I’ve done it before and it’s never easy. Whether it was a job, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a family member, a doctor or a hair stylist, breaking up can be hard to do. And here I am again… in the midst of another breakup.
Why are breakups so hard? I believe it’s because they often come with some hurt feelings or a sense of “what the hell happened here?” A big blowup could be involved. It could be by mutual agreement. Or, it could just be a silent, slinking away. However it happens, it’s over.
Whenever you relocate and have to find all new people to do things or experts to rely on, you not only go through the process of finding people – docs, dentists, drycleaners, gardeners, mechanics, etc. – you begin to develop a relationship with them. And, if you’re like me, you hope the first one you “try” is THE one and that everything will be hunky dory. Your relationship will last for a long time and you may even become friends. Perfecto.
Well, I’ve been more than grateful for most of these new folks – remarking often about how lucky we feel to have been blessed with the best referrals. The only one that hasn’t clicked is someone I see every four weeks or so for a tuneup. The hairdresser and the one I was the MOST nervous about. You know, if there’s not a love connection there and if you’re not happy with results, that can be one miserable relationship.
In Baltimore, I had been most fortunate. After I fired a hairstylist – yep, fired him – because he forgot who was paying the bill and who needed to be satisfied with more than his charming self, I found Erika. She and I clicked from Day One and we ended up being together for more than eleven years. She’s the one who talked me out of wearing my hair short and trying to make it tame to letting it do its thing – be curly and often wild, because as she said, “That’s what it wants to do. Why force it to do other things?” She was right.
And, Erika was the one who figured out the perfect hair color for me – not auburn, not mahogany, not blond, not strawberry blond… but a coppery/orangey red that was “my” color.
And, a year or so ago, when some medicine I was taking started making my hair fall out by the fistful, she was the one who “nursed” me through it with a combo of products and supplements.
Never a worry with her – she listened to what I wanted and educated me at the same time.
So out of all of the new people I had to find, discovering a new hairstylist was the most unnerving to me. I came armed with the hair color formula, the products that work best for me, the way I get my curls to do their thing…. so, how hard could it be to find someone to fall into the rhythm of making it all work?
I took the easy route, I know. There’s a cute little salon in town and its real close. I stopped by one day and talked with the owner about setting up a consult appointment. I wanted to show her my formula and talk to her about getting a curly girl haircut. My first clue should have come when she looked at me light I had horns or something. In a nice way, she let me know she had been cutting hair for close to thirty years and had done it all. Not wanting to offend (I get like that sometime), I was almost guilted into setting up an appointment.
Before I had the actual appointment, I ended up meeting several women and having conversations that somehow got around to hairstylists. Whenever I asked about this particular stylist, I would get something like…. “She’s cut hair for a long time here, but…” or, “She’s really nice, but…” and the “but” was always followed by, “She doesn’t listen.” Second clue.
But, I went anyway – mainly because she’s cut hair for thirty years and I could walk to the shop. Trust me, not good enough reasons.
What I found out the first time was… she doesn’t listen. While she got the cut okay, the color was way off – a bluish red – and she insisted on blow drying my hair, which doesn’t work for me. When I got home, Bob was like, “What color is your hair?” We both acknowledged that the cut was okay and that next time, I’d have her adjust the color.
Four weeks later, I tell her we needed to adjust the red and I would like to add a few blond streaks for the summer. The cut worked, the red part almost worked, but a few blond streaks turned into big, blond stripes. It might have been ok if I was in a rock band. But, I’m not. When I got home, Bob was amused but he knew better than to say anything. My sense of humor was suffering.
Yep, I actually went back for a third round. I let her know I wasn’t happy about the stripes and wanted to tame them down a bit. She did her best – they still showed up more than I liked, but the red was warmer and the haircut was okay.
I know you won’t believe this. I went back four weeks later. I told her that with less humidity, my hair doesn’t curl up as much, so if she could trim it just a bit shorter, the curls would be fine, and to be sure she kept the same shape because otherwise I would end up looking like Bubblehair Barbie – the one I had in the third grade. That’s where the disconnect was and that’s when I realized… she doesn’t listen.
When I got home, I cried and cried. The color was off again and my worst fear happened… I looked like a cross between my mother and Barbie with the bubblehair. I was thinking about calling Erika to see if I could get her to move to Vermont or at least come see me once a month. Bob tried to console me by saying, “It’s too dark, but it doesn’t look THAT bad, and it’ll grow.” Argggh.
