I went back to my old hair stylist after about a year. It was only awkward if I decided it was. I told myself that when I sat down. My goal was to not say “See you next time” when I left.
My stylist had to stop working for a while due to an injury, and her shop is a drive, one of those drives that’s a lot worse in summer and yes I could take pub trans but it’s not convenient, okay? Hair is a chancy business. While she was recovering, I’d found a much closer shop, one I could walk to. Although I was starting to feel a little hemmed in by that shop too–the friendly “See you next time” that made me feel obligated, the conversations I didn’t always feel like having, the guilty feeling when I wasn’t really crazy about my cut. Hence my return to this interminable drive down Damen.
I’d considered going to a new salon; in fact, going to a new place every time, so I’d never feel like I was cheating. But that’s silly. I can go wherever I want, and not make a big drama out of a simple business transaction. I told myself that as long as I didn’t say “See you next time” I wouldn’t be misrepresenting myself. I could walk out of my old salon totally free. Let summer come, let the bikers take over Damen Avenue. Let the busses belch diesel. Let the SUV in front of me stop for no reason, then go a couple of feet, then pause, then go a little farther, then signal to turn, then not turn, then turn the other way without signaling, just in time for the bus to get in front of me again. I don’t need to do this drive ever again. No one’s expecting me.
And yet, as she finished up, and I loved my hair, and we were all caught up on our lives and it was so nice to be back, I almost said it. I wanted so badly to say it. I couldn’t help it. She was on to greet her next client and probably didn’t see me put my hand over my mouth. She’s a business woman. I’m a business woman. I know how it all works. But it’s intimate, this beauty business. Here was the woman who recused me from a winter mullet. She knew my secret insecurities about bullet head hair and also bird hair, and also gray hair, and she made the monsters go away. How could I not reinforce our bond?
Coincidentally, Django’s regular stylist also suffered an injury and hasn’t been working. So lately we go to a nice little place in the neighborhood that we can walk to. Django’s experience at both salons is as follows: When we arrive, she attempts to walk casually past the entrance. I pull her back and we enter. She shivers pathetically until the groomer gets her into the tub. When I pick her up, the shivers are gone and the groomer tells me she was a very good girl. We leave, and she rolls in something disgusting the first chance she gets. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Ah, that strange sense of personal obligation toward our hair stylist. I love how you identify those things we go through that we never identify in words! I’ve been traumatized since I was a child by the fakey personal talk I have to do to get through a hair appointment. I go too long between appointments just to avoid it.
Thanks, Connie. I sometimes wonder if stylists feel the same thing, like they have to cut hair beautifully AND keep up a steady flow of conversation. I would hate having to entertain my client while I was trying to work.
It’s not exactly the same since in my case, since it would just be a barber rather than a stylist, but I have the same issues. I’m terrible at small talk, and would rather just quietly endure the 20 minutes or so it takes to give me a haircut than talk about sports (of which I care little) or my life (of which I don’t particularly relish sharing with my barber), or anything else for that matter. I cut my own hair these days, so haven’t been subjected to these problems in many years now, though.
Remember my strange roommate Ali…she actually did not know what to say to her clients and so remained pretty stoic during the process for fear of having cut their hair before and yet not remembering them this time around.
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