Wanted: Breakup advice.
Nobody wants to admit when something that started out with such promise starts to crumble. But you can ignore the signs for only so long. Even if your instinct is to make excuses, outwardly defending the relationship, for too long now inwardly you have been screaming, "You're not listening to me!"
Yes, you've ignored the lowered eyes and half smiles when you come back to the office after a long lunch, slipping into the restroom to gather your composure. And you can't help but wonder if their silence is a sad indication that, in the end, they (and you) know the result is always the same.
Then one day you go home and you take a long look in the mirror. With tears streaming down it suddenly hits you. It's wrong. It's all just so wrong.
And that's why I need to break up with my hair stylist.
Look, I know it's difficult to find someone who really knows your hair. Once upon a time I had that someone. We were in a committed relationship. Every appointment was a new experience but with the same knowledgeable, caressing hands under the sink tap. The anticipation was almost palpable each time I sat in a swivel chair, eager for her to massage my scalp with shampoo and conditioner, gently squeezing the water out with a warm, soft towel.
Often I came in with pictures of the style I was aiming for (keeping my expectations to mostly nameless models over Demi Moore or Julie Roberts because - really - I wasn't going to suggest even my hair could look like that), and she would usually nod her head in approval. Occasionally her lips would purse and she would offer an introspective "Mmhmm." Then she would playfully tousle my conditioned tresses and study my reflection in the mirror, and in her amazingly accurate way of visualizing the end result, she would suggest something else. I knew with my whole heart and damp head that I was in safe hands. Inevitably, I would come out of that salon into the light of day ecstatically aware that I Looked Good.
Then I moved away.
That was 16 years ago and I'm still adjusting. In the beginning I just floated, getting by with one-station-stands for a time. But everyone knows you can only live that kind of life for so long.
For a few years I found the perfect hair stylist here in Maine. I followed her from one salon to another, and even to her own for a brief time. But she wanted to get away from the chemicals while she was pregnant, which I understood, more or less. I was counting on her remembering that her true calling was with my hair.
She never came back. I had to accept that she had chosen parenthood over my needs, and I was sent wandering the streets for someone with a hairstyle I could admire, maybe even envy, so much so that I might gather the will to approach and ask, "Who does your hair?"
For quite a while now I've been the recipient of a very generous gift card to a certain salon every Christmas. With that gift card came the possibility of discovering that vital connection again once again, and finding The One who knew how to shape me in a way that I didn't have to dread the morning after, when I was on my own.
Maybe I should briefly explain something about how I approach spending money, even someone else's money. I am a coupon cutter. So even though someone has been pretty much handing me what amounts to a wad of plastic cash and giving me permission to spend, spend, spend on myself... I don't. I still need to feel like I'm getting a bargain. A value. A good deal. Even on someone else's dime. It's just me, I can't help it.
Now, when it translates to my hair, I'm not looking for a quick fix. In fact, the older I get the more I become aware that the strands that remain on my head are reverting back to my childhood - wispy in spots, wavy in other, and basically all around intolerable at 6 in the morning when I step out of the shower and attempt to (loosely termed) style it.
Still, if I am handing over a $100 gift card for a hair cut (because, no matter how the brochures try to name it - lock luxury, scalp orgy, whatever - it is a hair cut), and I wind up with a $32 credit remaining after one use (not including tip, for which I probably had to cash in three year's worth of coins from my change jar - goodbye, weekend in Boston), I'm thinking... why is George Clooney not washing my hair and complimenting my shade of lipstick? Why wasn't Gabrielle Douglas performing her short gymnastics program for my entertainment as I sat in the waiting area - on the arm of a sofa that's six inches off the ground and which I could not possibly pull myself out of - for 15 minutes past my scheduled appointment that I took time off from work, hoping to make an instant impression when I rushed back into the office?
At that price I feel I am entitled to amazing results. People should be approaching - no, accosting me on the street, envy dripping from their icy, yet admiring stares, demanding the name and location of my stylist. That's not happening. In fact, the last couple of times I've had my hair styled, the word style does not seem to really be part of the equation. I've walked out thinking I have something new, then get back to work or home and realize there's not much of a change. Definitely not $68 worth anyway. Plus the tip. I just can't let go of that part, apparently.
I do need to take some responsibility. My stylist may very well be bored with my demands of her guarantee that I will need to do nothing more than wash, towel dry, and (on the days I remember) condition, whip the dryer around my head for 20 seconds while running my fingers through (I have yet to master the blasted round brush), and it will simply fall into place so that I leave the house ten minutes later with a perfectly coiffed mane. And no hair product.
I really don't see why that should be a problem.
In the meantime, I still have this $32 balance left on my card. I calculated that I would need to come up with another $50 on top of that in order to schedule another appointment this year. That might explain why I find myself either holding off on hair cuts for six months at a time or slinking off to some sort of express cut place to get by in between, which then means I have to deal with the fish eye from the big bucks stylist when she lifts a few willful tendrils and mutters something about not recalling seeing me for a while.
Note to self: Do not upset a person with access to multiple pairs of scissors.
So what do I do with this whopping $32 balance? Well, I've been looking at the salon's other services, such as manicures, massages, laser hair removal (that last category is a blog in itself). And I've decided to splurge for my next appointment. I'm confident you will recognize me after I've blown it all.
I will be the person with the one-hand manicure.