gasping.

All I've got left is little post-nuke clumps of orange fuzz. And I'll never
get a receptionist job now.

But Suzy waves her manicured finger in my face: "Don't you worry,
baby, I'm gonna get you a job at the dancing club."


"Baby, let me tell you, the boys are gonna like a bald go go dancer."

That said, she whips out some clippers, shaves my head smooth and insists
I'm gonna love getting naked for a living.

None of this sounds like my idea of a good time, but I'm broke and I'm
bald so I go home and get my best panties. Suzee lends me some 6 inch pumps,
paints my lips bright red, and gives me 7 shots of Jack Daniels to relax

8pm that night I take the stage.

I'm bald,

I'm drunk,

and by god,

I'm naked.


A few guys feel sorry for me and risk getting their hands bitten off by
sticking dollars in my garter belt. My disheveled pubic hairs stand at
full attention, ready to poke the guys' eyes out if they get too close.

Then I notice this bald guy in the audience, I've got a new empathy for
bald people, I figure maybe it works both ways, maybe this guy will stick
10 bucks in my garter.

I saunter over.

I'm teetering around unrhythmically, I'm the surliest, unsexiest dancer
that ever go-go across this hemisphere. The bald guy looks down into his
beer, he'd much rather look at that than at my pubic mound which has now
formed into one vicious spike so it looks like I've got a unicorn in my

I stand there weaving through the air.

The strobe light is illuminating my pubic unicorn. Madonna's song Borderline
is pumping through the club's speaker system for the 5th time tonight:
And suddenly, I start to wonder: What does that mean anyway?



Screw me so much my eyes pop out, I go blind, end up walking down 2nd Avenue
crazy, horny, naked and blind? What?

There's a glitch in the tape and it starts to skip.


I stumble and twist my ankle. My g-string rides between my buttcheeks making
me twitch with pain. My head starts spinning, my knees wobble, I go down
on all fours and puke all over the bald guy's lap.

So there I am. Butt naked on all fours. But before I have time to regain
my composure, the strip club manager comes over, points his smarmy strip
club manager finger at me and goes:

"You're bald, you're drunk, you can't dance and you're fired."

I stand up.

"Oh yeah, well you stink like a sneaker, pal." I peel off one
of my pumps and throw it in the direction of his fat head then I get the
hell out of there.

A few days later I run into Suzee on Avenue A. Turns out she got fired
for getting me a job there in the first place. But she was completely undaunted,
she dragged me up to this wig store on 14th Street, bought me a mouse brown
shag wig, then got us both telemarketing jobs on Wall Street.

And I never went to a beauty salon again.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Exploring the Depths of "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" by Maggie Estep

As a reader, one cannot help but be captivated by the raw and edgy literary style of Maggie Estep's "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon." This poem is not for the faint-hearted, as it explores the darker side of femininity and the beauty industry. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the symbolism, themes, and literary techniques used by Estep to create a powerful and thought-provoking piece of literature.

Background on Maggie Estep

Before we begin our analysis of "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon," it is essential to provide some context on the author, Maggie Estep. She was an American writer and spoken-word artist who gained prominence during the 1990s for her observational poetry and short stories. Estep was known for her unapologetic and often explicit writing style, which tackled topics such as sexuality, addiction, and mental health.

Estep's writing style was heavily influenced by her personal struggles with substance abuse and depression. She used her writing as a coping mechanism and a way to express her innermost thoughts and feelings. Her work often challenged societal norms and stereotypes, making it both powerful and subversive.

Overview of "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon"

"Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" is a poem that explores the beauty industry's damaging effects on women's self-esteem and body image. The poem is written from the perspective of a woman who is at a beauty salon, getting her hair and nails done. However, as the poem progresses, it becomes clear that the woman is struggling with her appearance and the pressure to conform to society's beauty standards.

The poem is divided into three stanzas, each of which builds upon the previous one, creating a sense of tension and unease. The language used in the poem is raw, visceral, and confrontational, making it an impactful and challenging read.

Themes in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon"

The beauty industry's damaging effects on women's self-esteem and body image are the primary themes in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon." Estep explores how the beauty industry perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards and how women are expected to conform to these standards to be considered attractive.

The poem also touches on the issue of societal pressure and how it affects women's mental health. The woman in the poem is struggling to live up to societal expectations and is consumed by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

Another theme in the poem is the idea of femininity and what it means to be a woman. Through the woman's internal monologue, Estep challenges traditional notions of femininity and the roles that women are expected to play in society.

