Last Friday started out like any other day. I dreaded rolling out of bed. Since I gave up coffee a month ago and it has been so cold outside, getting out of bed has been like pulling teeth.
Once up, the rush and mayhem ensued of my husband and I getting our kids ready for school and trying to dress myself for work in something other than my usual pajama like lounge attire. I was swept up like a pile of hair on a windy day.
I managed to fix myself a cup of green tea on my way out the door. No breakfast, not because I wasn’t hungry. Because on the list of family needs on a Friday morning, mine got caught up in the windy hair pile and blew to the side. ‘ Why do I do this to myself?’ I thought.
Driving to work, I felt sorry for myself for not eating breakfast. Then, I felt resentful that my husband didn’t notice that I hadn’t eaten, Then, I shamed myself for feeling sorry for myself and silently apologized to my husband for being unfair and not speaking my mind. I tried to pry my mind out of the long tight braid of guilt for feeling self pity, shame for feeling guilt, and pity for feeling shame. There are bigger things than this.
I wonder what my work day will bring? My days at Vain are always different. I work with a dynamic and talented crew of people that I love. I have a clients from all over the map…..Strong, opinionated thinkers who are picky about their hair, quiet people who don’t know what they want, loud people who want what they can’t have. Just people, generally, with hang-ups like the rest of us.
I love doing hair, and I appreciate the client/stylist relationship and how it exults me out of the well-worn grooves of my own psyche and offers me a peak into the personal lives of others, a unique bond that is protected by secrecy and understanding. I hold their secrets, and the secrets of their hair. Sometimes their hair tells me secrets that they don’t even know. And I keep that bond between hair and I. Sometimes the bond is simply between my hands and their hair. Unspoken and unexplored by the brain and heart. Just simply tactile.
I hurriedly greeted my first client of the day with an “It’s nice to meet you” and a warm smile. My go-to welcome to new clients. There is nothing like a handshake and a smile with good eye contact to win em over.
Her eyes looked back at me saying “We have already met.”
I realize that I had cut her hair before. Granted, it was a long time ago. But come on. I’m an idiot. Shame started creeping back in but was intercepted by a sweep of self-preservation…..Skills I have developed from years of doing hair……Phrases like ‘Leave your bags at the door’ and ‘put on your gameface’ flashed through my head. I took a breath and breathed out slowly and silently ‘Be present.’ Okay. here I am. I find my footing.
“Oh yes! Hello. It has been a while” I said, noting the entourage of people she seemed to have along with her. A baseball-cap clad sister, an older man, a second young woman, and a tiny and good-looking baby. “welcome back” I said and I led her to my chair. As we walked back to my station, her sister followed behind.
The story I am about to tell pulled me back out of the little world that exists inside my head and into the world in front of me, where sisterhood and courage and solidarity and humility and letting-go-of-shit exists.
She sat down in my chair and with a touch of nonchalance and a smile, told me her story. As I worked my hands through her hair, recollections of her first haircut came flooding back. I didn’t remember the exact haircut itself, but the important events of her life that she had told me were as clear as day. She had been pregnant with her first child and had an cool and sordid conception story. She was a smart and savvy project manager in the tech world, she had a sister who had had an aggressive cancer and had permanently lost most of her hair with radiation treatments. Her sister and I exchanged a quick smile and introduction.
She brought me up to speed. Baby was born, healthy and sweet. She was about to start back at work. She had found a nanny that she really liked. She was here today to cut off all her hair to give to her sister. Her sister would have a wig-cap made with it to fill in the top of her head with her sisters beautiful silky hair that was essentially the same texture as her own hair, that now grew only on the sides and back of her head.
She was essentially radiating absolute resolve and excitement about going short for the first time in her life. And she was generously sharing an important and personal part of herself with her sister, who was visibly ecstatic to receive it. After years of baseball caps and wigs that never quite felt like her own, she was ready to adopt her sisters hair.
The vibe of these sisters was infectious. I felt absolute honor to be able to be a tiny part of this process.
We discussed a course of action. She had to take 18 inches off, and her hair was 20 inches long. We agreed that a pixie was her best bet to start with, and we discussed the grow out process and her excitement to go ShamPHree.
We would put her hair in many ponytails all over her head, and cut them off at the base, leaving 2 inches of her hair still on her head. Her tails would be neat and easy to transport and keep together for the wig-maker (guy on the east side, former wig maker for the Viennese opera?! hopefully more on this guy later!)
She would be left with a somewhat ragged looking hack-job. We would then create the perfect pixie cut for her fine hair and face shape.
All of the above happened while her sister and father stood by, excitedly snapping photos and giggling. Her sister playfully tucked a couple tales into her hat to try on her new hair. It looked fabulous.
I’m not sure what I loved more about this experience…..The strength and bravery of the giver of the hair, or the giddy excitement of receiver. I could see that I was bearing witness to a very intimate and unforgettable family event. God I love my job.
They all left together, with smiles abound and a brown bag full of 18 inch ponytails. I continued my day with a heart full of bubbly effervescence and lightness in my step. It was so simple. I had just witnessed the good stuff that life is made of. The meaning of life. Love really is the answer.
And at the end of the day, it’s only hair.
Please share this story if you know and love someone who has lost their hair. Thanks for being here!