Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hair Day - An Inside Look at My Outward Appearance

On my way home from a doctor appointment, I sailed through light traffic. I had no other obligations and plenty of time before my girls get off the school bus, so I took an early exit and decided to see if I could get my eyebrows done and my hair cut. It had been about six months since my last haircut and I was looking shaggy. Charley and I have a fancy dinner next weekend, and it would be nice to be less shaggy.

But I don’t wanna.

I gave myself a pep-talk, “I’ll just pop in, and if there's no wait time then I’ll just do it. Get it done. If there’s a wait, then I’m off the hook.”

OK. I can do this.

I go in and the stylist is elbows deep in a young woman’s long hair applying something thick and noxious.

Yes! Colorings take forever, she won’t be able to help me.

She greeted me and called for reinforcements. A woman with long brown hair, about my age, emerged from a secret door in the back somewhere and asked me what I wanted to have done.


“A brow wax and cut please—if you have time.”

“I’m booked up all day, but I can fit you in right now.”

Ug. Perfect timing. 

I sat in a chair she indicated and she played with my overgrown locks while I scrunched my reflection's face. She asked me what I’d like. I’ve always handled that question poorly. I’ve always wanted the stylist to say, "I know exactly what you need." And just do that. I don’t care. Like really. I don’t even know what style looks best on a 39-year-old woman with an oversized forehead. So as usual, I loft a few half-sentences out there, “A trim? Maybe long layers? A bob cut?” If you were reading a list of peeves as written by a stylist, I’m sure my response would top the list.

I don’t know, just make me look better than I do now. I’m not a fashionable person. You are. Save me from myself.

We settled on a trim.

We headed over to the washing station and I put my neck in the guillotine lunette and she prepped to wash my hair. The same hair I washed three hours ago in the shower.

“Will you have time to do my brows today too?”

“Oh, yes. Maybe I should do that first.”

“Oh, good idea.” For some reason, they always go for the hair first and then back to the sink afterward for the brows. It's faster if they do it when I'm already there. Fast = good.

The stylist was not chatty, and my thoughts turned inward.

I’ve always resented being groomed.

Thanks Karla. ♥
I like having been groomed, but I have resisted the process for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I was usually allowed to run feral, but on school days, and for church and holidays, grooming was inflicted upon me by my step-mom, Karla. In my elementary school years, my step-sister and I sat on chairs in the kitchen. Karla would then lift our hair from behind the chair and set to work. My hair was very long and fine and she brushed it with snarls that matched those in my hair, all the while cursing my rubber neck. Then Karla parted my hair down the middle and put it in pig-tails. The kind that the boys in line behind me would use as horse reigns and snap them with a, "Hyah!" On fancy days, she tied in ribbons.

I endured it all in stoic silence. At least that’s how I remember it. Today I’m certain I was as whiny, loud, and obnoxious about the procedure as my girls are when I brush their hair. Must be a Karmic circle thing. I know I’m just as snarly as Karla was about it. I ask them daily, in all earnestness, "Can we just cut it off?"

Looking back, I'm eternally grateful for Karla’s ministrations. My social position in school was precarious enough as a gingery mouth-breather. I didn't need all that topped off with chronic bedhead.

The stylist's breath is heavy on my face as she applies warm wax. She presses on a small cloth strip.

Brrrring! Brrring!

“I’ll be right back.”

She talks on the phone and flips through the appointment book. I lie on my lunette, experimentally raising my eyebrows to watch the shadow of the cloth strip flash up and down.


Now we’re cooking.

Warm wax, strip, zip. Examine. Adjust. Repeat. Tweeze. Tweeze some more. Breathe in my face. Ignore her tummy rumble. Zip. Tweeze. Done. Whew.

The stylist hands me a mirror. Ah yes, much better. My wild Scottish eyebrows have been tamed.

During my awkward teen years, one of my dad's girlfriends once told me, “Amy, one of these days I’m going to pin you down and pluck your eyebrows.”

I was mystified. Was something wrong with my eyebrows? Had she asked me before and I refused?

I was interested in ways of looking less awkward. Had she showed me what a difference it would have made in my overall appearance, I would have gone willingly—no pinning required.

Still in the guillotine lunette, next came the hair washing... Soap and scrub. More soap. More scrubbing. Like a lot of scrubbing. More scrubbing. I begin to wonder if my scalp is bloody.


Process repeat for the conditioner.


