Hair Today—Gone Tomorrow?

When my husband needs a haircut, he says, “I think I’ll go get a haircut.” He breezes out the door and is back in an hour.

For me it’s a life-altering decision.

When I’m dissatisfied with my hair, it colors my entire life (pun intended). Bad hair puts me in a mood to match. So, back in the fall, when the haircuts weren’t working, they left me in a perpetual state of agitation.

But oh, change is tough. A woman develops loyalty to whoever puts scissors to her hair, let alone colors it, and rightfully so. Talk about trust issues. When the time comes for a change, it feels like betrayal. Just asking my friends for recommendations or browsing the yellow pages or scouting salons online felt like I was sneaking around.

Drastic measures

Changing hairdressers requires much soul-searching and justification, tallying grievances that make a drastic move not only desirable but also necessary. Here are a few of mine:

  • S/he cut it too short.
  • S/he didn’t cut it short enough.
  • S/he was running late.
  • S/he was distracted.
  • S/he talked too much.
  • S/he didn’t listen to what I said I wanted.

And so, after agonizing for weeks and then acting on a whim (if I didn’t act on a whim I would never, ever pick up the phone), I called a hair stylist a friend had recommended. I figured it would be weeks before I could get in, but NO. He had an opening the following Saturday. “Noon,” he said.

“Noon?” I repeated, stupidly.

“Yes. Noon.”

“I’ll take it,” I said.

For two nights before that appointment, I had nightmares about haircuts gone bad. I vacillated between guilt and terror. What had I done? Well, I had betrayed a perfectly good hair stylist, that’s what.

It’s only hair.           

When Saturday came, armed with my photo of Helen Mirren with short hair, I set out. I gripped the steering wheel hard. I had sweaty palms. It felt like a trip to the dentist. I told myself, it’s only hair. 

The salon was small and quiet, only a couple of customers on Saturday at noon. I tried to appear nonchalant, like someone who tries out a new hair stylist every other month or so, but I must have been ashen because the stylist zeroed right in on my case of nerves.

“It’s going to be okay,” s/he said, like a parent reassuring a kid with a skinned knee.

I considered bolting, but I didn’t. I wondered, sitting there, waiting, why haircuts make me so nervous. And then I remembered.

The monstrous machine

The Bad Perm
The Bad Perm

When I was a little girl, I had really pretty hair. In most photographs, it’s shiny and clean and nicely curled, usually with a big bow. But my mother must have gotten tired of taking care of it. That’s the only explanation I can fathom for why, when I was three, maybe going on four, she took me to the beauty parlor over the drugstore, up the same stairs to where the doctor’s office was. I had been in that beauty shop before with my mother. Somebody had probably trimmed my hair. I’d seen women sit under the permanent wave machine, a monster of a thing with long tentacles that attached to their heads. I’d never dreamed it could happen to me, but that day, it did. My mother apparently wanted my hair short and carefree. Somebody cut my long hair off, and then I sat under that machine, breathing in the awful permanent wave solution fumes, those fumes and fear and humiliation making me cry.

I remember that, when we got home, I refused to look in the mirror. I don’t remember ever looking, although at some point I must have. I couldn’t have avoided mirrors for the long time it took for the awful frizzy perm to grow out. You can see for yourselves in the photo how bad it was. 

What possessed my mother? I have no idea. Whatever it was, she must have felt guilty because by my fifth birthday, my hair was long again, and pretty.

Back to the present

Of course, the encounter with the new stylist wasn’t perfect, either. There were a few problems:

  • S/he was running late.
  • S/he cut it too short.
  • S/he talked too much.
  • S/he didn’t listen to what I said I wanted.

I’ll stick with this stylist for a while, though. After all, I’ve made the break, and making up is just too hard. I’ve already gone back a second time, and this time, I let this new person, this person I hardly know, color my hair. Now that, my friends, is trust. And, would you believe—I like it!

Do you have hair horror stories? If so, share them here!