Let’s be clear, I’m not longing for a hair salon. I’ve got an excellent one. I am referring to the salons of Paris and New York City–cultural gatherings where food was incidental to Vanessa Bell/Virginia Woolfthe conversation about novels, art, music and politics. Think of pre-Bolshevik Russia and Zhivago. Or Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group as depicted by her sister and fellow group member, Vanessa Bell.
Early 19th century salons in Europe grew to be places of singing and storytelling as front rooms were used in winter months for gatherings. Salons were not confined to the upper-class. Early salons did bar women; later ones were hotbeds of the feminist movement. Some focused on politics while others banned the topic.
Last week’s Boston Globe reported that the home to one of Boston’s great salons was for sale. Going, going, almost gone is the home of poet William Corbett and his wife Beverly and for decades a gathering place for other poets and authors. It made me regret that I’d never had the opportunity to attend one of their storied gatherings at 9 Columbus Square in the South End. And I wondered who would take their place.
Is it possible to host a salon in the 21st century? I’m geographically challenged in a small town; I picture the great salons in brownstones on gaslit streets. Then there is the issue of issues. Discussing politics today feels irrelevant when we are deluged with advertising, pundits and propaganda. One friend recently commented on Facebook that she wanted to turn off her TV until after the election. I clicked “like.”
Perhaps salons are dinosaurs, but in a world where computers often substitute for real community, there is a crying need to keep them alive. I heartily disagree with a writer who said that blogging was the new form of salons. I do the former, obviously, and yearn for the latter.
In September, I’m launching the Second Sunday Salon. Aside from the delightful alliteration, it is the month of returning to school and thoughtful enterprise. Can I find a group of like-minded people?
P.S. My must-have hair salon is the airy, magical Body Mind Spirit Day Spa.