Some kind of leave-in conditioner is applied

The toweling is as vigorous as the scrubbing and pulled hairs send zings down my nerve pathways: a ping into my shoulder, a ping into mid-back. Nerves are weird.

As a youngster, we had to take baths two kids at a time. There were four of us (me, my brother, Reed; step-brother, Lew; and step-sister, Regina) and if we wanted to be finished with the baths before Rapture, some sharing was necessary. Bathtime was playtime of course, but at some unspoken point, it became a race to the finish. There were always two towels available; one being more desirable than the other. The challenge was to transition from play to washing without tipping off my bathmate. I had to be cool, smooth, unhurried, then boom! "Huh, guess I’m all done. Oh look, I think I’ll use this towel."

I rarely succeeded, and if skipping a step was necessary to win, I was ratted out, “Amy didn’t use soooap!”

“The point of taking a bath is getting clean. Get back in there and wash!...with soap!”

No honor among thieves—or kids.

Smaller towels were better for wrapping your hair anyway… And we girls always did. We turned ourselves upside down, laid the towel over the nape of our necks and with a wrap, twist, flip, the wet-hair turban was applied.

The stylist moved me and my wet be-towelled head back to the hair cutting chair facing a mirror.

As she squeezed the stray molecules of water from my hair, I felt a surge of gratitude that she wasn’t chatty. I’m fairly quiet, so chatty stylists will fill the vacuum with endless stories, anecdotes; oftentimes incredibly personal stuff. They will sometimes get so involved in their stories, they’ll stop working altogether for the benefit of gesticulating or pacing around as they speak.

The combing done, she twisted some of my hair up and fixed it with a clip. She combed some of it straight and began to cut. Yay! She is exceptionally nice. She is meticulous as well. Hair is important to women...well, not all women. Once I went to a barber shop thinking, barber shops are for guys so they’ll be fast. Nope, it was worse, the woman who helped me did a great job on my hair but was super chatty. My kids were taller by the time I got home. I once tried to convince Charley to trim my hair. He wouldn’t do it.

My permed chick-mullet.  You should
have seen me first thing in the morning.
Karla cut our hair for us at home and did a really nice job. She was fast. She was not chatty. Then years later my dad traded services with a woman, Leilani, who worked at the local hair shop. He’d take her brothers on a drift boat trip down the river, she’d cut me and my brother’s hair. She never asked me what I wanted, she just took the modern style and applied it to me. I had perms. (They never lasted over a week.) I had a chick-mullet. I had a permed-chick-mullet.

In my uber self-conscious teen years, I decided that I no longer wanted stylish hair, I wanted long hair and bangs. They blended in better with the wood paneling at my high-school. So, I stopped going to Leilani, and instead, I went to the mall SuperCuts 50 miles away “in town” for trims and a little shaping once or twice a year…

Sometimes my bestie and I would just trim each other's hair.

The hairstyle that I wore throughout high school.
I call it wood panel camouflage cut.
My stylist was done cutting and handed me a mirror. I pretended to look it over carefully as she swiveled the chair around. We are both happy. I’m ready to bolt out of my seat for the door.

Then she pulls out the blow dryer. I open my mouth to protest, but then I think, ah what the heck, I’ve been here this long, a quick blow-dry and my hair will be nice and sleek all day.

I should have protested. She dried my hair layer by layer by layer.

Maybe I just need one of these.
The blow-drying still going on, I can’t help but keep watching the clock and thinking of all the other ways I wish I was spending this precious kids-at-school time.

The dryer clicked off. Done. Finally!

Then some pomade. Mmmm smells nice. I have to “hold still” for another few moments while she gets some Freeze hairspray. I get sprayed. My hair feels plasticky.

Done. HOOORRRAY! I pop out of my seat at little too fast and hand her my apron and thank her. I really do look better. 

She rings me up and I’m so grateful to be free (and I feel slightly guilty for my internal ranting), so I add a generous tip to my bill. She says, "Thanks. I really appreciate that."

I said, “You’re welcome.” and internally added, And I’m so glad to be out of here

Less shaggy, right?
I close the door to my pickup and shake the hairspray bonds free and my hair feels silky and sleek.

I go about my day. The kids get home. Charley gets home. I go for a run. We have dinner. Charley and I exchange days, I tell him about my doctor appointment and mention that I got my hair cut.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even notice.”

Charley looks genuinely abashed.

“That’s OK. It’s no big deal.”

Hugging Uncle John wearing Karla's pigtails.