This is a story about cheating on someone you’ve been loyal to for years. You see this person regularly. You sit in his or her chair. He or she stands behind you or beside you, giving you full attention for a half-hour or an hour every time.
You tell him things about your life, and he listens while his hands massage your scalp, slip through your hair, clip, cut, curl. It is an intimate relationship you have with him; very few people know as much about you as he does. You tell him about what you’re going through with your mother, and he sympathizes, having lost his own mother a few years ago. You talk about politics, about your vacations, about your dogs, his and yours. He knows where you live. You’re not much of a talker; you’re a private person, and sometimes it’s difficult for you to keep talking about yourself, yet you do, partly because he expects you to; it’s the culture of the place.
At the end of your meetings you look into the mirror and there you are—a new woman. And you pay him. Cheaper than a therapist; more expensive, maybe, than a bartender; and your hair looks great. How many long-term relationships work so well?
Except that one time there’s a little doubt, a little restlessness stirring in you. You feel like you want a change.
It’s past mid-July. My hair is wild with rapid summer growth and humidity. I”ve reached the point of emergency: I can’t stand it anymore. Two months ago Frank did my color and cut, but it’s time for another one. And the guilt-inducing thoughts come creeping in. I wasn’t as happy with the cut he gave me last time. He didn’t make it short enough. It didn’t fall into the nice style it usually does when he cuts it.
I have a rare day off, and I need to go shopping—July is almost over and I still haven’t bought any new summer clothes. If I go to the mall, I can get a haircut there and shop afterward. Frank’s shop is just a couple of blocks from my house, but I’d have to make an appointment, and by the time I got in and out it might be too late to go shopping. So I decide.
The J. C. Penney salon does a nice job, and I feel much better. I have lunch and manage to pick up a few things I needed—shorts, a few tank tops. It was a good trip. But now I begin to have second thoughts. What if I run into Frank on the street? Will he look at me and say, “Your hair hasn’t grown much”? Will he not say anything but think I’ve left him for someone else?
It’s an odd situation. How much loyalty does a woman owe her hairdresser? I tell myself I’m just one of his customers, it’s business, I have the right to have my hair done anywhere I want to. But it doesn’t feel that way. I’m picturing myself skulking around the neighborhood like an adulteress, crossing the street if I see him, darting into doorways like a character in an old film noir. I know I’ll return to him, but for now, I feel like a traitor.
Maybe I should start wearing a hat when I go out.
Have you ever “broken up”—even temporarily—with your hairdresser? How did you do it?