Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Hair by Any Other Name Would Not Smell as Sweet

The next time I say, “It’s just hair,” you have my permission to laugh aloud at me.

This week, I had a bad haircut. Not just a bad haircut, the more I think about it. It was the worst haircut I’ve had in years. (Alicia might disagree because she hasn’t been too thrilled with my hair stylists for a while.)

I’ve had bad haircuts: bangs an inch long (cut on the eve of the worst flu I’d had in a decade and a week after starting a new job), uneven layers (both on the same side and on opposite sides of my face), a short haircut that frightened the cat (Mao sniffed my head for days trying to figure out where all that hair went). Each time I swore I’d invest in my head.

The next time, I would instead just swear. I am a little embarrassed to admit it: I might not have returned to the exact scene of the crime, but I often wound up right around the corner.

That’s the entire reason I grew my hair so long for such a long time: I feared a haircut. Any haircut. A trim put me in a panic. It also is unabashedly the reason I no longer wear bangs (see bad bang reference above). When in the stylist’s chair, I sit petrified and thin-lipped, pleading with the licensed professional to not cut more than an inch. I look stern and unapproachable, not even reaching the level of comfort to try a little small talk with the poor scissor wielder.

You would think with that kind of fear, I would pull a John Edwards and lay out a hefty sum for an excellent cut. You’d think. However, until two days ago, I was a firm believer in Hair Cuttery. I told myself experienced stylists cut hair in those shops. Could an $11 haircut be a quality cut, like they showed in their ads? Was there truth in advertising? Could I discover a gem in a cheap salon? Could I risk it?

I decided to take the risk.

At my local Hair Cuttery, I found a couple of stylists who gave good cut. When they left, I found others who wold do a serviceable cut. I even found one who talked to me before the shampoo, and I thought I found A Keeper.

Then a few months ago, the layering went awry: chunky, fell forward at an odd angle, a little heavier than it should be. I thought I just needed to dry it a little differently.

The next cut seemed to emphasize the weird layering, but I thought it was me. I went back later that evening to have the stylist re-cut it, and it helped — or at least that’s what I told myself.

Just a few days ago, I did it again. The length was too short and the layering was too chunky. I went back an hour later, as the stylist suggested (well, she suggested I return if needed the next day or even later in the week). This time, however, it helped even less than before and I exited the shop with a bad shag bordering on a mullet.

It was exactly what I had feared: Another Haircut Gone Awry. However, my friends proved their loyalty: nary a whisper against the terror on my head. Kathy said it was cute (even after I announced my pending trip to fix it). Shelby complimented how it accentuated my face. Even as I admitted my folly, Rachael simply nodded, saying only that I would enjoy my trip to her favorite spa (and never once uttering the words "damage control").

The stylist who was assigned said damage control managed to pull off a miracle. Oh, it's not over by a long shot: I will need another cut or two to rid my (now much shorter) locks of the damage. However, I am grateful that I no longer cringe when passing a mirror (too afraid to see what my mop looks like after minutes of inattention). Even Alicia likes it, and she's a tough cookie. (David, too — he may love me no matter the state of my hair, but he recognizes a horrific hair cut when he sees one.)

It may be “only hair,” but it’s my hair, and it’s how I see myself. I don’t have to be Rapunzel, but I have to like what I see — and thanks to Than at Comfort and Joy, I have a chance of liking my reflection tomorrow morning after my run.

And that’s saying something.

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