So I’ve had some girly time to myself lately, time to run errands and finally catch up on doctor and girl appointments. On my list was "trim and highlights?" After seeing a friend recently, with great hair, I insisted she give me the name of her "stylist." "He’s a total bitch," she said, "but he’s damn good. And he knows it." She’d "cheated on him" and been to other stylists, and on her return, she slipped her fingers through her hair, stared at his reflection in the mirror, as she said, "I know you can tell I cheated on you."
"Pfff," I imagined he puffed like a true Frenchman, "does not matter. It is like I tells my wife. You will always come back in the end because there is no other better." And by the look of my friend’s hair, I had to agree. So I got his number and made my appointment. All I really wanted was a trim, and perhaps a few "natural looking" blond highlights. I’ve always liked my hair with a few highlights to show depth (the irony is not lost on me).
When I arrived, he had me stand behind the chair. He then spent fifteen minutes having me turn my head this way and that, as he gripped my hair and studied my profile. "How do you feel about your length?" he asked. I was intimidated and worried I’d answer something that might cause him to Pfff at me, or one of his lowly apprentices.
"Well, I like the length and really like having long hair."
"You know, I happen to agree with you, and that rarely happens. Zee length is very good for you. So what are you looking for?"
"Really, I’m happy with my hair. It just needs more shape, and I want a few highlights."
"Pfff. No. I refuse. Go somewhere else."
"Your hair is too beautiful for highlights. Though, the color should be enriched. It looks dull. You need more shine. Eeeh, we use the henna."
"I’ve never used henna. Won’t that make my hair bright and electric looking?"
"Bright? No! It will add no color. It is not dye. I would not put color on your hair! No!"
"No, it will only add shine and enhance, add more vibrancy for the color you already have."
I’m off for a shampoo, asking his apprentice if he agrees. "Really, no highlights?" Pfff. No. Okay then. "Well, at least he wants to keep my hair long," I tell the shampooer. "Someone once cut my hair to my shoulders and I cried." "Oui, I can imagine!"
Then, I stand for the cut. He promises my hair will keep its length. He says not to be scared by the shorter layers. The first 8 inches of hair fall to the floor. NO! What can I do now? He’s holding scissors. He’s French. He is the expert. I wonder if I’m like one of those people on those makeover shows, who just doesn’t know what’s good for her. I watch them on these shows, where experts make them part with stained synthetic clothes and oversized reading glasses, and these homely people cry. They say it will take some getting used to. And I roll my eyes, seeing so clearly what they cannot. Maybe this man is my Tim Gunn. Maybe he knows what’s good for me, despite how much I want what’s so familiar to me. And then I look up, at my reflection.
"IT’S SO SHORT!" I hear myself scream, as I pull my hands through it.
"Pfff. So," he says, "know the good thing about hair? You can always grow it." Is that a joke? You just fucking cut it all off, after telling me you were keeping the length! It’s about expectations! Had you said, you were going to take this much off, I would have been ready for it, but this! This is outrageous! I say as much to him. And he says, "Would you like a Kleenex, then?" What a fucking asshole.
"Do you know how short this is? Do you know how my hair will curl up now that you’ve made it this short? I’m going to look like a lion!!"
"You cannot see. But it will be beautiful. Enough, now. You need shine, for this all to be complete. You will see."
I’m then ushered off, so I don’t make more of a scene. I’m told the shine I will see, will be like none other. It’s all natural. It’s not dye. It will wash out in two weeks or so. "Something like that, but it will only enrich your natural color." I don’t think of this as a stain to wood. I think of it more as a saturation filter, just amping up what’s already there. I say to the colorist before she applies anything, "now what kind of henna is this? Because my mother used to use it, and afterward, she’d always yelp, ‘oh, it’s bright isn’t it? Too bright?’ then she’d need to shampoo a ton with hydrogen peroxide." No, she assures me, this henna is not like that. It has no color, she says.
Once the towel is removed from my head, my eyebrows pinch together and tears stream down my face. I haven’t cried over my hair since I was twelve and the woman cut my hair to my shoulders. I now have shoulder length hair. "So what is wrong?" the owner of the salon, the French man who cut it, asks me as I cry?
"What’s wrong?! I came in here happy, and now I’m a happy meal! You didn’t want to give me blond highlights because you said they didn’t look natural. But this? This Ronald McDonald hair looks natural to you? Are you kidding me!?!" It is so bad I don’t know where to begin, aside from calling Amex and disputing the charges. Horrendous. I am not one of those people who thinks you should go darker, richer, for the fall. I think you should look your best, in your favorite colors, no matter what the weather. I don’t believe in going darker with your makeup or clothes, and certainly not with your hair, just because it’s fall. I like a sun-kissed look, natural, healthy, all the time. Might look fine in that first photo, but it’s obvious in the pumpkin patch photo how absolutely wretched it is. So bad. He said he’d correct it in a week. But in two days, I’m off to Vegas, where I’ll look like part of the opening act. Pfff.