Symbolism in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon"

One of the most potent symbols used in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" is the hair dye. The woman in the poem is getting her hair dyed, which represents the idea of changing oneself to fit societal standards. The hair dye is an external change that the woman is making to her appearance, but it also symbolizes a deeper internal struggle to conform to societal norms.

The salon chair is another important symbol in the poem. The chair represents the beauty industry's power and control over women's self-esteem and body image. The woman is trapped in the chair, unable to escape the pressure and expectations placed upon her by society and the beauty industry.

The woman's reflection in the mirror is also a powerful symbol in the poem. The mirror represents the harsh reality of societal expectations and how they are reflected back to women. The woman is forced to confront her insecurities and flaws, which are magnified by the beauty industry's unrealistic beauty standards.

Literary Techniques in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon"

Estep's use of language in "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" is raw and confrontational, making it a powerful and challenging read. Her use of repetition, alliteration, and rhetorical questions creates a sense of tension and unease, mirroring the woman's internal struggle.

Repetition is used throughout the poem to emphasize the woman's internal monologue. The phrase "I hate it" is repeated several times, highlighting the woman's self-doubt and insecurity. The repetition creates a sense of unease and tension, making the reader feel the weight of the woman's struggle.

Alliteration is also used to create a sense of rhythm and repetition. The repetition of the "s" sound in the phrase "smiling, shiny, straight hair" creates a sense of order and conformity, highlighting the beauty industry's obsession with uniformity.

Rhetorical questions are used throughout the poem to challenge societal norms and expectations. The woman asks herself, "Do I need to be beautiful? Do I need to be thin?" These questions challenge traditional notions of femininity and the roles that women are expected to play in society.


In conclusion, "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the beauty industry's damaging effects on women's self-esteem and body image. Through her use of symbolism, themes, and literary techniques, Estep creates a raw and edgy piece of literature that challenges traditional notions of femininity and societal expectations. The poem is a reminder that women should be free to define their own beauty standards and should not be held captive by the beauty industry's unrealistic ideals.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Bad Day At The Beauty Salon: A Poem of Empowerment and Self-Acceptance

Are you tired of feeling like you have to conform to society's beauty standards? Do you ever feel like you're not good enough because you don't fit into the mold of what's considered beautiful? If so, then Maggie Estep's poem, "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon," is the perfect read for you.

In this classic poem, Estep takes us on a journey through the eyes of a woman who's having a rough day at the beauty salon. From the very first line, we can feel the frustration and disappointment that the protagonist is experiencing:

"I went to the beauty salon / to get my hair done / and ended up looking like a poodle."

Right away, we can tell that things aren't going well for our protagonist. She's gone to the salon with the intention of getting her hair done, but instead of feeling beautiful and confident, she feels like a poodle. This is a feeling that many of us can relate to – we've all had bad haircuts or styling experiences that have left us feeling less than our best.

But instead of wallowing in self-pity, our protagonist decides to take matters into her own hands. She refuses to let the salon's mistake define her, and instead chooses to embrace her own unique beauty:

"But I'm not gonna let it get me down / I'm gonna walk out of here / with my head held high / and my tail between my legs."

This is a powerful moment in the poem, as our protagonist chooses to take control of her own narrative. She's not going to let the salon's mistake define her – instead, she's going to walk out of there with her head held high, proud of who she is and what she looks like.

As the poem continues, we see our protagonist embracing her own unique beauty even more. She rejects the idea that there's only one way to be beautiful, and instead celebrates the diversity of beauty that exists in the world:

"I don't wanna look like everybody else / I wanna look like me / I wanna be unique / I wanna be beautiful in my own way."

This is a sentiment that's becoming more and more popular in today's society. People are rejecting the idea that there's only one way to be beautiful, and instead are celebrating the diversity of beauty that exists in the world. Our protagonist is a perfect example of this – she's not trying to conform to society's beauty standards, but instead is embracing her own unique beauty.

The poem ends with our protagonist feeling empowered and confident in herself:

"I'm gonna walk out of here / with my head held high / and my tail between my legs / because I know that I'm beautiful / in my own way."

This is a powerful message of self-acceptance and empowerment. Our protagonist has gone through a difficult experience, but instead of letting it get her down, she's chosen to embrace her own unique beauty and be proud of who she is. This is a message that's important for all of us to hear – we don't have to conform to society's beauty standards to be beautiful. We can be beautiful in our own way, and that's something to be proud of.

In conclusion, "Bad Day At The Beauty Salon" is a classic poem that's just as relevant today as it was when it was first written. It's a powerful message of self-acceptance and empowerment, and a reminder that we don't have to conform to society's beauty standards to be beautiful. So the next time you're feeling down about your appearance, remember the words of our protagonist: "I'm gonna be beautiful in my own way."

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