My hairstylist and I had been on autopilot for years. I’m the least adventurous woman when it comes to my frizzy dark hair. Sometimes when I felt wild, I let her skim an extra 1/8 of an inch or try a new product (but only if I went home right after my appointment because you never know). I’ve pretty much written my hair off as a lost cause. One day while the stylist whose work station is back-to-back with mine was cutting my daughter’s hair, a light bulb went off above my lackluster head: Maybe I need a change.
I pulled my daughter’s stylist into a hiding spot behind the sinks. “Can I ask you a question off the record?” I love how the lawyer always comes out to play when I’m nervous. “If I let you do anything you want with my hair, what would you recommend?”
Her eyes lit up. She diplomatically told me she would change the color, get rid of the face frame and chop two inches off to “clean things up.” I was feeling dirty for considering cheating on my stylist and could probably use a clean up. To be fair, I never gave my old stylist a chance to say what she would do if only I untied her hands and unleashed her scissors. On the other hand, didn’t she notice that my cut and color were just not working? Perhaps it was time for us to part ways and see other people…
I conspired with my new stylist to come back during the one hour that her schedule didn’t overlap with my old stylist. I loved my new cut and color and left her chair relatively unscathed because I didn’t have to face stylist #1. But the following month stylist #2 was unavailable during that magical time slot and I was faced with waiting an additional two weeks (maybe I could wear a hat every day?) or coming clean with stylist #1.
Stylist #2 assured me that while this happens all the time, she knows it’s a huge deal for clients. No one wants to hurt anyone’s feelings; we just want to like our hair. And everyone hates a break-up. I tried to convince myself that I have the right to frequent the stylist of my choice. She’s a professional and I’m a grown up. So why am I such a chicken?
The dreaded day finally arrived and I woke up at 5 a.m. with a pounding heart. I stayed in bed pondering what the heck was wrong with me. Knowing that I wouldn’t solve that global question, I just focused on the hair issue. I’ve switched doctors, manicurists, aestheticians… What is it about hairdressers that makes it so difficult? Maybe it’s that I wasn’t leaving the salon, just defecting to the stylist across the aisle. Normally I’m not one to shy away from controversy or confrontation, but I make every attempt to handle it with some semblance of decency. Lying in bed, I couldn’t find any grace or dignity – only panic and regret that I didn’t just find a new salon.
With twelve cups of coffee sloshing around my veins, I dragged myself to the appointment, wishing I’d also made an appointment with my chiropractor, considering the tension headache that was spreading to my neck and back. My old stylist had not yet arrived and I slinked into the chair, wishing the cape would cover my head as well. Midway through my color application, my old stylist walked in. I heard her voice but couldn’t look up as dye was being applied to the back of my head. I had five seconds to think of something to say. I looked up from my mess of hair dye and launched into an incoherent explanation that went something like, “don’t be mad at me, I just needed a change, blah, blah, blah…” She graciously smiled and deflected any uneasiness with small talk. She set up her workstation and chatted with us as if nothing was different. She has a huge roster of clients and obviously is a true professional. Just like that it was over.
The colossal awkwardness never materialized and I was dumbstruck by the giant energy suck that I concocted against all good reason and maturity. How did I allow that to happen? The result of my unscientific survey of friends on both coasts reveals that when you cheat on your hairdresser you should just leave the salon entirely. An internal switch is just too controversial. Still, I survived and I’m here to play Monday morning quarterback. So to my friend who quit her favorite salon, and my friend who drives an hour out of her way and my friend who now colors her hair at home, STOP! I know it’s uncomfortable, but of all our issues, hair should be taken off the list. The likelihood of a showdown at the salon is slim to none. Be brave and face yourself in that mirror.