First of all, let me just say, I am not a very vain person. When Carly Simon sang “You’re So Vain,” she definitely was not talking to me! On the other hand, I know I inherited my value system from my parents. My dad was employed in the garment industry in NYC in the 50′s. From a young age I learned the value of women’s fashion, with stylish clothing being of utmost importance. Growing up female, this value was deeply ingrained from a young age. And hair, yeah . . . . definitely important!
My dad was generally verbose, and seemed to shoot from the hip a lot, not necessarily thinking of the consequences his words might have on his kids. He was quick to react, judge and criticize and so you always knew where he stood! I have one very strong memory I can’t seem to shake. I can’t exactly place it chronologically, but I must’ve been maybe 15 or so. I had long hair, which was all one length, parted down the middle. This was during the “hippie” era and this simple style, long hair worn very naturally, was popular. I decided to cut my bangs and I will never forget my dad chastising me strongly, for doing so. Essentially, he told me how unattractive it was.
I was a very sensitive kid and his words really stung, cutting like a knife. The worst part was that I was stuck with these bangs and I knew my dad disapproved. In addition, I had internalized the feeling that I was unattractive.
Fast forward to 2012. I’m a 58 year old yoga teacher, extremely immersed in my practice and spiritual lifestyle. For most of my adult life, I’ve worn my hair short but recently had been attempting to let it grow long. I had about 4 months of hair growth and loved that feeling of having long hair again. I was trying to let my bangs grow out, perhaps unconsciously still trying to please my father, despite the fact that he had been deceased since 2001.
But as my hair continued to grow, it kept falling onto my face quite regularly, which I found to be quite annoying. I knew I could pin it back, but realized that if I let the bangs grow out, I would always have to keep it tied back. That thought did not thrill me, so after much contemplation, for practical reasons I decided to take a bold step and have someone cut my bangs for me!
And since I am new to S. Florida I really don’t have a steady hairdresser. Although I’ve lived in Delray Beach for close to 2 years, I still have not bonded with any particular hairdresser. Being short on time, I decided to try a place that is very local and convenient. It’s a huge unisex place which caters to seniors (everything down here caters to seniors!) and although I really didn’t like the look of the place, I figured what the heck.
But let me first say that I’ve had enough bad haircut experiences to know that being able to communicate clearly with your hairdresser is of utmost importance. And this particular haircut seemed very critical for many reasons. I could not afford a bad haircut. It wasn’t an option. So being a good yogi, I meditated for quite some time on exactly what I wanted and how to communicate this to whomever ended up shearing my precious locks.
Yes, I actually rehearsed my pre-haircut speech! Seriously, I memorized it word for word and literally practiced it in front of the mirror. Although this might sound a bit obsessive compulsive, I really was just trying to cover all bases and leave nothing to chance. A foolproof plan, or so I thought.
Alright, I know you are absolutely dying to find out how this turned out, so I will cut to the chase.
I walked into the place and it was moderately crowded. A very large, unattractive woman behind a desk asked me what I wanted and I said “Just a haircut.” She asked me if I needed a shampoo and I said “no.” She called out “Betty!” and looking in her direction, sent me to Betty. Betty, was also significantly overweight and can only be described as plain looking and with bleached, straight blonde hair which she wore long, and with bangs. This was that natural style, I mentioned earlier, a throwback to the hippie generation. But let me make one thing clear. Betty was no love child! She did not smile when I approached her. Her lack of friendliness and her general demeanor signaled to me that Betty was having a bad day.
Now if there’s one thing I’ve learned from 40 plus years of yoga practice, it’s that you can often counter negativity with positivity. And especially if I sense someone is having a bad day, I try to brighten it for them best I can. I am not one to put salt in someone’s wound. And in this case, since Betty was about to take a scissors to my 4 months worth of patient, precious hair growth, I figured it would be in my best interest to be as cheerful as possible. I smiled and said, “I love your hair!” Betty did not return the smile. ”Go to the shampoo girl and she’ll wet it down for you,” she said dryly.
Upon returning from my adventure with the shampoo girl, I sat down in Betty’s chair and as she stood behind me removing the towel from my wet head, she asked me how I wanted my hair cut. Finally! My moment of truth had arrived! I actually had been rehearsing this speech for the past few weeks! I swiveled around in my chair to make eye contact. I explained how I was trying to grow my hair and so basically just needed a trim with the exception of the bangs. I wanted her to cut the bangs 1/4 inch above my eyebrows. She responded by saying that’s very short. Are you sure you want your bangs that short? I was confused. Not sure what to say, I chuckled and said “Well my hair grows very fast, I am not worried.” She looked skeptical so I said, well I want them just like your bangs, that’s exactly what I want.
