When we were preparing to depart Houston, a female neighbor told me that one of the things most difficult for her in a new city was finding a hairdresser. Being a low maintenance woman, but also being possessed of totally unmanageable hair, I remember looking at her straight, long hair and thinking, “You’re crazy.” How hard could it be to cut that hair? And getting a job in our new location seemed like it would be a much more difficult hunt than the one to be conducted for a stylist.
I’ve had some marvelously uncomfortable surprises since our relocation, one of which had nothing to do with finding a job.
In all fairness, I can’t lay the blame for my ‘do (or rather, my ‘do-wrong) at the scissorhands of the local stylists only. Before I found a person in Houston who could snip her way competently through the Medusa landscape of my head, I came out of salons looking alternately like James Dean, Max Headroom or a sickly Chia pet. One little Vietnamese girl pressed me into the chair while saying, “You gonna look so cute when we done with you.” That should have been my cue to FLEE since I have not been cute since babyhood, but after waiting nearly an hour for a stylist, I squelched my apprehension and submitted to her ministrations. I came out with a very short cut complete with a tail that went unnoticed till I got home; she must have hidden it in my collar. I had Mike take a scissors to the goofy appendage with hardly worse results than those for which I’d just paid. Was I cute? I don’t know. Was I satisfied? No. I also had one woman who could cut my hair in five minutes or less. It looked like a five minute cut, too. When stylists routinely start cutting from the back side there’s no chance to say the cut’s too short by the time they round the clubhouse turn of my head and flatten out toward the finish line.
Each prospective stylist receives a stock recitation of my very simple needs: clean it up, not too short, I don’t use a blow dryer or a brush. I want to get up in the morning and push my curls around for the shortest time possible so my head won’t look like a bed spring. I don’t want to control my hair, I just want to get along with it. I’m pretty much walking around under it hoping for the best.
I’ve cycled through at least seven stylists in the two years we’ve lived here. They usually start out well enough but after two or three cuts they all resort to a near head-shave, leaving me hair just long enough to stand up in pokeys around my unfortunate head. One woman, a New York transplant, muscled my head around so roughly my scalp stung. She was a pleasant person, but the haircut was not exceptional and I felt like I’d been assaulted. She was employed by one of those places call Badcut, or Budgetcut, or some such apt descriptor, so I decided to part with more cash in my snip quest. My (male) boss recommended the stylist his family used, a gay Republican with a house salon. The fact that my boss even felt it necessary to offer those qualifiers makes me reflect about what image I’m projecting outside The Big City beneath my obviously liberal curls. The gay Republican looked me over, then swiftly razored my hair dry against a
comb, after which he told me my hair is a difficult type to cut. He gave me the lowdown on local neighborhoods and restaurants and sent me on my way. I left sporting a shrub of pokeys. My boss proclaimed enthusiastically that my hair looked great. He also likes Outback restaurant. I then found myself in another chain salon in the chair of an ex-military man. We started off well enough that I recommended my husband (who is even lower maintenance than me and was also then hair challenged) to him. This stylist would observe total, almost unnerving silence during the cut, then want to chat at length afterward about sports or bodybuilding. But more than once X.G.I. Do was significantly late to our appointments with nary an explanation or comment to be made, or offering a brilliant, manipulative smile and semi-apology. After the third instance of toe-tapping waiting time and coming away with a wedge-shaped head, I asked the salon for a different stylist.
My new stylist took note of my wedge head and pleading speech and did me right while producing an acceptable amount and content of spoken pleasantries. Our second date was equally encouraging.
So, here I am, after my third cut with this stylist. This is January, but we’ve had wonderfully temperate weather. I’m glad, and I hope it continues that way, because now I have very little hair to warm my head.
I knew the moment I walked in the salon Friday that I’d get a bad cut. There’s probably a Cesar Milan of hair whisperers who could detail how I knew that – maybe because the place was the busiest I’ve ever seen it, and my stylist looked tired when she retrieved me (her last appointment), or maybe it was the bad karma of being seated beside my former stylist, Mr. X.G.I. Do, for the first time since I’d extricated myself from his care. I mentioned to her again my usual
desires – just a cleanup, not too much cut off. The first close of the scissor arms showed that my words had been blow-dried to the wind as too much hair spiraled to the floor.
Maybe I was tired, too, or resigned, or just gave up the struggle. I said nothing, and watched as my unruly locks became short, and shorter still. It was like watching somebody shear Lamb Chop; you know the cuddly little sheep puppet will get its woolly back, but in the meantime Sharri’s going to have to wear a heated mitt inside the little critter so it doesn’t shiver too much.
Am I expecting too much? Do salons use a numbering system with which I am unfamiliar? Does asking for half an inch off really mean half an inch to clean up naughty ends, then another inch for the actual styling? I confess to a secret desire from more youthful days to have either a Mohawk-style cut, or to have my hair cut to about a quarter inch long all over, but never have I breathed a word of that to anyone holding scissors near my head. Does Rosetta Stone offer salon-speak as a language choice? Is this like the male/female misunderstanding of “no” actually meaning “yes”? Are there magic words or sign language, unknown to me, that will prevent further overexposure?
Mirrors are a strictly limited commodity in our house; if I can’t see something, it doesn’t exist in my world. So, I’ll have a bad haircut once or twice a day for the next month while it grows out. Why my head is constantly cold will be another pretend mystery entirely. Spring is a couple months away, time enough to figure out how to avoid another shearing. Time enough, I hope, for someone to hair and sympathize with what I’m saying.