Today I hurt the feelings of a man wielding scissors.
I haven’t had my hair cut in more than a year, other than hacking away at my bangs every month or so. It was out of control. Long overdue.
I booked an appointment with a stylist I’ve been to see a few times in the past. He always did a reasonable job. Nothing to get excited about, mind you, but he doesn’t have much to work with. It’s hard to work miracles with thin, fine, stick-straight hair.
I had pretty much made up my mind to ask for a chin-length bob. I’ve resisted for years because it just seemed boring. It was time to give in.
When I arrived at the salon, my stylist was in the parking lot assisting an elderly woman into a wheelchair. Turns out her appointment was the same time as mine. I waited a bit, then said to the receptionist that I didn’t mind if someone else cut my hair. My stylist’s son works with him. He was sitting reading the newspaper, no clients on the horizon. His ears perked up.
Instantly, I’m whisked into a chair for a shampoo, then into another for Donnie to take charge. I tell him about the blunt cut. “But not too short,” I say. “I still want to be able to pull my hair back off my neck.”
Not a problem, he assures me. Then begins to describe his plans. Some layering. A little longer in front, short in back. Some highlights.
“Not too short,” say I again.
“Trust me,” says Donnie.
He begins to cut. I have taken my glasses off and can’t actually see what he’s doing. After several minutes, I glance down and realize there’s a lot of hair in my lap. Given that I don’t have much to begin with, I’m now a little alarmed.
“Seems like a lot of hair you’re cutting,” I say tentatively, not wanting to offend.
“Trust me,” says Donnie. “I’m excited!” he says, “so glad I’ve got my hands on you!” I am more alarmed.
“Would it be okay if I put my glasses back on now?” I ask timidly, reaching over to pick them up.
“No,” says Donnie. I put them down.
Women have strange relationships with the people who style their hair. We tell them what want. When they listen and do what we ask, it seems a bit tame. When they ignore us and create art, we say nothing. And then we never go back. I was thinking about this as Donnie flitted about my head, snipping, combing, snipping. Is it because they wield sharp, pointy instruments close to our eyes and necks? Hot irons with the potential to inflict serious burns?
Donnie, by the way, is a bit of a dandy. No other word for him. He has long wavy hair, like Rod Stewart‘s in the 80’s. He pops two different pairs of round tortoise-shell glasses on and off as he works. He’s stick-thin, dressed in tight jeans with embroidered pockets and a white ruffled shirt. There’s a photo of him on the table. He’s deeply tanned, smiling broadly, with his arms around two attractive women. He’s wearing what appears to be the same white shirt. Except he’s forgotten to do up most of the buttons. I catch myself staring and quickly look away.
He takes phone calls, disappears periodically, stops to check the woman in the next chair. She’s one of his weekly makeovers. In her 70s by my estimation, she has lovely thick hair. It’s cut beautifully. She’s just had her makeup applied. Very nice, very tasteful. She looks great. She can’t stop smiling. I am hopeful. She’s escorted away to have her picture taken.
A few minutes later, I burst out laughing. Donnie is leaping around my head, as if he’s doing some sort of hair cutters’ tribal dance, waving two hair dryers at me at once.
“What’s the matter?” he shouts, “You’ve never had two at once? You don’t know what you’re missing, darling!”
When he’s finished, he’s grinning from ear to ear. He hands me my glasses. Waits for me shower him with praise. Thank him for the magic he’s worked. He hasn’t noticed how quiet I’ve become.
My hair is several inches shorter than what I wanted. Layered. I’d said no. Feathered around my face. I’d said no. I look like a wrinkled pixie. After a painful pause, I say in my best diplomatic tone, “This will take some getting used to.” But why am I trying to be diplomatic? I’m the middle-aged woman now wearing a 10-year-old’s hairstyle.
His face falls. But he bucks up quickly and hands me a mirror. “The back is beautiful!”
And yes, the back is okay. Pretty good in fact. I say so. He smiles uncertainly.
As I stand up to leave, he’s still hovering. I gather my courage. “Actually, Donnie, it feels a little matronly,” I say as gently and apologetically as I can.
“What! Matronly?? If you could see it from the back and the side, you’d see it’s very contemporary. You’re only seeing it from the front!”
That is true. I only ever see my face from the front. And I would like to be happy with what I see. But now I’ve hurt his feelings.
“You’ll get lots of compliments, you’ll see,” he tries again.
“Mmm,” I mumble. So much for courage.
He suggests I come back next week for a few more highlights. No charge. I make the appointment. As I get in the car, I glance in the rear-view mirror. My lip starts to quiver.
What is it that bothers me the most about this? Not Donnie, not really. He’s really very sweet and amused me no end. No, it’s that this cut, for me, seems to highlight my age. I want to grow old. As Sweetie frequently reminds me, it’s better than the alternative. I just don’t want to look it.
I come in the front door, walk into the family room where Sweetie is parked watching television. He takes one look. A laugh escapes before he can stop himself. Too late – the damage is done.
“It doesn’t look bad,” he recovers, “but it will take some getting used to.”
He settles in to the sofa, knowing he’ll be there awhile.
- How to Cut Your Own Hair: 5 Tips to Consider (bellasugar.com)
- A poem about hair styles (jmsimpson.wordpress.com)