“OK,” she said and began to cut my hair. I tried to make small talk and could not help but notice the strong smell of tobacco emanating from Betty’s pores. ”Oh no, I thought, she’s probably in a hurry to go out and have a smoke. I suddenly had this premonition, that my goose was cooked.”
I continued to make small talk and was rewarded with one word answers and a complete lack of emotional engagement. Snip, snip, shear, shear . . . . The haircut continued. The conversations around us seemed deafeningly loud. It seemed like everyone else in the place was casually chatting except for me and Betty. This only added to the queasy feeling that began to take shape in the pit of my stomach.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of silence, Betty said, “How do you like the bangs?” I paused to put on my glasses and when I looked in the mirror I was overcome with both shock and horror! I was in complete disbelief! At this point the words just came oozing out. Like my dad, I was shooting from the hip. It’s hard to mince words when you are overcome with emotion!
“You didn’t listen to me,” I said. “I told you I wanted my bangs 1/4 inch above my eyebrows. That’s not a quarter of an inch. That’s more like 2 inches!” And at the same time, I had this vague feeling of being in a dream. “How could this possibly be happening to me?” I thought. “I rehearsed the pre-haircut speech for weeks. I practiced aloud in front of the mirror! I recited it word for word while making eye contact. I even told her I wanted my bangs exactly like hers! How could I have been any clearer?
I watched as Betty’s body tensed up in anger. She then made the following statement, I kid you not. ”I cut them just a bit and showed it to you. I asked you if the bangs were short enough and you said no, and asked me to cut them shorter, so I did.”
And now I’m thinking, “Hello? This is getting weirder by the minute.” And so once again, shooting from the hip, I blurted out, “That’s not true! You never asked me anything!”
And Betty responded by saying, “Yes I did. I asked you if you wanted them shorter and you said yes.” And she continued with the hair cut . . . . snip snip, shear, shear.
I’m at a loss for words to describe how I felt at that moment. Outraged is the best I can do. And all the while thinking, “How can someone go through life as a hairdresser (a paid professional,) and not even have the basic listening skills to be able to please the customer? Again I thought I must be dreaming. This really didn’t just happen. It’s completely outrageous!
Have cell phones, the Internet, Facebook and video on demand, all really fried our brains to the point that we can no longer listen to one another in a real time conversation? I’m now starting to feel very disenchanted with life when Betty rouses me from my stream of consciousness and says, “OK, take a look.” and she hands me a mirror.
I spin in the chair to check out my haircut from every angle. She did a surprisingly good job. But there is only one problem. With the bangs sheared down to a stubble, the rest of the haircut now doesn’t make any sense. It’s way too long and does not blend with the super short bangs.
I tell her this and she goes ballistic on me, having a mini temper tantrum, muttering, breathing heavily and looking like she’s about to pick something up to hurl at the mirror. So I say, “well if you’re angry, then I’ll just leave now.”
Betty now shouts at me. “I’m not angry! What makes you think I’m angry?”
“You’re body language,” I said.
She says nothing and continues to cut my hair . . . . snip, snip, shear, shear.
And now, I’m literally shaking. There is adrenaline coursing through my veins and my heart is pounding, like a rock inside my chest. I felt like a total victim at the hands of this insane, angry woman who was holding a pair of very sharp scissors 2 inches from my neck. You can’t even imagine how scary this was!
The haircut proceeded in this manner. By the end, Betty seemed calmer and when she finally asked me if it was short enough, I noted a slight trace of cordiality in her tone.
She finally released me from the confines of the plastic gown and the chair. Free at last! I paid for the haircut, gave Betty a handsome tip and never felt so good walking out of a hair salon as I did on that day.
When I arrived home with my new “bad haircut,” I realized my nervous system was completely out of whack. During the last 15 minutes of that haircut, I was totally in fight or flight mode with an elevated heart rate, shallow breathing and tense muscles. And while my nervous system had been on high alert, I had to remain perfectly still, so that Betty could continue to cut my hair. There was no option to release this energy that had been building up inside me, until, I got home of course.
And that’s when I unrolled my yoga mat . . . . . lay down on the floor, and began to breathe . . . very, very slowly.
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