Yes, it will grow and there will be remedial haircuts and color in my future – starting next week. I cancelled the appointment I had made while I was in shock after my last visit. When the receptionist asked me if I needed to reschedule, I said “No, thank you.” I’ll be driving about fifteen miles to a new place for a consult appointment. One thing I do know for sure, they use the same products and color as Erika did, and they are trained curly hair specialists. Let’s hope this works.
What I figured out from this adventure:
- If I’m vain about the way my hair looks, I am okay with that. Four months of bad doos have done me in.
- Experience doesn’t always mean someone is good or competent.
- Being heard is important to me and I don’t want to be bullied by an “expert.” If I’m shelling out bucks and tips every four weeks like clockwork, I’m a good customer. Listen to me.
- I believe in giving someone a second or third chance, depending on what the relationship is like and if they are making an effort. If everyone is getting the same haircut that day whether they want it or not, I’m not interested.
- I need to let go of my “nice girl” self when I need to. This isn’t personal. I am quite sure this stylist is a nice, lovely person. But, this is a business relationship that has personal consequences for me for at least four weeks at a time. I should have made the decision to stop going at least two months ago.
Silly, huh? Maybe so. I’m pretty sure there are some of you who think I’ve lost it. I’m pretty sure there are some of you who empathize with me because of your own personal experiences. I just realized how great a good doo makes me feel and I haven’t been getting good doos.
Onward I go… and since I don’t have hopes of getting Erika up here, I’m hoping that the appointment I have scheduled on Halloween will not be frightening at all.
Any hair nightmares out there or have you found the perfect stylist?
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Jen Grow
Jen Grow is the Administrator of Baltimore Intergroup, a nonprofit organization that helps alcoholics to achieve sobriety. She also organizes and leads retreats for women in recovery. In addition, she is a freelance writer and the Fiction Editor of Little Patuxent Review. She co-wrote the book, Seeking the Spirit (Morehouse Publishing, 2006) with Harry Brunett, and her collection of stories My Life as a Mermaid and Other Stories, winner of the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize is forthcoming in 2015. She’s received two Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and her stories, which often have social justice themes, have earned nominations for Best New American Voices and a Pushcart Prize.
People would be surprised to know that: For many years I was under-employed and stuck in co-dependent relationships because I was afraid to take full responsibility for my life and really shine. It seemed much easier to blame something or someone else for my unhappiness than to acknowledge my own poor decisions and the ways I diminished myself. Finally, thankfully, it became too hard to live that way and I had to change. Pain is a great motivator.
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
Every time I’ve ever sincerely asked for help (and have been willing to receive it), I’ve had transformative experiences. It doesn’t matter if the help I’ve asked for has been physical, emotional or spiritual. I once asked a stranger to borrow his cell phone, and his kindness and generosity touched a place deep inside me that reminded me to reach out to people every day. For me, asking for help is the same as saying, “OK, I’m ready to change. My way isn’t working anymore.” The guidance I receive in return is mind-blowing.
What are you most conscious of today?
Since my father’s death and the deaths of a few close friends, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the fact that everything is temporary. Everything is in a continual state of transformation. I used to understand this intellectually, or I thought I did. Now I my understanding is visceral. Loss and renewal have awakened in me a deeper appreciation of and compassion for the present moment. The beautiful thing about grief is that it splits the heart wide open.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
I want to spend more time painting, taking photographs and making art. I’ve dabbled with art projects for many years, but I’d really like to express myself more fully in a visual way. Also, the inner ham in me secretly yearns to take some acting and improvisation classes. That would be so much fun!
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
Any conversation that women have collectively is a good conversation. The more collective conversations we have, the stronger we become. It would be great if we had a big loud bullhorn of female voices that could bellow with great strength to change the world. For that to happen, we have to put aside rivalries, shaming, and other subtle judgments we’ve been conditioned to make about each other so we can come together in supportive and uplifting ways. On the individual level, that means cultivating self-love, self-respect and healing to transcend the ways the world tries to suppress us.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
If I could round up everyone in the world, I’d say: “Stop with all the name calling and finger pointing!” Blame is useless. It’s all projection and story making. So let’s stop. When we focus on the problem, the problem increases. When we focus on the answer, the answer increases.
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live